This is the new Nissan Qashqai, pronounced ‘Cash-Kie”. The name is of middle eastern origin and refers to nomadic clans. So it’s presumably aimed at buyers who aren’t prepared to settle down just yet.

The Qashqai has been around since 2007, but at that time Aussie dealers refused to accept the tag Qashqai. So it was renamed Dualis for us folks downunder. With this new generation Nissan’s head office in Japan insists that Australian dealers call it Qashqai. Funny thing is that the Dualis name was also used in Japan at the same time as we had it here…

Anyhow, enough of the name – which we have to admit does roll off the tongue quite nicely, even if the spelling checker is having fits – let’s talk about the Qashqai as a vehicle.

Sharp and neat in its looks, Qashqai sits between its outrageously shaped smaller brother, the Nissan Juke, and its more conservative larger sibling, Nissan X-Trail in the styling stakes.

The front flows neatly and uses the all-new theme to its best with plenty of tough looking black plastic in the lower grille area. Side profile features swages and the rearmost side window kicks up in the currently fashionable way. The rear window is quite small and may cause vision problems for some shorter drivers.

Nissan tells us it wanted to give the cabin an upmarket feel and we feel it has been successful, but in style and the finishes used. Like the exterior the Qashqai’s cabin sits neatly in a slot between radical and conservative.

Nissan_Qashqai_interiorENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Somewhat confusingly, the Qashqai is offered with different engine types depending on which model grade you desire. If you buy a Qashqai ST or Ti it comes with a 2.0-litre petrol unit with 106 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque. It sits beside either a six-speed manual, or CVT automatic transmission.

Chose a Qashqai TS or TL and you get a neat little 1.6-litre turbo-diesel producing 96 kW and 320 Nm. The only transmission is the automatic.

As a sign of the times, the Nissan Qashqai doesn’t even pretend it’s a 4WD. All Australian imports will be driven only by the two front wheels. Nissan Australia tells us only about five per cent of buyers have opted for all-wheel-drive in other SUV models where there is a choice. Preferring the lower cost, greater economy and lighter weight of a 2WD SUV.

The NissanConnect system is smartphone based and provides satellite navigation with traffic monitoring and integrated access to apps on the user’s own smartphone. These include Facebook, Pandora and Google. These are not in all models or with all phones – check with your Nissan dealer.

Nissan Qashqai has achieved a five-star safety rating from ANCAP. It uses many crash avoidance features and should a crash still occur it protects by way of six airbags – dual front, dual side and side curtains.

Both engines have good power and torque, but the added grunt from the diesel – it produces up to 320 Nm of torque compared with the 200 Nm of the petrol – makes the oil burner our engine of choice.

However you pay about $2500 more for the diesel, we can’t give an exact additional price because the ST, TS, Ti, TL models don’t have exact crossovers with equipment fitment.

Cleverly, the automatic shifts down to lower gears when it senses the Qashqai is descending a hill without any throttle being used. This not only gives improved engine braking, but also cuts down on brake-pad wear. Less pad wear not only saves you money, but stops brake dust going into the air.

The diesel engine has a stop-start function to further reduce fuel usage and exhaust emissions. Should you not be interested in cutting emissions you are able to turn off this function.

Handling is good, though the Japanese Qashqai certainly doesn’t come into the class of the medium European SUVs in this regard, however, this is only likely to be a factor if you class yourself as a keen driver.

As Nissan Qashqai uses electric power assistance steering feel and feedback can be adjusted between Normal and Sport, we much preferred the latter.

Comfort is good and the Qashqai has a clever system that can feel bumps and dips on the road and adjust the suspension by subtly using the brakes on individual wheels to smooth out the ride. Clever stuff.

Nissan Qashqai is a competent crossover between an SUV and a station wagon. Though it lacks all-wheel-drive we can see it meeting the needs of the great majority of buyers in its class.

ST 2.0-litre petrol five-door wagon: $25,850 (manual), $28,490 (automatic)
Ti 2.0-litre petrol five-door wagon: $32,490 (manual), $34,990 (automatic)
TS 1.6-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $33,200 (automatic)
TL 1.6-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $37,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for drive-away prices.

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