The first-generation Qashqai, known locally as the Nissan Dualis, was a tough act to follow. It was one of the first cars to really strike market resonance with the concept of blending the cost-effectiveness of a hatch and the practicality of an SUV.
Since then, the automotive realm has been more or less swarmed by these new types of vehicle: jacked-up hatchbacks now called the ‘crossover’, with customers routinely choosing it to the exclusion of every other type of body style.
Competitors like the technically equivalent Renault Kadjar, Hyundai Tucson, Peugeot 3008, Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 are all now vying for the same sizeable slice of pie that was still relatively unmolested by the time Nissan broke ground in 2006 with the original Dualis. As a result, this is one the most saturated segments, meaning each contender will have to work even harder to snare each new customer.
Still, armed with a tricker name, this UK-designed and UK-built Qashqai has remained a global sales leader for the Japanese manufacturer, and has become something of a signature car for them, with each small change or larger iteration requiring a very considered approach to not disrupt the equillibrium of its winning formula.
Designed by automaker’s European teams and built upon the Renault-Nissan CMF architecture, this Qashqai has been around since 2013 but has managed to stay fresh among younger rivals. Offered here in four grades - ST, Ti, TS, and TL, with both a lower- and higher-spec version with either a petrol or diesel engine - the crossover blends style with refinement, generally healthy equipment levels and value at each tier.
“…it looks a bit more dynamic and slightly less amorphous than before, with sharp lines and attractive detailing.” - Autocar
In person, the Qashqai really does seem smaller than it might look in photographs, though it’s still appreciably larger than the Juke. That could very well be down to the SUV styling cues that Nissan has thrown in.
Add to that the somewhat rakish profile and the little curves and creases along the front and sides, it does look more exciting than a fair few of its more conservatively styled competitors.
Up front we have Nissan’s V-Motion grille, LED daytime running lights as standard, and either 17- or glossy 19-inch wheels made from a lighter aluminium alloy, depending on the chosen grade. There’s a clear resemblance here with the larger-still X-Trail, but in many instances the designers seemed to be more liberal with their strokes on the smaller Qashqai.
Crossover design tropes such as the all-round protective cladding and raised ride height are present, with the latter figure quoted at 188mm of ground clearance.
Engine and Drivetrain
“Were it not for the CVT, that torque figure would seem a bit anaemic for a 1600kg car, but the rubber band is well-tuned for the Qashqai.” - CarsGuide
The Qashqai’s powertrain options run between just two engines, one petrol and the other a diesel, each in a single tune with a six-speed manual transmission offered as standard on the former. That can be switched to Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission for automatic shifts should the right option be ticked, but comes standard with the CVT on all diesel-driven variants.
The petrol motor is a 2.0-litre MR20 naturally aspirated four-cylinder that develops 106kW and 200Nm, which is adequate performance to motivate the 1.4-ton car. The diesel, though, is turbocharged and, despite its smaller 1.6-litre displacement, is the quicker of the two with 96kW and, crucially, 320Nm of torque, though it comes at the expense of some turbo lag.
It would have been a nice addition should the Qashqai be offered with all-wheel drive, but at least it doesn't feel overwhelmed with having to handle steering, acceleration, and braking. Since the majority of crossover owners don’t take their cars anywhere near far enough afield, its absence won't be felt too much.
“Nissan’s pensioned off the hard plastic dash, with its tiny sat nav and stark look, and it’s all the more appealing as a result. The front seats are excellent.” - Top Gear
Those looks might fool you into expecting SUV-levels of room, however the interior volume is more on par with a medium-sized hatchback, as is the case for the Qashqai's rivals too. It’s far from pokey, though, with plenty of room for passengers move around but still compact enough to feel reassuringly ensconced.
Nissan could have explored their imagination a little more and taken more chances when it came to the actual design aspect of the cabin, though everything does feel more upmarket than many contemporary Nissans. It’s remarkable how soft touch materials can elevate a car’s perceived quality, even more so when matched to well positioned accents (piano black, in this case) and a panoramic glass roof (Ti and TL only).
