Sunday 20 April 2014

Qashqai puts it up to rivals

APPEAL: The new Qashqai is now longer, wider and lower
APPEAL: The new Qashqai is now longer, wider and lower

BACK in 2007 when the car with the quirky name, Qashqai, arrived, it heralded a new class of motor. It received a muted welcome which over the years attracted a huge number of loyal followers.

This was the model that jump-started the small SUV/Crossover class of vehicle that won motorists away from traditional hatchback, saloon and estate formats in their droves. So successful did the Qashqai become it spawned 14 competitors, models such as the Skoda Yeti, Hyundai iX-35, Kia Sportage, Suzuki SX4-Cross etc. But it still managed to stay on top with 1.5 million sales in Europe.

Here it was always a class leader, notching up 20,000 sales and, in fact, it was the number two best-selling vehicle behind the Golf last year – a great achievement when everybody knew that an all-new model would be in the showrooms this month. The new arrival had 1,000 orders on the books before it arrived on the forecourts 10 days ago.

But have the designers and engineers waved their magic wand once again to keep the Qashqai ahead of the posse? There is now real competition out there, the Hyundai iX-35 was the best-selling vehicle during the early weeks of this year. And another big hitter in this segment, the Skoda Yeti, has just launched its new model so the competition is hotting up.

The Qashqai is now longer, wider and lower, giving it a strong exterior appeal and more head, shoulder and knee room inside. The look is still very much Qashqai with the new Nissan "V" family face on the grille sweeping into the bonnet lines and the bulky wheels arches remain.

Cost savings of 30 per cent by sharing platforms with Renault models has allowed more cash to be poured into making the interior feel more upmarket. There have been improvements to engines with the tried and trusted 110bhp 1.5-litre dCi now with emissions down to a rewarding 99g/km C02, a breakthrough in this segment.

It is now quieter, has better mid-range power and has a claimed return of 3.8L/100 (74mpg) in the economy stakes. For those who want a more spirited drive, there is a 1.6-litre 130bhp offering with the option of an improved CVT transmission which has been engineered to behave more like a double clutch automatic transmission. It gives a smooth flow of power with no lurching under-acceleration.

The surprise engine with punters could be the 1.2-litre 113bhp turbo-petrol unit with six-speed manual transmission which comes with 129g/km of CO2 and 5.6L/100 (50.4mpg). There is renewed interest in petrol because of cost factors and improved performance so Nissan feels this unit could account for 20 per cent of sales.

To get best performance requires extra use of the gear level and it is not best suited for full loads – but is ideal as an urban family transporter.

Prices start at €25,500 for the entry-level petrol version, €26,400 for the 1.5-litre diesel and €27,900 for the 1.6-litre diesel. CVT version costs €35,000 in top specification.

Martin Brennan

Irish Independent

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