Gareth Butterfield drives the latest version of the British-built success story, the Nissan Qashqai
BELIEVE it or not, the innocuous little Nissan Qashqai deserves a place in history as one of the great automotive trendsetters.
Nissan took a punt, back in 2007, on the concept of taking an ordinary car’s platform, jacking up the suspension and making it look a bit more rugged and versatile.
It didn’t just go on to be one of the UK’s biggest selling cars, it spawned a new era in car design. The current proliferation of crossovers, small SUVs, soft-roaders, whatever you’d like to call them, was all started by the instant success of the Qashqai.
So Nissan is justifiably proud of its pioneer and the latest version has been treated to a fairly significant makeover, with more aggressive styling, a nicer interior, new engines, and a welcome batch of technology and safety upgrades.
It all adds up to another strong-performing option for those who prefer to sit higher up and pretend they could drive off road if they needed to, but it’s still a decent car in its own right.
Now that the crossover trend has well and truly caught on, the Qashqai certainly doesn’t have the market to itself, and the revisions certainly bring it up to date.
Take the engines, for example, gone are the old 1.2 and 1.6-litre units, replaced by a pair of 1.3-litre turbocharged engines, which offer either 138bhp or 158bhp. This is plenty of oomph for a car like this and the higher-powered car can be had with a twin-clutch automatic gearbox.
There are two diesel options, too. A 1.5-litre if you’d like to cut running costs and emissions and a 1.7-litre if you’d like a four-wheel drive option.
The petrol engines are both great options, and are likely to be among the best sellers. They’re punchy and refined and marry up well with the Qashqai’s safe, grippy handling. It’s not a sporty car, make no mistake, and it’s outclassed by some rivals, such as the Mazda CX-5, in the handling stakes, but it’s still a nice car to take on a lengthy journey with plenty of space and decent comfort.
In truth, the new Qashqai isn’t actually any bigger than the old version. There’s 430 litres of boot with the seats up, 1,598 litres if you put them down and there’s a trick set of shelves and dividers in the boot that can adapt to your luggage and load requirements.
The technology that comes with the new Qashqai includes a better touch-screen infotainment system that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections, and a new semi-autonomous driving system called “ProPilot”, which is nice to see entering the mainstream.
Prices for the British-built Qashqai begin at just over £20,000 – but save the base models for the rental fleets and spend a bit more to get some basics such as alloy wheels, auto lights, emergency braking and the NissanConnect infotainment system.
So the Qashqai, rather than resting on its laurels, still makes a really good case for itself. Competition is strong and plentiful now, but while it might not be the class leader any more, it’s certainly not the class clown.
It’s still a good option if you really must buy an SUV and it’s definitely going to be another success story for British manufacturing.