The Qashqai is now into the latter half of its life, but an update rolled out at the end of last year renewed the small SUV with a swathe of updates. It wears a fresher face, for starters, and has been fiddled with under the skin to improve ride compliance, tighten up its handling and improve refinement.
There’s also a new king of the Qashqai range too, with the top-shelf Ti variant being added to the family in the middle of this year. It’s not cheap, but after seven days behind the wheel we discovered that the feature-laden flagship still makes a strong case for itself.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: yes, the Qashqai Ti is an expensive thing. Retailing at $37,990 it’s priced deep into midsize-SUV territory, and runs perilously close to more premium offerings like the $41,900 Mini Cooper Countryman or $43,900 Mercedes GLA 180.
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Even looking at other mainstream options, the range-topping Mazda CX-3 Akari diesel costs $100 less than the Nissan yet packs in all-wheel drive as standard. The Qashqai, meanwhile, is only available in front-wheel drive form and without a diesel option. But the Nissan justifies its price through equipment. It’s loaded to the gunwales with gear and for those that want something dependable, but very highly specified, the Qashqai Ti ticks those boxes.
And while the purchase price might be seen as a little hard to bear, the running costs are more manageable. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.9L/100km on the combined cycle, and it only requires 91-octane.
The three-year/100,000km factory warranty is on the short side in this age of five-year-plus coverage, but service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km with the average service ranging between $224-$298 (more involved servicing can occasionally see a $404-$532 bill, but these are infrequent) – a reasonable figure.
As the flagship of the Qashqai range, the Ti variant is certainly feature-rich. In addition to the basics of power folding wing mirrors, power windows, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and power-adjustable front seats, there’s also high-end equipment like active cruise control, a self-parking system, 360-degree camera view, adaptive headlamps and a massive panoramic glass roof.
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The glass roof is definitely a highlight. It covers the heads of both front and rear seat passengers and unlike many so-called panoramic sunroofs is completely unencumbered by structural beams – it’s one big ol’ piece of glass. For those who love to soak up some rays on a Sunday drive it’s a huge selling point, literally.
Infotainment is handled by a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen display that brings integrated satellite navigation and a digital radio tuner. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly dated in its appearance, not as responsive to inputs as other systems and doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring – a feature that’s fast becoming standard on mainstream vehicles. It’s one area where Nissan could absolutely improve its game.
Sized to fit five people in reasonable – though not excessive – comfort, the Qashqai Ti dwells in the small SUV segment and is positioned below the more generously proportioned X-Trail in Nissan’s lineup. With external dimensions of 4394mm in length and 1806mm in width, the X-Trail is easy to park in average-sized car spots, driveways and garages.
Its comparative compactness conceals a very usefully-sized boot, which offers up 430 litres of seats-up storage space or 1598 litres when the rear seatbacks are folded down.
Equipped with blind spot monitoring, a forward collision warning, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and autonomous emergency braking as standard, the Qashqai Ti’s active safety suite provides more than just the usual ABS, EBD, stability control and traction control.
In the event of an accident, there are three-point seatbelts on all seats and ISOFIX child seat anchorages on the outboard rear seats, though while there are six airbags in total – the industry average – note that the head-protecting curtain airbags don’t extend to cover the second row. Airbag protection is unfortunately limited to those in the front seat.
The first thing that strikes you as you enter the Qashqai Ti’s cabin is its leather upholstery. The watch-strap style folds of the Nappa leather seats are anything but your average black hide, and while it’s probably going to be a pain to vacuum crumbs out from the seat base it at least looks distinctive and high-end.
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They’re heated too, which is nice in the frosty Melbourne mornings we experienced, and there’s also two-position memory settings for the driver’s seat – an invaluable argument-saver if the car is regularly driven by both members of a couple. Those front seats are also a pleasure to sit in thanks to well-sculpted cushions that support your back and bum nicely.
The rear seats aren’t quite so accommodating, given limitations in legroom and headroom (the latter impinged upon by that massive glass roof and its retractable sunblind), not to mention the absence of rear seat vents and the presence of rock-hard door card plastics. Even so, despite the cosiness of the rear bench there’s nevertheless enough room for a pair of adults to be comfortable for a while.
ON THE ROAD
See those gargantuan 19-inch alloys? They’re more than just some visual bling – in fact, they – and the Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres around them – play a massive part in the Qashqai’s on-road manners.
Those tyres are quite an unusual sight on a mass-market small SUV. You’d ordinarily find them wrapped around the wheels of a performance car like the Subaru WRX STI, but Nissan has taken the curious step of fitting them to the humble Qashqai. The result is an otherwise quite mild-mannered car with stacks of grip, but as weird as it sounds it actually feels ‘right’.
And that’s because the Qashqai is blessed with a fairly decent suspension tune, and though the ride is slightly sharp thanks to the low-profile rubber and huge alloys, it’s actually got quite good compliance once you get past that initial harshness. It deals with challenging surfaces admirably well, and the extra grip from its sporty rubber means it can deal with emergency lane changes, hard braking or even the occasional spirited drive without breaking a sweat.
The Qashqai’s suspension was heavily revised late last year with firmer spring rates and retuned damper settings to quell what was previously an unsettled ride. Those changes work a treat, especially on the top-grade Ti.
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It’s a shame the powertrain isn’t quite up to the same level of athleticism as the chassis. With just 106kW and 200Nm from a naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) 2.0-litre petrol inline four, the Qashqai Ti feels underwhelming in straight-line acceleration, and though its CVT automatic makes for fuss-free motoring around town, its monotone drone when you ask the car to perform is anything but enjoyable.
What’s more, the engine only starts producing peak torque at 4400rpm, meaning that if you live in a hilly area or frequently carry many passengers (or both!) the engine will need to spin harder than competitors powered by more torque-rich turbocharged engines.
Though the Qashqai might be getting on in years now, thanks to ongoing improvements by Nissan it’s better than it’s ever been – and the Ti is the cream of the crop. The price of entry is high, but you can see where that extra money is going, and if all you want is an easy-going small urban crossover with a smattering of luxe and road-gripping underpinnings, then it certainly fits the bill.