STUTTERING START TO UPGRADED NISSAN SUV

Nissan_Qashqai_frontIn one way or another, the Nissan Qashqai has been involved in ringing more changes than a crew of cathedral campanologists. Since its launch in 2007 the small sports utility vehicle has gone through a name change and a raft of iterations.

It landed in Australia a year later under the name of Dualis as an all-wheel drive, added a seven-seat variant in 2010 and two years later had become this country’s most popular small SUV.

The second generation Dualis reverted to the Qashqai moniker in 2014, at the same time scrubbing two seats and AWD status. Confused? Now the SUV has been upgraded as the result of customer feedback and includes grades from the entry-level ST to mid-range ST-L and top-end Ti.

However, that’s not the end of the story, because Qashqai manufacturing issues at the Nissan plant in north-east England, has meant the Ti has been held back until next year, being replaced by a special edition N-TEC for now. Phew!

Entry to the new Qashqai comes via the ST six-speed manual, costing $26,490, plus on road costs. A version with a constantly variable automatic adds $2500 to the price.

The ST-L comes with CVT only for $32,990, while the N-TEC CVT can be had for $36,490. The Ti CVT, we are told, will hit the market at $37,990 in the middle of next year.

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The Qashqai / Dualis has made a name for itself by blending the practicality of and SUV with footprint, dynamics and running costs of a hatchback.

Upgrades have come on the back of research that found customers were looking for a more modern, sophisticated look, added premium to high-end models and the latest in safety systems.

Heart of the Qashqai makeover is a facelift with the latest incarnation of the maker’s trademark V-motion grille, framing the new Nissan badge. The latter is now a completely flat hologram style, which incorporates part of the car’s Intelligent Emergency Braking system, allowing radar waves to pass through it.

The radiator grille chrome surround houses the front camera taking in part of the picture for the Intelligent Around View monitor, Nissan’s innovative 360 degree parking system, standard on ST-L grades and above.

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Flanking the grille are new headlamps with a clearer difference between halogen units on ST and ST-L and LEDs on N-TEC and Ti. The halogens have a new signature, with daytime running lights consisting of nine LEDs as opposed to six and.

Full LEDs carry a new boomerang DRL design, extending right across the top of the lamp. LED headlamps are also now part of the Adaptive Front Lighting system – cornering lights which operate with vehicle speed and steering input to illuminate the apex.

The bonnet has been reshaped with a straight-line leading edge rather than a curve. New sharp bonnet creases are the tightest created at a Nissan Europe manufacturing plant.

Out the back, there are now two distinct bumpers depending on the model grade. The lower one features satin silver inserts on N-TEC and Ti. The Qashqai’s profile has gained 17 mm in length and is notable for a new aerodynamic wheel design in 17, 18 or 19-inch alloys.

Inside, better quality materials have given a more tactile feel and contrasting stitching on the centre armrest adds a hint of luxury. All four doors now have electric windows, which can be opened and shut all at once via the ignition key fob to quickly cool the cabin in hot weather.

Front seats have been reshaped on ST-L grade and above, giving additional support and more space between driver and passenger. Seat backs are thinner, giving more leg room in the rear.

The cabin takes five adults in relative comfort, clever storage facilities are a feature.

A versatile load space of 430 litres can be extended to 1598 litres with the rear 60:40 rear seatbacks folded.

DAB+ digital radio is now standard on ST-L grade and above, with a shark-fin antenna producing better reception and a modern look. The 7-inch touchscreen presents satellite navigation clearly and in an app-like format. Hands-free phone operation is improved by use of a microphone integrated into the overhead lamp unit.

With diesel power dumped, the Qashqai makes use of a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated direct injection four-cylinder engine producing 106 kW of power at 6000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque at 4400 rpm.

Most of the time the Xtronic CVT auto produces a smooth journey through the rev range. However, under hard acceleration it acts like a traditional automatic, stepping through changes. Which is weird, as it must lose some efficiency by pretending it’s not a CVT.

DRIVING
We took a launch drive through the suburbs of Melbourne and country Victoria. Ride and handling were not so precise, with the suspension picking up even minor blemishes in the road surface, while the front-wheel drive struggled to find grip on the little gravel road travelled.

This is despite Intelligent Ride Control, which is said to apply subtle braking to individual wheels and enhance torque after hitting a bump to smooth out the ride and Intelligent Trace Control designed to improve cornering by applying specific brake force to each wheel individually to correct the course of the car.

Advanced Driver Assist offers two modes: Sport for a harder response with more feedback and Normal for easier going with less feedback.

Improved noise insulation and better sealing around the front doors has reduced road and wind noise in the cabin.

There’s no argument about the advanced level of safety in the new Qashqai. The Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology is up with the best. All grades are covered by intelligent emergency braking with forward collision warning. Added are lane departure warning and hill start assist. Pity about no blind spot warning – meaning that drivers will have to set their door mirrors correctly.

Intelligent Around View is part of the ST-L, N-TEC and Ti package, while the latter pair add intelligent park assist, intelligent driver alert, blind spot warning and high beam assist.

N-TECH and Ti take up rear cross traffic alert, plus adaptive front lighting, but we have to await the arrival of the Ti next year for intelligent cruise control and intelligent lane intervention. The other variants are on sale now.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE
Nissan Qashqai ST manual $26,490
Nissan Qashqai ST CVT $28,990
Nissan Qashqai ST-L CVT $32,990
Nissan Qashqai N-TEC CVT $36,490
Nissan Qashqai Ti CVT $37,990
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for drive-away prices.

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