Meet Nissan’s small SUV offering, the Qashqai. I’m not a fan of obscure car names, especially ones you can’t pronounce. (It’s “Cash-Kai” for the uninitiated). Something to do with nomadic tribes from some far flung Iranian province. It has big boots - or should we say tyres - to fill following up on the success of its predecessor the Dualis.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
There are four models in the line-up: Two petrol variants including the entry grade ST and top grade Ti; and two turbo-diesel variants including the base grade TS and upmarket spec TL, the latter tested here.
The top grade TL tested here costs $39,990. It sports a turbo-diesel 1.6-litre engine with Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Official fuel consumption is just 4.9L/100km.
SUVs may have evolved from four-wheel drive bush bashers, but the Qashqai only comes in front-wheel drive. Tread carefully if you venture off the blacktop.
- The cabin is classy, comfortable and uncluttered. All models, including the TL, have a generous 430L boot and there are also two handy hidden ‘drawers’ built into the floor to store your valuables.
- Despite the 1605kg weight, Nissan claims a low fuel consumption of just 4.9L/100km. The reality, with a 280km mixture of highway and a bit of city driving, was closer to 6.6L/100km.
- Even with its large 19” alloy wheels, the TL has well-planted suspension that handles inner city speed bumps and potholes well. Not quite as smooth as the 17” wheels on the ST and TS models but still more than comfortable enough.
- The TL also comes equipped with great safety features including a clear and comprehensive reversing camera as well as blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.
- The leather “accented” (i.e. real and fake leather) shift knob and tiller, complete with audio controls, works pretty well.
- The front seats are also leather accented and, best of all, heated - but only the driver gets 6-way power adjustment.
- The Qashqai’s high-riding position ensures good visibility for all passengers. Plus you don’t have to make that undignified grunting noise when getting out of the car.
- The panoramic glass sunroof is huge, but can strain the air-conditioning on hot days. The turning circle is tight - great for that three point turn at school drop off.
- At 96kW it’s not overly powerful. Due to both CVT flaring and a bit of turbo-lag, the TL lacks grunt when accelerating from stand still, which is concerning when turning right in front of oncoming traffic. The slow take off is compounded by the stop-start feature, which automatically shuts off the engine to save fuel when the car is stationary.
- The Qashqai is front-wheel drive only meaning it’s intended for city driving. A pity, as competitors like the Mazda CX-3 provide an all-wheel drive model.
- The 7-inch display console comes with the basic - if obsolete - CD player, plus MP3 capability and AM/FM Radio. But there is no digital radio option and the connectivity is infuriating; it requires hooking up with NissanConnect which is confusing and cumbersome.
- The centre console bin is too narrow and deep. It’s like the black hole of storage spaces;
- You risk losing everything - including sunglasses, iPhones and kids’ Shopkins.
- Neither air vents nor adequate storage compartment are offered to rear passengers.
- Black and white colour options are standard. You’ll have to cough up an extra $495 for fancier options like Truffle Bronze, Gun Metallic and Nightshade.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Mazda good looking CX-3 is a fierce competitor. Other pint-sized SUVs worth considering are the Mitsubishi ASX with its five year warranty, and the roomy Honda HR-V.
Engine: 1.6L turbo diesel engine
Max power: 96kW@4000
Max torque: 320Nm@1750
Fuel economy: 4.9L/100km