Quiet revolution as Nissan remoulds its new Qashqai
It's the car families want for 2014. There is a waiting list for Nissan's revamped crossover. Eddie Cunningham got his hands on one to drive exclusively in Ireland and here's his verdict
THE first thing I noticed when I sat in the Qashqai was probably the most obvious, but the most important of the lot. The cabin itself.
It was an instant, involuntary reaction -- much, much better.
If there was one thing people criticised the old Qashqai for, it was the fairly dull and cheap looking interior (that didn't stop them buying it in huge numbers).
This is on a different level. It felt bigger; the quality of materials, especially the plastics, was substantially improved. It's a tangible thing. You have to be in and drive the car to sense it.
Even though it is just 49mm (2ins) longer and 20mm wider, there was a feeling of more room all round. They seem to have exploited the marginal increases in dimensions to get extra head, leg and shoulder space. However, there was not that much extra at the back (60/40 rear folding bench).
The dashboard is also much neater now, with some nice chrome touches. Finding switches and knobs was intuitive.
They claim they used techniques 'inspired' by NASA on the seats. They certainly made them large, embracing and they gave me plenty of support. I enjoyed the driving position.
On the road, the Qashqai does the difficult thing: smothering the thumps and thuds of the surface but keeping you in real-life touch with it.
I've driven cars a class and price above this that didn't have as good a balance on that.
Now, I've purposely kept to the more tactile areas thus far because that's where people are going to be isn't it?
But I was surprised at the way the 1.2-litre -- yes, 1.2-litre -- 113bhp turbocharged petrol -- yes, petrol -- engine performed. Here was a real case for a petrol car. I felt it would be underpowered and struggle. True, at 113bhp it did not set our world alight but for getting around without fuss it was well up to the mark.
I expected it to be a bit flat when I looked for in-gear acceleration in fourth and fifth. It was. I didn't think, though, it would smooth along at such ease on good long open-road drives.
It did. Excellent. Emissions from the 1.2 DIG-T petrol are 129g/km, the same as the existing 1.5-litre diesel and 10g/km lower than the current petrol.
That means it drops down a tax bracket (fuel consumption cut to 5.6 litres/100km). Incidentally prices generally are up just 3pc but there will not be a seven-seater.
My car was a pre-production model and had nearly all the bits and pieces that can be ordered (lane departure warning, etc). I didn't detect too many pre-production giveaways. A 6spd gearbox is standard.
My main complaint is one I've directed at many other crossovers. The shape and design mean there can be largish areas of metal on the rear corners and that, in the Qashqai, reduced visibility, especially when parking.
Nice touches include a channel for the USB wire from the central console box so you don't have to force the lid shut.
We could also split the boot (up 20 litres to 430) laterally and vertically. It was great to hold breakable stuff.
Visually, the big difference is at the front. Other than that there is no revolution. It is instantly Qashqai to look at, 15mm lower, but the same profile (and up to 40kg lighter). But, as I've said, much, much better to drive.
Overall, this is a significant improvement on what was a real success. They didn't break the Qashqai mould; they rather cleverly remoulded it.
Line-up and prices
Qashqai, C02 g/km, Road tax, Price*
1.2-litre petrol XE, 129, €270, €24,495
SV, 129, €270, €25,795
SVE, 129, €270, €29,595
1.5 DSL XE, 99, €180, €26,395
SV, 99, €180, €27,695
SVE, 99, €180, €31,495
1.6 DSL XE, 115, €200, €27,895
SV, 115, €200, €29,195
SVE, 115, €200, €32,995
1.6 DSL XE CVT, 119, €200, €29,895
SV CVT, 119, €200, €31,195
SVE CVT, 119, €200, €34,995