By Wayne Gorrett, Madrid
Pound for pound, Nissan’s new Qashqai is the best all-round crossover available in the UK market today.
☀ ☀ ☀
Update @ 26.02.2014:
The new Nissan Qashqai has been awarded a 5-Star EuroNCAP safety rating.
When Nissan lanced the Primera and the Almera from the UK market back in 2007, few shed a tear. Both were forgettable, in a ‘librarian’ kind of way.
More so, Nissan’s balance sheet suggested that neither were very successful. Then, in a leap of blind marketing faith (to which its management readily confess), Nissan replaced those two cars in its UK lineup with just one – the Qashqai.
At the time, Nissan had no idea how its new upstart and segment creator would sell, but buyers world-wide recognised and welcomed it as something different. In the prevailing years they bought over two million Qashqai’s, with the UK snapping up 50,381 units just last year alone. That figure equates to 43% of all Nissan’s 2013 UK registrations and making it the UK’s 6th best-selling car – and the only crossover in the top 10.
While it wasn’t exactly flawless – most notably the toothless petrol engines and perceived quality – both of these issues, and many more besides, have been eliminated in the new car.
In a significant development introduced to minimise production costs, Nissan will no longer offer the larger Qashqai +2 version with its three-row, seven-seat configuration. Brand-loyal customers seeking that option should now look towards the all-new Nissan X-Trail, expected to be available before the summer.
For 2014, Nissan has reinvented the entire vehicle from the rubber up and consequently secured the 2014 WhatCar? Car of the Year award. As did its predecessor, the new Qashqai continues to push the ‘crossover’ segment boundaries in a multitude of ways, from the heightened aerodynamic design incorporating the ‘new face’ of the marque, better performance and economy, to a vastly improved and spacious interior.
The new Qashqai was penned at Nissan’s design centre in London, engineered at its technical centre at Cranfield, Bedfordshire and is being built at the Sunderland factory. It is a vital car for the Japanese car-maker and a crucial car for the Sunderland community and the UK motor industry.
Here, Nissan has again taken a bit of a needed risk as fortunately, the new Qashqai looks nothing like the old one. First-generation model owners who seek and appreciate familiarity when upgrading might have preferred less dramatic strokes of the designer’s pencil. The exterior styling of the new Qashqai has been sharpened with a classy front grille, a sculpted clam-shell bonnet and more pronounced lines over the wheel arches. The car is also wider, longer and lower than before.
Climb into the driver’s seat and you are greeted by a significantly more upmarket interior than the previous Qashqai. The majority of the hard plastics have been eradicated and replaced with soft touch materials and high quality gloss finishes. Interior design has also changed with much better storage both upfront and in the boot. The introduction of an electronic handbrake allows more room between the front seats. There is a cavernous central storage bin, plus cup and phone holders.
At 430 litres, the Qashqai’s boot is 20 litres bigger than before. It features a flat loading lip and base. The car also benefits from a clever false floor that increases the overall boot capacity, or doubles as a handy boot divider to stop your shopping flopping around like a willy in a shirt-sleeve.
Four trim levels are offered on the new Qashqai: Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium and the top-end Tekna. Entry level Visia is impressively-equipped with Bluetooth, cruise control and hill start assist. The list is too expansive to walk you up the range, but prices start from £17,595 for the 1.2-litre Visia 2WD petrol, topping out at £27,845 for the 1.6-litre 4WD diesel Tekna.
Engines and transmissions
As on previous Qashqai’s, both two- and four-wheel-drive versions are available, with the former continuing to be the most popular choice for UK drivers. All engines on the new Qashqai feature stop/start technology.
Petrol: The single petrol engine at launch is the 1.2-litre turbo-petrol producing a respectable 115bhp and pulling an honest 190Nm of torque. There is no automatic available with this engine so transmission is via a slick, short-throw 6-speed manual. During the summer, a 163bhp 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine will be added to the range.
Diesel: Choice here is between the 110bhp 1.5-litre dCi, mated to a 6-speed manual (no auto) ‘box in 2WD, or the 130bhp 1.6-litre dCi, in 2WD or 4WD twinned with the aforementioned 6-speed manual gearbox.
Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission is only available on the 2WD 1.6-litre diesel.
On the road
The new Qashqai is very impressive in all areas – even driving a LHD version on the glass-like roads around Madrid – not least the exceptional ride and greater body control. Nissan burnt the midnight oil for the new Qashqai in making it feel secure and comfortable on the road, and its efforts have truly paid off. Yes, the ride has a slightly firm edge, but that’s more about feedback from the four contact points with the road than a lean towards sporty handling. It doesn’t feel harsh, even on the bigger wheels of the posh Tekna variant.
The grown-up nature of the Qashqai carries through to the driving experience. Admittedly, Nissan’s clever chassis control system use the car’s electronics to aid handling and ride comfort, but doesn’t remotely negate an engaging driving experience. There’s less body roll than the outgoing car yet comfort levels don’t suffer as a result, even over broken ground. The suspension is noticeably calm over potholes and doesn’t clunk or jar occupants like some rival cars continue to do. There are valuable lessons to be learned by the Qashqai’s rivals here.
By no stretch of the imagination is the Qashqai a sporty car, but the well-weighted steering is delightfully responsive and throttle and clutch controls are light and untaxing for every-day, all-day use. It all adds up to an enveloping sense of driver confidence.
Ducks in a row. 2014 Nissan Qashqai’s lined up and ready for Test Route #1 in Madrid.
Besides excellent engine refinement the car suffers little in the way of wind and tyre noise. This, plus far more comfortable seats, equates to supremely relaxed, long-distance driving.
Safety and security
A raft of driver aids and safety kit is available, all incorporated in the Nissan Safety Shield, comprising: forward emergency braking, driver attention alert, traffic sign recognition, lane departure and blind spot warning, moving object detection, chassis control and ‘around-view’ monitor with park assist.
The ‘tries hard’ 1.2-litre turbo-petrol claims 50.4mpg, spilling a barely-reasonable 129g/km of CO2, which equates to zero VED in its first year, and a subsequent £105 per year.
Savings become much better with the first of the diesels, the 1.5 dCi four-pot. With a combined fuel consumption cycle of a creditable 74.3mpg, this powerplant emits just 99g/km of CO2, enabling no VED for any part of its charmed life.
The 1.6-litre 2WD diesel claims a frugal 64.2mpg and, emitting just 115g/km of CO2, meaning zero VED for the first year and a negligible £30/year thereafter.
Service intervals are a generous 20,000 miles.
The morning after the night before. Early start to Day 2, Nissan Qashqai launch, Madrid.
In its price range, Nissan’s new Qashqai is the best all-round crossover available in the UK market today. It successfully blends a practical, but posh interior with a comfortable ride, with family appeal. It’s very much better to drive, remains competitively priced and is generously equipped.
Nissan set out to ensure those currently driving a Qashqai will want to buy another. Couple those to the expected hoard of new buyers to the brand that the 2014 Qashqai will arguably attract and its runaway success is set to continue.
Just when they thought it might be safe to go back into the water, fellow segment surfers such as the Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan, et al will be gingerly removing grains of sand from their respective faces in the coming months.
Me? If I hadn’t already committed to the newly-facelifted Peugeot 3008 in January, I’d be all over the new Qashqai like a rash. It’s little comfort that I can finally spell its name without looking it up.