Still, one would have no trouble accessing any given feature of the Qashqai. Buttons have a nice padded action to them and the materials themselves feel of quality enough to not coax many a complaint even upon closer inspection.
Life in the rear seats are good too, with a decent amount of legroom and headroom. Middle passengers won’t have an annoying transmission tunnel hump to negotiate either, meaning 5 occupants can be comfortably ferried on long journeys.
Though it does share similar dimensions, the Qashqai outdoes the lower-riding hatchbacks of the world - as crossover’s should - with a larger boot. At a sizeable 430-litres, it’s enough to swallow up plenty of cargo, although it isn’t class-leading. Fold the seats, though, and a 1,580-litres become available.
Behind The Wheel
“It’s easily as well resolved as anything else in the class, and more than comfortable enough for everyday use as a family car.” - WhatCar
Overall, the Qashqai is one of the better handling crossovers out there. It’s an area where Nissan has obviously spent time to make sure former car owners will feel right at home and larger SUV converts will appreciate the more nimble drive.
It does exude a sportier persona, the Qashqai, especially from that snarly front fascia, and luckily this does translate to relatively little body roll and a chassis that’s reasonably eager to change direction.
Nissan has erred on the side of comfort with the Qashqai, and the resulting impression is a ride that can be best termed as ‘sophisticated’, though do expect a correspondingly firmer ride if the 19-inch wheels are fitted. It can handle undulations quite well and is above average at ironing out jittery urban road surfaces.
Units sold locally, being front driven, does miss out on the all-wheel drive’s more advanced multi-link rear suspension, but the torsion beam setup out back does a good job as well. More important than cornering level is a crossover’s calmness and poise on the road, a higher priority considering these types of car’s will be snatched up mostly by families.
Safety and Technology
“The sat-nav display is too basic and light on detail to be anything more than just a helpful guide, the radio screen is a step down in presentation again.” - CarAdvice
ANCAP gave the Qashqai a 5-star rating when they tested it in 2014, reflecting strong safety scorecards when it was tested by others such as Euro NCAP. All feature a full complement of front, side, and curtain airbags together with anti-lock brakes, rear-view camera, brake assist, and cruise control.
Only the higher-end Ti and TS variants gain more advanced additions such as blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, intelligent park assist, and the around-view monitor that can display the car’s immediate surroundings via the infotainment display. Notably, the Qashqai lacks AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) at any price, which is fast becoming a widely adopted feature among competitors.
All Qashqais come with a touchscreen infotainment system, though paying more will get you a 7-inch display instead of the 5-inch panel, though touch response and interface sophistication is middling. Dual-zone climate control is available in all but the least expensive variant, so is a six-speaker audio system, and keyless entry.
The Qashqai is one of those cars that, instead of excelling in a specific attribute, manages to juggle many talents fairly well. Some of the Dualis’ driving edge might have been lost but in its place a more rounded, grown-up crossover.
It’s still a decent handler, to be sure, but tempered with a more comfortable ride, better build quality and materials, strong practicality, and represents quite good value. All told, the Nissan is rightly proud of the Qashqai - an unmissable contender for those in the crossover market. We do wish Nissan would include AEB, though.
WhatCar - 4/5 - “The Nissan Qashqai is a superb small SUV that is a pleasure to live with. It makes a terrific family car.”
Top Gear - 8/10 - “Well made, more refined and nice to live with. Nissan has nailed it.”
CarAdvice - 8/10 - “…it’s self-assured on the road, laden with enough standard features to offer sound value-for-money, has an impressive amount of cargo space and has a well-appointed interior.”
CarsGuide - 3.5/5 - “With competitive pricing, good standard gear and comparable quality, the faux off-roader is compelling.”
Autocar - 4.5/5 - “We have nothing but respect for Nissan’s achievement in elevating this car into a class of its own, chiefly on economy, refinement and ease of use.”