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
ARE you a rational kind of person? Do you lie awake at night weighing up pros and cons, evaluating every decision purely on the number of beneficial (and not-so-beneficial) possible outcomes?
Then you might appreciate Nissan’s facelifted Qashqai – the second-generation small SUV that arrived in Australia in mid-2014, replacing the popular Dualis.
There has also been a change in the model line-up, with the addition of the N-TEC to sit below the flagship Ti, and mid-spec ST-L which has infotainment, and trim improvements over the base SL. AEB is standard across the range.
Pricing starts at $26,490 for the base model, while the Ti comes with a sticker price of $37,990 – on the more expensive end of the spectrum for a small SUV.
Most of the update has concentrated on giving the Qashqai a spruce-up in the looks department, with new lights, front facia, rear bumper design, steering wheel, and an improvement in interior materials.
While it may struggle to win ‘prettiest in class’, Qashqai’s fresh styling brings it up to date with current trends, and in-line with the design of other Nissans such as the recently facelifted X-Trail.
The interior changes are welcome, too, and hard plastics have been cut back significantly, with improvement in materials used in the doors and centre console. The steering wheel has been completely redesigned to bring it up to date with modern trends. However the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remains a glaring omission in a market baying for increased connectivity in cars.
Interior space is plentiful in the Qashqai, with rear legroom ample for adult passengers, and luggage space of 430-litres one of the largest in the segment.
There have also been subtle but significant mechanical changes. The 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine has gone from the line-up, leaving just the 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol. Mated to a CVT transmission (with a six-speed manual available in the base model) sending power to the front wheels on all models, it can be laggy to respond to inputs, and flares to 4000rpm, and above in search of peak power and torque with half throttle application. However, it will sit comfortably under 2000rpm cruising at 110km/h, and with a light foot will remain subdued around town.
Unfortunately, Australia won’t see the peppy 120kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine offered in Europe, because it is currently available as a six-speed manual or nothing.
Beneath the new Qashqai’s skin there is stiffer suspension and firmer damping but the ride remains comfortable on 19-inch alloys. The 18-inch rims of the lower-spec models improved on tyre roar, and help the compliant ride. Over large, saw-tooth potholes the Qashqai didn’t crash onto the bump stops, and remained settled over bumpy roads. A downfall of the Qashqai is numb steering, which while lightly weighted, does little to communicate what is happening at the front wheels.
Noise within the cabin has also been improved with extra sound deadening in the doors. On a variety of road surfaces, cruising at highway speeds, road noise was minimal. The only major intrusion was tyre roar from the 19-inch rims of the N-TEC test car, the 18-inch examples on lower spec variants were an improvement.
The updates for the Qashqai show Nissan’s rational and populist sides. The Japanese manufacturer hasgiven the people what they want, without too many negative outcomes.
While the low-profile rubber makes plenty of noise, there is a quieter cabin. The torquey diesel has been ditched, because the petrol sells better. Steering is numb, but the soft roader will spend it days tackling roundabouts than back-roads.
In a segment as crowded and competitive as small SUVs (where the Qashqai battles 28 other contenders), it pays to listen to the people.
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