A change from diesel to unleaded ups both refinement and consumption.
First published in the November 2015 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
SOME clichés really irk me, so I tend to avoid them like, well, the plague. Such as the old line about having one’s cake and eating it, too. I think I understand the sentiment, but it’s still a pretty moronic expression. Has anyone ever said to you, “Hey, please come over for my birthday party; we’ll eat, drink, dance, and best of all, there’ll be a cake! In a glass case, of course, purely for viewing purposes, because, you know, we can’t have our cake and eat it too…”
Anyway, my changeover after three months from diesel Qashqai ST to a top-spec petrol Nissan Qashqai Ti model made me recall this irksome cliché. See, my recently departed oil-burner SUV was, if I can continue to torture the cake metaphor in powertrain terms, more like rocky road than whipped cream. It was agreeably grunty in the mid-range, as modern turbo-diesels invariably are, but too loud and vibey at idle. Plus the power delivery was quite laggy, so throttle response, especially in heavy traffic, was a little lazy.
Enter the petrol Ti, and with it a whole new level of refinement. Its idle is a polished mechanical whisper, its throttle tip-in millimetrically perfect. Where the diesel and CVT transmission felt like an arranged marriage, the petrol engine and the same CVT feel more like soul mates united in blissful harmony. There are no low-speed stumbles, no quarrels about whose turn it is to pick a ratio, take out the bins, etc.
The atmo 2.0-litre makes less torque at much higher revs – 200Nm at a peaky-sounding 4400rpm plays 320Nm at just 1750rpm – but this is a classic case of the numbers not telling the whole story. It’s deceiving, but because there’s no lag and no surge, just a predictable and satisfying response to any sized throttle input, the petrol doesn’t feel gutless or hollow. It starts making torque progressively, rather than waiting for a bit then dropping a big wodge to the front wheels. It also revs willingly, eagerly even, to where peak power resides at 6000rpm. So you never feel like a mechanical sadist by spinning it out to overtake or plug a gap in traffic. This petrol Ti is also about 100kg lighter than the diesel, and a second quicker to 100km/h, which are numbers that do help tell the story.
So there’s my cake; rich, creamy and satisfying. But where there’s cake, there’s consumption (except in clichés) and so it is with the petrol Qashqai. Where the diesel was sipping in the mid-eights, my first measured tank of this thirsty bastard came in at 13.1L/100km, which admittedly included some hard driving for photography. Even so, it cruels the tank’s range from 700km or so to mid-400s; and is closing in on double the meaningless combined ADR figure of 6.9L/100km.
But if the bowser-wowser in me sucks it up, takes it on the chin and sees the glass as very much half full, I can skirt the clichés and say that me and the petrol Ti are as happy as fat kids with a slice of you know what.
Regular readers who manage to suffer through my whinging and general first-world problem-mongering may recall that I moaned the base ST Qashqai’s sound system is right up there with a Taiwanese phone for sonic satisfaction. Well, you get what you pay for, clearly. This top-spec model adds a decent amplifier and higher quality drivers and tweeters to transform the sound from gloopy to glistening. It’s not reference grade, but is sufficiently loud and engaging for my in-car garage parties to have resumed.
Nissan Qashqai Ti
Price as tested: $35,490
Part 3: 468km @ 13.1L/100km
Overall: 468km @ 13.1L/100km
Date acquired: August 2015