Nissan Australia had a bit of a brain snap a few years back when it launched the Qashqai locally as Dualis. The car itself was a smart move but heading out on its own with a name that was, arguably, just as silly.
For the second generation, the nameplate wrong has been righted (unless you dislike the name) but more importantly, out of the box it looks a better car than the old one. With redesign inside and out, the European bestseller has a hard sales act to follow – the Dualis sold 50,000 units in its six years here.
The $33,590 mid-range diesel comes with just one transmission, the CVT automatic. Along for the ride is dual-zone climate control, six speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, rear vision camera, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, electric park brake, power windows all round and tinted rear windows. The only option is metallic paint at $495.
The UK-built Qashqai is chunkier and better-detailed than Dualis. It shares its oddly small rear door aperture with its mortal enemy, Mazda’s market-leading CX-5, but is otherwise well-suited to its intended task.
The bluff front end gives the, “I like to be up high” set the promise of a commanding view and delivers, even though it’s 15 mm lower than the old car. The lower slung Qashqai means easier entry and exit for the smaller folk and those who aren’t as young as they would like to be.
Seventeen-inch wheels fill the arches well and even the segment-standard unpainted plastic looks right rather than penny-pinching. LED running lights and front foglights add an upmarket air.
The cabin is impressively put together, with good materials everywhere and a solid look and feel to everything. One slight downside is the slippery (fake) leather on the steering wheel.
The Nissan Qashqai TS we road tested is in the middle of the model range, but the cloth interior doesn’t feel low-rent. Passengers will also be able lounge around in a reasonable amount of space, with a lot of headroom and good legroom but a very flat cushion will cause numb bums. Three adults across the back is close but comfortable company.
The 430-litre boot is a good size but you will have quite a lift to get your gear in. Cleverly, there’s a false floor that can be removed, with space beneath ripe for valuables like laptops. The rest of the cabin is full of storage nooks and crannies, pockets, bottle and drink holders. It’s built for heavy-duty family use.
The Qashqai comes loaded with a five-star ANCAP rating – six airbags, stability and traction control, ABS, brake force distribution and assist, load-limited front belts and pretensioners and reversing camera.
Curiously, our car didn’t have the rear sensors to go with the camera. Obviously that isn’t a problem, but is unusual.
The six speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB is controlled from a clear, concise interface on a responsive touchscreen, with just a slightly baffling Bluetooth pairing procedure to mark it down. Everything else is simple to work out and the steering wheel controls respond well.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
In TS diesel form, Nissan Qashqai’s front wheels are motivated by a 1.6-litre direct-injected turbo-diesel producing 96 kW and a thumping 320 Nm of torque. Both figures are strong for an engine this size.
The seamless CVT acts well to get all that torque to the ground and can be flicked to sport mode to pretend to be a stepped auto. Nissan claims 4.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. If you were able to manage that figure, you’d get an impressive 1300 km between fills.
Only problem is, the best we could manage was 8.6 L/100km.
The Qashqai is all about comfort. The front seats are supportive, matching those of the Mazda CX-5 and far and away better than the Hyundai ix35’s.
There are two small gripes. The first is the slightly weird steering. It needs a lot more lock to turn the car around any given corner and three point turns mean more arm-twirling than a rhythmic gymnastics event. There is also a distinct chunk of play between the wheel being centred and when the tyres start to bite.
Once you get past the play, there’s plenty of grip and some gentle body roll, again more than its rivals but not markedly so. It feels perfectly secure, even without all-wheel drive.
The second gripe is the transmission. There’s a distinct spooling before the Qashqai gets moving, which can be a bit embarrassing when waking from stop-start. The rev-counter swings to around 3500, the diesel growls and the transmission waits a beat or two before letting you loose.
Both gripes are easily forgotten when you learn the quirks and discover the Nissan breezes around town in a remarkably relaxed fashion. The CVT keeps the 1.6 turbo-diesel on the boil and what a boil that is – the hugely impressive 320Nm keeps you bowling along with just a toe’s weight on the throttle, even when loaded up.
The engine is one of the quieter non-German diesels and the CVT, apart from the spooling nonsense, is quiet and responsive.
Ride quality is excellent although it can be upset by repeated small frequency bumps, with the rear wheels getting a little pattery.
SUMMING UP 3.5/5
The Qashqai is considerable step up from its predecessor which itself was quite good. Nissan has knocked off the sharp edges, improved just about everything while delivering a better experience for both drivers and passengers.
The pricing isn’t super-sharp on the Qashqai TS but will keep everyone else honest. On quality alone it should easily stack up well against its main competition and should be towards the top of your SUV list.