Small SUVs are now big business. In fact, SUVs now represent the largest category of the Australian new car market. The raised seating position and a commanding view of the road have resonated with buyers in a profound way.
Some manufacturers anticipated the shift away from passenger cars, Nissan was one such brand. The Qashqai, originally sold in Japan and Australia as the Dualis, began production way back in 2006 well before the rest of the market jumped on the SUV bandwagon. Despite the bizarre name, the Qashqai serves to remind us that when it comes to the growing segment of small SUVs, Nissan had its finger on the pulse.
On a global level, the Qashqai has been a winner for Nissan. Interestingly, in the United Kingdom, the Qashqai has been incredibly popular. Nissan manufactures the Qashqai in Northern England which obviously gives its UK marketing arm a nice story to tell. In September it was the empire’s best selling car and currently sits fourth on the yearly sales tally.
The Qashqai is one of those models that sits between categories, it’s larger than the majority of small SUV rivals, yet smaller than the midsized offerings. Effectively, its size means it’s competing in both segments.
On test here is the 2017 Qashqai in N-Sport specification. This is a special edition based on the ST trim level. It has a sharp price of $26,990 drive-away. For context, the ST automatic has a regular list price of $28,490 plus on-road costs.
The N-Sport is differentiated from the ST with extra features including 18-inch alloy wheels, and an array of chrome details on the front and rear styling plates, front lip finisher, side door sills and lower finisher on the tailgate. Nissan claims the additional equipment adds $1800 worth of value to the car.
Overall the exterior design is very conservative, the chrome garnish does bring a bit of personality to the Qashqai’s exterior and looked good against the ink blue paint.
Being a model at the entry end of the range, our Qashqai wasn’t well stocked with safety equipment. Of course, there is the obligatory six airbags and electronic safety aids, but newer technology such as lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring are reserved for higher grade variants.
Inside the cabin, occupants are greeted with a clean and practical layout that instantly promotes a sense of familiarity. Although the design is a bit plain, everything is where it should be and the only surprises are pleasant ones.
Space is abundant in both rows meaning four adults can travel happily. The seating height isn’t as high as you would expect from the outside of the Qashqai. From behind the wheel, it feels more like the seating arrangement from a passenger car.
Storage is also plentiful, there’s a very deep centre console storage compartment that can accommodate a tall bottle. One thing we did become rather taken with was the guiding tracks that allow phone cables to run under the armrest, a simple, yet brilliant idea that prevents the cord getting stuck. It’s all about the little things, right?
There is a good feel to the vast majority of interior surfaces with lots of soft-touch plastics covering the dash and doors. It’s only the piano black finish that surrounds the shifter and infotainment screen that detract from the aesthetic. In our experience, glossy black surfaces are impossible to keep clean and scratch free.
When it comes to the infotainment system the nicest comment we can make is functional. It’s simple enough to use, however, the screen itself is too small at 5-inches. Just another everyday example of where a few extra inches could make all the difference.
Aside from size, even with the brightness and contrast adjusted, in certain light the screen was difficult to see, rendering the reversing camera useless. Then there’s the quality of the screen resolution, it’s not good enough for a Japanese car in 2017. The graphics would only appeal to designers of the first generation of coloured mobile phone screens.
Both the interior and exterior display a level of build quality that can stand shoulder to shoulder with anything from Toyota, the Qashqai is well screwed together.
Taking off from Nissan HQ for a run into Melbourne’s CBD serves to establish the Qashqai’s refinement credentials. The cabin is well insulated from the noise of surrounding traffic. Pleasingly, it’s the same story on the highway, wind and tyre racket was low. The Qashqai delivers a very serene driving experience.
To up the ante, we tested the Qashqai on some of Victoria’s worst country roads, where coarse surfaces covered in lumps and bumps are the norm. On rough roads that resembled the face of an unlucky teenager, the Qashqai maintained the serenity.
While travelling on these dreadful country roads the Qashqai’s suspension calibration was under the microscope. To put it plainly, it’s outstanding. Riding on 18-inch wheels wrapped in quality Michelin hoops, the suspension soaked up all the knocks. It’s a plush ride that puts some of the models in the premium segment on notice.
The Qashqai does make use of Nissan’s chassis control technology. This system essentially oversees aspects of the suspension, steering and brakes to deliver a better experience and improve driver confidence and comfort when driving over uneven surfaces.
Electronic power steering is all the rage at present and in this application, it is well weighted. Putting the Qashqai into a few entertaining turns it holds a steady line and body control is above average for the class.
Acceleration off the line is rather spritely for an engine that only packs 106 kilowatts. Power is put down through a CVT automatic. CVTs have come a long way in recent years, however, in all honesty, this isn’t the best example of CVT technology we have sampled this year. It tries to mimic a conventional automatic but often sounds like a gear change is needed. The revs climb dramatically between 60 and 80 clicks when attempting a simple overtaking manoeuvre. The transmission struggles to find the appropriate ratio to line up the ideal engine revs with the required power delivery.
After almost 1000km of testing, we were able to return a combined consumption figure of 8.1L/100km. This is within an acceptable range when compared to the claimed figure of 6.9L/100km.
Nissan offers a capped price service program for the Qashqai. Maintenence intervals are set at 12 months/10,000km with the cost of the first five services averaging $287 a visit.
The Qashqai is backed with a three year/100,000km warranty. This level of warranty coverage looks very light on in 2017. In the current market, competitors Honda, Hyundai and Kia offer more. Even Holden is experimenting with a longer warranty for the remainder of 2017.
There is plenty to like about the Qashqai, after a week with the car it’s easy to understand why our cousins in the motherland buy it in such big numbers. It’s a refined car that puts an emphasis on occupant comfort.
While a better infotainment system and more safety gear would be welcomed, the composed suspension, light steering, interior space and quiet cabin make it perfect for a daily driver. Mainstream rivals from the small SUV segment won't match the Qashqai in every area, especially refinement and space. Then there’s the value, at Car Conversation we encourage buyers to shop value, not just price, and this is where the Qashqai makes perfect sense.
2017 Nissan Qashqai Specifications
Price from $28,490 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol Power 106kW @ 6000rpm Torque 200Nm @ 4400rpm Transmission Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Combined Fuel Consumption 6.9L/100km Tank Capacity 65L Length 4377mm Width 1806mm Height 1595mm Wheelbase 2646mm Turning Circle 11.17m Ground Clearance 188mm Tare Weight 1408kg Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
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