PROVIDED it involves cars being built, I’ve become a bit of a sucker for those Mega Factory shows on telly. When you think of all the complexities involved in shipping huge rolls of raw steel into one end of a monster building and having something as remarkable as a modern car rolling out the other end, it really is an act of organisational genius.
If the car-building action slows, I pass the time by carefully observing the line workers and playing the ‘bags not doing that job’ game. Like the poor bloke muscling the diff into position – bags not doing that. The woman bent at some horrible angle pinning the tangled-spaghetti wiring harness through the interior? Bags not doing that.
No, the gig I’d like if I were to work in a car factory is the quality controller. Not only do you get a cool micrometer paint-thickness measuring thingy hanging from a lanyard around your neck, but you get to stand around and critique everyone else’s work: “Gee, old Johnno in wiper assembly is having a shocker; three flung rubbers in a week! Tsk, tsk!”
I find myself slipping into the role of quality controller with the arrival of each new long-termer, but I tend to do it with fingers crossed because if you find a hair in the clear coat it’s a bit too late to circle it with chalk and yell at Tony in the paintshop.
Being your own head of quality can bring great satisfaction (the near-perfect build and finish of the Audi A6 Avant I once ran) to mild disappointment (patchy paint on my red BMW 320i Touring) or leave me screaming: “Noooo! How was this allowed to happen?” (the plastics in my recent Holden Trax).
My main response to a thorough once-over of this new Nissan Qashqai was mild surprise. The good kind.
It’s build at Sunderland in the UK, and whatever they have going on there in the paintshop, it’s working – the exterior finish is super glossy, with minimal orange peel, and unlike some other cars, the paint’s shiny clear coat extends into the doorjambs and around the shut areas. I found myself staring into it like a budgerigar that’s just had a mirror put in its cage.
Likewise, the panel shut lines are all perfect, the gaps around the light clusters beautifully uniform. Inside is less of a thumbs-up, but more on that later.
Our car is a diesel-engined TS, effectively the oil-burner entry point in a two-tier range. It’s hardly povvo; the equipment included is pretty much everything I need, but missing a few things I’d like, such as sat-nav, a digital radio tuner and perhaps two massive subwoofers capable of cracking the rear glass.
Speaking of rumbles, the Qashqai gets a pass, but not a distinction, for the dreaded diesel NVH issues. Idle is its weakest point – not excessively clattery, just gruff and very audible inside, with tiny vibes that tingle through the wheel and pedals. There’s ample room for improvement.
Likewise the standing-start response: it’s very doughy off the bottom, and doesn’t really start to convert throttle travel and engine noise into meaningful forward motion until the tacho is properly into its upswing.
The engine makes just 96kW from its 1.6 litres, so it’s no ball of fire when you pin it. More important is the 320Nm from 1750rpm; you can mostly drive around the lack of off-the-mark urge, and on the move it’s sufficiently responsive to not be an issue.
So early impressions are of solidity and practicality, all smothered with an aura of non-shouty competence. And all screwed together by a mega-factory of champion Sunderland folk worthy of a TV show.
QASHQAI sits on the new Renault-Nissan Common Modular Family (CMF) platform that also underpins the X-Trail and Renault’s upcoming Espace, Scenic and Laguna replacements. It’s longer (by 47mm), lower and fractionally wider than its Dualis predecessor. I’ve been making full use of its extra space in these first few weeks, as I’ve been going through the delights of moving house. Oh, if only I could do that every month.
WHEELS are 17s, running chubby 60-series rubber. They may not stir the loins like a blinging set of 20s, but they no doubt do go some way to contributing to the mostly absorbent and calm ride. And no, the rears do not get a share of the engine’s output – Qashqai is offered strictly as a faux-wheel drive.
Read part 2 of our Nissan Qashqai long-term car review.
Click here to read the full range review of the Nissan Qashqai.