Nissan Qashqai review: Steadfast and still top of the class

My ambivalence towards the hugely successful Qashwai has been long-standing and, in many ways, totally unreasonable
Nissan Qashqai review: Steadfast and still top of the class

The Nissan Qashqai e-Power is an eye-catcher.





from €44,000 - €53,400 as tested


a diminutive 1.3 four-pot mild hybrid 

with 138bhp or 156bhp options

The Spec

not much missing in SVE spec


still among the hierarchy

I have always had a mixed relationship with the Nissan Qashqai and when I say I have had a soft spot for the car, I do actually mean a bog somewhere in west Mayo.

My ambivalence towards the hugely successful Qashqai has been long-standing and, in many ways, totally unreasonable.

The Qashqai was the best-selling car in the UK last year (again) and even though it is now in its third generation, has been a consistent top-ten performer in the Irish sales charts since it was introduced in 2006. Indeed, this year alone, they’ve sold nearly 2,500 of them here, reflecting the arrival of the third generation of the car.

That’s a 52.81% increase in Qashqai sales by comparison with last year and just a vivid indicator of how popular this thing is with the buying public.

So, why have I disliked it so much?

Well, if you look back into its history, it came into being because then boss of the Nissan/Renault alliance, Carlos Ghosn (the Scarlet Pimpernel of the motor industry – they seek him here, they seek him there) decided that Nissan’s model line-up was brutally boring and needed something fresh.

A design team was assembled to come up with a replacement for the insipid Almera mid-sized saloon/hatch. Initially what they came up with was something along the lines of the VW Golf Plus, or the SEAT Altea, both sort of hatchbacks on steroids, but the plan was dismissed as it was felt the car would be neither profitable nor competitive.

They went back to the drawing board and decided to make a mini-me version of the large SUV Murano, which Nissan was making at the time. What they envisioned would be smaller than the successful X-Trail, but positioned to compete with hatchbacks and saloons, but be completely different at the same time.

In effect, what they came up was a watershed moment for the industry as Nissan effectively invented the compact crossover and since they unveiled it, everyone else got on the bandwagon and came up with their own version. That makes it a sort of Pandora’s Box of a car, if you follow.

Consequently we have had an avalanche of compact crossovers and the crossover thing then took on pandemic proportions with car makers deciding they could sell versions of these beasts in every segment – small, medium and large – and to suit every pocket from the budget buyer to the big spender.

Now, I’m not a regressive type or one who lives in the past, but I have always carried a grudge against the Qashqai for kicking off all this Crossover SUV stuff and, in the process, giving us very many mediocre cars and almost singlehandedly killing off the family saloon in the process.

Nissan Qashqai interior
Nissan Qashqai interior

I’ve never minded driving them, though. Mostly they were pretty dull on the road, but they were immensely practical and family drivers loved them and I could respect that, despite the fact that the car had unleashed a phalanx of copyists, most of which were technologically advanced as a beer mat.

It’s illogical, I know, but I’ve always shouldered a grudge against this car – and pretty much everything it inspired. Trying to put on my objective hat on, then, has always been an issue when a Qashqai arrived in the driveway. A new one has never stirred up tremendous excitement chez Colley.

Coming to the latest Qashqai, therefore, was always going to be a struggle. I’m not generally curmudgeonly, but with this particular Nissan, it seemed, I was always prepared to make an exception.

The surprise when I sat in and drove the latest one and actually enjoyed it from the off, was something which was nearly hard to swallow. Pent up and long-standing dislike of something – however unreasonable – is hard to shake off.

Mainstream Nissans rarely excite on the visual front and the original Qashqai was a good example of how dull their cars could be. The second gen model did spruce things up a bit, but not to the point where it ever got a “wow” from anyone.

This new one, however, is something of an eye-catcher and while the temptation for a manufacturer with a success story on their hands is to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary with each successive model. That’s the case here too, but Nissan has been a little bit more daring on the styling front.

The exterior is executed nicely and fits into the modern compact crossover genre without too much difficulty, what with big wheels (although with little enough cladding around them, which is good), slim, sharp lights and nicely chiselled surfaces.

In size, it is a little broader abound the beam and a little longer too to boost interior and boot space, but it is still compact enough to make it a doddle around town and not scare potential owners off. 

The interior is pretty much standard Japanese fare with a lot of gloomy dark plastics, but the touchpoints are covered with tactile materials and there’s no ugly scratchiness in evidence.

The infotainment system is adequate rather than flashily impressive, but the fact there are actual controls for the heating and climate systems is a boost and means less distractions for the driver.

It also gives you an idea that the aim here was – as it is for the rest of the car – pragmatism and practicality over glitz, although it must be said that the leather upholstery and the BOSE sound system in the SVE model tested did add an air of luxury.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power
Nissan Qashqai e-Power

Under the hood there is only one engine, a 1.3 four cylinder with mild hybrid assistance and Nissan offer two power outputs, 138 and 156 bhp. It was the latter we tried, in tandem with the xTronic auto ‘box and quite the dash it cut.

This is a CVT gearbox, but Nissan make the case that their version is much better than the screechy, mooing versions we know all too well. This one offers responsive kickdowns and little by way of flailing revs out of synch with acceleration inputs. It’s neat to drive and not at all shouty or uncouth; in fact, it is quite a reserved and quiet powertrain.

Although not terribly quick on the acceleration front (0-100 km/h takes 9.5 seconds) it has a top speed of 210 km/h and will also return somewhere in the region of 6.2 l/100 km (44.5 mpg) which, considering the engine is so small, is not bad for the size of car.

On the ride and handling front the Qashqai was always regarded as among the pick of the crop and this one is better again. Responsive steering, pliant and poised ride and sharp handling mark this car out and I doubt many drivers will find anything much to moan about in this department.

With important family things such as adequate interior and boot space (four golf bags easily swallowed) being a given and the wide-opening rear doors (to make it easy to load small children), the Qashqai ticks any and every box.

It is probably time, then, for me to give up my terribly subjective and somewhat irrational thoughts about this car and admit that it is something that Nissan got right from day one and continue to do so into this, the third generation.

In many ways, the opposition – there are more than 20 C-Segment contenders in the class – should have caught and passed the Qashqai by now, but it is a steadfast thing, bless it, and remains at the top of its class, despite my objections.

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