The name on every lady's lips
The new Nissan Qashqai is a class act but there are rivals out there with more character, writes Campbell Spray
IF THE Nissan Qashqai single-handedly rescued the Japanese manufacturer, it also changed the look of the high street. While at one time, there were big in-your-face SUVs, as well as some nimble mountain goat-like machines, the Qashqai gave drivers – especially women – some bulk, a high driving position and a feeling of safety, but all in a vehicle little bigger than a family saloon, which in reality would never be going off-road in any real sense.
Even Nissan didn't realise the success it had on its hands when the Qashqai was launched seven years ago; however, sell it certainly did and even last year, it was the second best selling model in this country despite everyone knowing that a new model was on the way. The reliability that gave us the Micra, the car that I still would put any young person in to learn to drive, had given way to robustness that couldn't be ignored. It replaced the very boring Almera hatchback, although the Tiida brought that adjective into a new dimension.
Since the Qashqai's launch, 1.5 million have been sold in Europe and more than 2 million globally; also in those seven years every other manufacturer has been falling over themselves to enter the so-called 'Crossover' market. Now these bulked-up machines are the fastest growing sector across Europe and the new Qashqai, which was launched at the end of January, has a real fight on its hands.
However, because there is still so much pent-up demand for the Qashqai out there as well as being the first name that comes to women's lips, it will flatten much of the opposition whether it actually deserves to or not. That is not to say that the new Qashqai is not a class machine, it is.
Slightly sleeker, lower and roomier, it really is a very well-engineered car. However, the most important thing is the very quiet, confident and precise drive it gives. It offers incredible delight to its new owners, however, the large wheels do tend to emphasise a distinct roll on corners.
Yet, overall, it is a very good package with the test model having a very attractive dash with high-quality materials and an excellent reversing camera to set against a very complicated heating system. The safety packages available are very impressive.
Apparently Nasa was involved in the front seat design, so not only does madam have a great view but it is a well-upholstered one too. It isn't so comfy in the back but is definitely roomier than in the past. The large hatch area is superbly adaptable and swallowed my bike within seconds. Nearly everyone will go for the 1.5 litre diesel Renault engine of which we have seen a lot and it has just enough power with the bonus of miserly emissions.
The only thing about the Qashqai is the pure boredom factor. There are just too many around and Citroen, Mazda, Hyundai and Skoda have all got Crossovers that have more character – and some have the added bonus of actually being able to go off-road. This totally English-built and designed car has already started picking up honours, most notably winning the What Car? Car of the year Award and everyone is agreed that it is superbly refined and quiet – until you really start to put pressure on the 1.5's power.
Yet, rather like the British general who last week admonished his officers for eating sandwiches with their hands – "... a gentleman or lady always uses a knife and fork" – refined might not be what you want. With prices starting at €24,495 for the very adequate 1.2 petrol model and €26,395 for the 1.5 diesel, plus p&p, the Qashqai looks pretty reasonable. However, to spec up you will be heading towards €30k. Look at the competition before spending that money. Anyway, the demand has been so great that supply could be the problem. The Qashqai was a most pleasant drive but if I owned one, I would feel I was getting just that bit boring.