Update One: Say Hello to a Dark Prince
KM Driven 372km
Average fuel use 7.7km/100km
After this year saw me leave a full-time stint at MOTOR and embark on a new role at WhichCar, it was a Whatsapp message that really drove the change home.
“We need someone to take on the Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition,” editor Tim Robson wrote. “Keen?”
After months of lockdown in Melbourne, the idea of a fresh set of wheels and a city without travel restrictions sounded delightful.
But Nissan’s five-seat small SUV offered a stark change to my last ride.
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 I pedalled at MOTOR had eight cylinders, while the Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition has four.
The ZL1 produced 477kW, whereas the Qashqai is packing 106kW.
The ZL1 also had 10 gears, where the CVT-equipped automatic Qashqai has none.
Anyways, the point is I’m in completely different territory – but I’m also relishing the chance to discover just how the Qashqai fares in the hotly contested small SUV segment.
For a bit of context, it sits just above the slightly-smaller Juke in Nissan’s range, starting at just over $28,000.
It's not dominating the sales race, but then again it's not miserably failing either.
The nameplate's share of sales in the small SUV category has slid from 10.5 per cent in 2015, the first full year it was available, to 7.5 per cent in 2020.
While the model has dropped its diesel engines, it remains petrol-powered, front-wheel drive and well-served in the number of variants it offers.
Next year an all-new model with hybrid and range-extender EV powertrains should refire buyer interest in the Qashqai.
But until then, the Midnight Edition is a way to bridge the gap.
I’m not sure whether Nissan named the Qashqai Midnight Edition ironically giving its timing but the added features certainly play up its dark side on the exterior.
Nissan has splashed gloss black across the front V-motion grille, on the bumper blades, mirror caps and roof rails.
The gloss hue also adorns interior accents and side body mouldings, matching the darkened LED taillights and headlights.
The exclusive black 19-inch wheels tie everything together nicely, and the body-coloured wheel arches and side sills add a touch of sophistication, helping it stand out in city streets.
Mind you, the Midnight Edition ain’t cheap.
At $35,290, it’s $7000 dearer than the entry-level ST and priced into the larger X-Trail’s range.
Compared to the Qashqai ST-L variant in its own range, the Midnight Edition adds Alcantara-lined leather seats and carries over its long list of features.
It’s loaded with Apple Carplay, Andriod Auto and a rear-view camera broadcasted through a 7.0-inch display. It also scores auto wipers, digital radio and leather steering wheel.
And although most of these technologies are presented in what feels like an aging cabin, the Midnight Edition does feel particularly full-fruit, even without power driver’s seat adjustment.
What strikes you immediately after settling into the front seats is how roomy the 4.4m-long five-door body fares.
I’ve covered a few kilometres in the first month I’ve had the Midnight Edition, despite spending two weeks interstate away, and found how easily it swallows four adults surprising.
Over the next three months, I have planned a fair bit. First up is a long kilometre trip to Sydney, not only to celebrate the relaxing of borders but also to gauge the Qashqai’s chops on the long road.
That’ll be followed by some time in the hills, to see what Nissan’s engineers had to improve and enhance when working on the new Qashqai’s handling – while also getting to know the Qashqai in a city environment.