REMEMBER the Dualis? Well, Nissan didn’t think that car’s name was hard enough to pronounce, so for the Dualis’ second-generation replacement they’ve hurled some Scrabble tiles onto the desk to create this, the Qashqai!
Three years on from its arrival in Australia, the current-generation Qashqai is now entering middle age. The segment it plays in is a tremendously crowded one, but despite the stiff competition and the fact it’s no longer a spring chicken, there are still more than a few reasons to consider the Qashqai.
The Qashqai comes with your choice of two engines, a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 106kW, or a more efficient 96kW turbodiesel 1.6.
Power goes to the front wheels exclusively, so don’t be fooled by the SUV styling. This one is better off sticking to the blacktop. Petrol models come with the choice of a manual or auto, but the diesel we’re driving today is strictly and auto-only proposition.
Our tester is also the most highly-specced model in the range, and boasts features like this enormous glass roof, heated seats, faux-leather upholstery, satellite navigation and a big 7-inch colour display rather than the 5-inch display you get in the entry-level variants.
There’s also dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, LED headlamps and a top-down camera view.
Front and rear parking sensors are also standard, as is blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. Autonomous emergency braking is not, however, offered, and neither is smartphone mirroring via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
The Qashqai is one of Nissan’s top-sellers, and last year was third most popular car. It also performs quite respectably within its segment, though with plenty of competition from the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and even the ancient Mitsubishi ASX, the Qashqai still needs to maintain a sharp offering.
An updated model is expected to arrive in early 2018, though Australian specifications and pricing are still to be announced
FIRST THINGS YOU NOTICE
From behind the wheel, the Qashqai presents well. The cabin is pretty monochromatic with all this black plastic and silver trim, but it’s certainly far from offensive thanks to the liberal use of soft-touch plastics.
That said, the décor is starting to age. The updated model will provide a bit of a spruce-up, but much of the interior furniture will carry over.
There are plenty of buttons to play with in this high-grade TL model, and the glass roof makes a big impression – and lets in loads of light. On the whole, it’s a fairly pleasant place to be even though there’s not a lot of visual wow factor.
PLUS AND MINUS
The Qashqai’s diesel is quite refined considering it exists at the lower end of the SUV spectrum, and it marries well with this CVT automatic. For ease of driving as well as ride comfort, the Qashqai scores highly.
But on the flipside, it’s not the most urgent powertrain. It’s sluggish to respond to sudden demands for power. No all-wheel drive means it feels lighter on its feet than some other small SUVs, however that comes at the sacrifice of grip in slippery conditions.
The back seat is also flat and uncomfortable, with no rear air vents. That said, Nissan would argue that the slightly bigger X-Trail is a better choice for those who need to cart around passengers on a regular basis.
The biggest problem for the Nissan Qashqai is the price. The car we’re driving, the TL diesel, retails at $39,990 – which is, I’ll be honest, a pretty steep price for a small SUV and the most expensive against its direct rivals. If you simply must have the extra features of a high-grade Qashqai, you’re better off going for the $34,490 Qashqai Ti petrol and pocketing the change.
That said, the Qashqai does a decent job of pretty much anything the average motorist might ask of it, short of going off road.