Nissan Qashqai 2016

My Drive this week was Nissan’s second generation Qashqai, the new name and replacement for the Dualis crossover. We first got the original Dualis all the way back in 2007, and back then Nissan was just feeling out the relatively new crossover category. You can see the results of that labour in the second generation of this car, which arrived on Australian shores a couple of years ago. All wheel drive has now been dropped, with the Qashqai a strictly front wheel drive offering. Only five percent of Dualis buyers were going after all wheel drive, so it’s a pretty prudent decision. The seven seat option box has also been deleted – you’ll now need to go up to the Nissan X-Trail if you want more than five seats.

The car’s design has been refined further, with a sharp and classy look that brings it into line with Nissan’s current design language. The cabin interior has also gotten a good dose of touching-up, with soft-touch materials in places and a reasonable amount of leg room, especially in the front where the seats and steering wheel are quite flexible for adjustment. The back seats are a little stiffer, with a relatively flat back seat bench, although leg room is still adequate. There’s good odds-and-ends storage throughout the cabin, with bottle holders in each door, four cup holders and several other pockets throughout. In terms of cargo space, the storage area at the back can hold 430 litres with the seats up, growing to 1,585 litres with them down. Not bad at all.

The Qashqai is available with two different power plants, a 2.0 litre petrol engine as well as a 1.6 litre turbo diesel motor. The petrol unit produces 106 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque, while the turbo diesel gets 96 kW and 320 Nm. As usual, the petrol engine does better on power while the diesel is more torquey and pulls harder from lower in the rev range. Both engines come with a continuously variable transmission, while a six speed manual is also available with the petrol power plant.

My test car came with the petrol engine and CVT, which made for a very relaxed and smooth combination. The engine provides plenty of power for getting around town and suburban roads, but you’ll need to give it time if you’re shooting for motorway speeds from a standstill. The CVT is smart enough to rev up off the line, but quickly settles down into very low revs to reduce noise and fuel consumption as the car builds up speed. The Qashqai’s handling is balanced well, not overly sporty but soaking up most bumps on the road smoothly. The electric steering was a touch on the light side, although a sport setting in the menus lets you firm it up if you prefer things a little heavier.

Fuel economy was also pretty reasonable considering the powertrain and car’s weight of 1,400 kg. The official combined rating is 6.9 litres per 100 km, and I was able to achieve 8.4 litres in combined, mostly suburban driving.

The Qashqai is offered in two trim levels with each drivetrain for a total of four variants. Standard features are quite reasonable with 17 inch alloys, cruise control, electric parking brake, reversing camera and basic smartphone connectivity with Bluetooth included on the base ST model. Jumping up to more expensive variants will net you electrically-folding mirrors, rain sensing wipers, proximity keyless entry, LED headlights, climate control air and 360-degree camera monitoring when reversing.

The Nissan Qashqai retails from $25,850 for a petrol ST manual, topping out at $37,990 for a diesel automatic with all the bells and whistles. Remember, prices are before on-road costs, so expect to add another $3,000 or so before you get the car on the road.

In summary, the Qashqai is a solid improvement on its predecessor, with a design that’s acceptable to everyone, decent refinement and reasonable value for money; and while it might only be front wheel drive and five seats, I think most people interested in this car wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s it for me this week.

19 February 2016
Albert Malik