Sunday 15 December 2019

Out with old and in with the new

The new Nissan Qashqai
The new Nissan Qashqai
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Mash potato. Now there is one of life's great, if unfashionable, comfort foods. Alongside a nice piece of chicken, steak or fish is there is a more wondrous solution for an empty stomach?

I accept that anyone can mash an auld potato. But I reckon only a few can make a great dish of it. One person I know and love makes a wonderful job of it.

However, like everything else in life, I've discovered someone who can do it better.

I had some in Limerick last week. I immediately ordered more.

Mmmmm. Soul food gold medal – until I find someone who can do even better. Life's like that. So are cars.

Last week I also tried out another staple – an older version of the Nissan Qashqai (131-reg) –for a few days before sampling the brand new model again. I felt a bit like a judge tasting dishes in one of television's ubiquitous 'cook-offs'.

I thought it would be straightforward. It wasn't. Far from it.

Frankly, you would be hard pushed to distinguish the two visually. Side by side, you notice things alright, but there is no radical departure here.

On a dark evening, you'd struggle to say which was the newer, 15mm lower and up to 40kg lighter.

I genuinely liked the older version. I'm in good company; 20,000 of you bought one. I can see why second-hand values are particularly good.

On the re-visit, the dash and trim and cabin did look dull but is that such a big deal?

Anyway, after plenty of driving and sampling, I sprang quickly into the new while the old was fresh in my mind.

Aha! The dash was substantially different: far crisper in outline, design and content. The trim, plastics and tone of the cabin were tangibly better.

It didn't look much bigger, but it felt roomier, despite being just 49mm (2ins) longer and 20mm wider (and 15mm lower). Note, however, they got little extra by way of rear-seat room.

The bonnet spread out wider – it was much narrower in the old one. Indeed, if there is one truly distinguishing area, it is the design at the front.

The steering wheel, the seats (excellent), the doors are all more substantial. More expansive.

And yet – heresy of heresies – there was a modern touch I would have swapped for an old one.

I'd take the old, straightforward handbrake for the electric one on the 2014 version. Not mad about it for some reason.

And I would have loved more visibility out the corners at the rear.

This is my criticism of many crossovers, including the old Qashqai.

In this case, it just goes to show you can't improve everything.

I felt the complete opposite with the boot; I really liked what they have done with it, especially the simple way of splitting it vertically to hold stuff; you can also split it laterally.

Comparing the engines – both 1.5-litre diesels – was revealing.

Even a quick glance at the figures details a substantial cut in fuel consumption and emissions (99g/km). I reckon on a 25pc reduction in running costs. Road tax for my 1.5-litre diesel is just €180. Ridiculous.

I did a fair bit of driving in both: to the midlands in the old; to Gorey, Limerick and all over Dublin in the new one. And ultimately the proof of the pudding was in the driving.

The new one was, I felt, most improved on the road; in how it kept the rumble, thud and shudder of poor, rutted surfaces out of the cabin and how it handled particularly well on smaller, twistier roads.

It has added so many elements – there is a lot more engineering and technology to it and in it – I realised half way through that my job was to assimilate the cumulative, rather than singular, effect.

Just like a memorable helping of mash that adds to, rather than dominates, the overall meal.

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