NEW looks and some changes under the skin keep the Nissan Qashqai looking fresh against younger competition.
WHAT IS IT?
Nissan’s small SUV was launched on the Australian market three years ago. This is its first significant update.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
Small SUVs are becoming increasingly popular with Australian new car buyers, and Nissan wants a bigger slice of the pie. The updated Qashqai is its ticket to ride.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The Nissan Qashqai is a small SUV for people that don’t want to feel cramped. The updated Qashqai extends the model range, while simplifying the available powertrains. Nissan has done well to improve the ride and bring the cabin up to date with modern expectations, however an ageing drivetrain and infotainment omissions could play against it in a crowded and competitive market.
Plus: Quiet and spacious interior, comfortable ride, practical sizing
Minus: Tyre roar on 19-inch rims, numb steering, ageing drivetrain, price
THE WHEELS REVIEW
DID YOU realise that Nissan no longer sells a true passenger car in this country?
Putting the GT-R and 370Z coupes aside, the closest you’ll get to a spiritual successor to the Pulsars that populated our rose-tinted past is the high-riding, UK-built Qashqai SUV, of which more than 13,000 found homes here in 2017.
So Nissan’s mid-life facelift of this second-gen Qashqai (formerly badged Dualis) is hardly a desperation move. Buyers clearly appreciate its size – sitting neatly between the quirky Juke and larger X-Trail (which shares Qashqai’s platform) – and presumably its more European style.
But Nissan’s new family look hasn’t been too kind to Qashqai. The old model’s elegant front end is now much fussier, sporting a more extreme version of Nissan’s ‘V-motion’ grille, though the black plastic centre badge hides a much-needed AEB system now standard on all models.
Along with fresh new alloys (17s on ST, 18s on ST-L, and 19s on special-edition N-TEC and forthcoming Ti), the facelifted Qashqai also gets new tail-lights and rear bumper, and several refinement-enhancing measures.
Higher-quality sound deadening in the front doors and behind the rear wheelarches, plus 22-percent-thicker rear door glass help make the new Qashqai quieter, though tyre noise remains an issue on models wearing 19-inch wheels.
Among the few engineering changes made to the MY18 Qashqai are enhancements to its suspension set-up, honed in the UK. Retuned dampers, reduced spring rates, modified bushes and stiffer anti-roll bars aim to reduce Qashqai’s body motion over large bumps, but there’s still a lack of suppleness at urban speeds, even on the ST-L’s 18s.
And while the Qashqai handles keenly in spirited driving, its steering (via a superb new wheel) is too light and numb during general duties. We won’t see the 120kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine offered in Europe because it’s only paired with a six-speed manual, and the turbo-diesel is gone too, because almost no one bought it.
That leaves the 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol tied to a CVT (or, in the base ST, a six-speed manual alternative). It’s a better drivetrain than people give it credit for, with decent step-off, reasonably crisp response and quietly capable freeway cruising.
Improved materials around the centre console, higher quality upholstery and new front seats on ST-L models and above help arm the Qashqai against the inevitable onslaught of ever-fitter competitors. But what continues to set Nissan’s star SUV apart is its size. This in-betweener is far from perfect but it may be the best SUV your modern garage can take.
Model: Nissan Qashqai N-TEC
Engine: 1997CC 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Max power: 106kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 200Nm @ 4400rpm
Transmission: CVT automatic
0-100km/h: 11.0sec (estimated)
Economy: 6.9L/100km (claimed)
On sale: Now