Queueing for the Qashqai
SO I get the chance to drive the car for which there is (or was) a waiting list of 500. Yes, in the middle of our economic misery, there is a waiting list for a car.
It just goes to show, doesn't it? Do something right and there will always be demand. Even people who might not have considered a car with the once-strange name of Qashqai suddenly want one.
I remember the same sort of thing from way back in the halcyon SUV days with the Volvo XC90. Well, nothing remains in demand forever.
Mind you, Nissan is doing its best to maintain the momentum for as long as it can.
The company has made a big effort to improve the Qashqai, now that this first version has reached mid-life.
Like all such endeavours, the numerous alterations do not amount to much individually, but taken together, they give the entire package a serious lift.
Put it side by side with an 09 reg -- as I did -- and it looks substantially different, especially the sleeker, longer front-light cluster, as opposed to the old squarer set.
The cabin has improved and is a good deal quieter. Simply put, the whole thing is much smarter to look at, as well as to feel and drive.
I had intended outlining about 20 things that make this the bestseller that it is. But the more I drove it, the more I realised it is still the basic concept that wins out.
Here is a crossover of and for its time. It looks like a muted SUV but most certainly is not a sports utility. Nor is it a saloon/hatch/estate on semi-stilts.
So what exactly is it? A Qashqai with bits and pieces from many genres and one or two of its own.
Looking at it from the outside, I was struck once again by how compact it appears. There's not much evidence of bulk, muscle, mad curves or volume. Yet there is a lot of room inside.
My test motor had a well-tried and tested 1.5-litre diesel engine (second-lowest road tax), a fine boot and plenty of equipment.
But it is the seating position and height that ultimately sprinkle the last few grains of feelgood left in the country around this.
You just get a great view of everything and as soon as you sit in, you like the sense of the whole thing.
Now, don't get me wrong. This is not tall at all. It has a roofline that will, if you're not careful, remind you to duck your head lower the next time (one of my daughters will vouch for that) as you slide into its raised seating.
Yet it is this relatively minor step up in height for driver and passengers that provides the Qashqai with its key touch of allure.
More importantly, the seats are decently roomy and supportive. The rear ones can fold full or 40/60 to generate more space.
The six-speed gearbox looks after a well-tuned engine that pulled well in lower gears around the city and let me cruise quietly on the motorway.
There was good energy in it and plenty of mid-range pulling power. As a 1.5-litre, it is well matched to the size of the vehicle and was always able to shift it fairly niftily when I called on it.
Still, for all that I managed to winkle out a few criticisms to do with the business end of the car -- the boot.
While there is decent room in it, there's not a handy hook or convenient cranny in sight for the shopping or any of the more delicate bits and pieces you might carry back there.
The rear tailgate did not close nearly as easily as it should.
Yes, these appear minor but they can graduate to major with daily use. Especially if it is lashing rain -- as happened to us last Saturday.
Anyway, that's the way I see this modern phenomenon. Even so, I'm sure that not too many will turn their backs on it for those few reasons.
It probably means that just 499 are now waiting to buy a Qashqai.
Nissan Qashqai 1.5L Diesel
Star Rating: 91/100
What: Nissan Qashqai family crossover 1.5d SV (1,461cc, 6spd gearbox, front-wheel-drive), 5.2l/100kms, CO2 of 135g/km; VRT is 16pc. €156 annual road tax.
Cost: From €22,495. Test vehicle €26,495. Delivery, related charges extra.
Target market: Families, couples.
Plus: Crossover looks, room, versatility, engine.
Minus: Lack of hooks etc in boot, closing boot, low roofline a head-banger.
Standard equipment: Cruise control, six airbags, electric windows, manual air con, remote audio controls, MP3 player, 16in alloys. SV spec adds ESP (helps avert skidding), front fogs, auto air con, driver lumbar support, front sliding armrest, 17in alloys.
Others to consider: Skoda Yeti, Ford Kuga, Peugeot 3008, and a wide range of family people-carriers.