Nissan Qashqai 1.3 Dig-T 140 6MT – Controversially good

The third generation of the famous founder of the crossover family promises a host of technical refinements and quality improvements, all hidden under a body with a new progressive design that may not be to everyone’s taste. Let’s take a closer look at the new Qashqai…

The new Qashqai has opted for a very bold design in the style of the current Nissan Juke – the V-shaped fork of the slim front lights, the sharply cut grille and front bumper, the side glazing stretched into the C-pillar and the sideways stretched taillights will probably be visually jarring to some people. However, the somewhat unconventional look is in fact about the only thing that is controversial about the new Qashqai-i. The rest of the car is actually a pretty typical modern car. A crossover, actually!

Nissan introduced the first Qashqai more than fifteen years ago and practically founded the crossover segment. Its success at the time surprised even the carmaker itself, and there’s little reason for the newcomer not to become a follow-up to the bestseller. The radical original concept of the “raised and bloated hatchback” has now become so commonplace as to raise no eyebrows. Customers have embraced crossovers for their ease of fit, better visibility behind the wheel and greater practicality.</p

The current release boasts these assets, but everything else is at a noticeably higher level than before. You’ll notice it especially in the more sophisticated interior – better materials and workmanship, all-new steering wheel and buttons, plus state-of-the-art technology in the form of a digital instrument cluster, complemented by a heads-up display and large-screen touchscreen infotainment with extensive mobile and online functionality. When configured, you can add a number of comfort features, a panoramic roof, ambient lighting or a comfort entry function where the Qashqai automatically moves the driver’s seat away from the steering wheel. The range of equipment is superbly wide for the class…

More importantly, though, all those basic things work great in the Qashqai-i in the form of the wide-angle door opening, the tailgate opens electrically and can be operated touchlessly, and the ergonomics of sitting behind the wheel and controlling all the functions, including the air-conditioning, are clear and especially the “push-button” ones. Add to that a solid view, with the panoramic camera system and parking sensors front and rear covering your back when parking, and plenty of space for the crew. The whole car has grown slightly in all directions, so there’s more room in both the front and rear seats, and there’s also more luggage space, as the boot has grown by 31 litres, and although it looks flat you just need to remove the double floor and it grows to a cool 504 litres.

True to the spirit of its predecessors, the new Qashqai also handles well and drives equally well. The steering is direct and the brakes progressive. Only the manual gear lever follows the scenery a little too closely for my liking, and occasionally a gear doesn’t want to fall in and doesn’t want to fall out. However, if you’re handier than I am, even clutch work won’t annoy you and you’ll make friends with the car right away. The Qashqai’s agility and stability are closer to a classic hatchback than a large SUV, so it’s no problem to sweep around the bends of the districts with agility and stability.</p

The stiffer chassis tuning, coupled with the large wheels (there were nineteen-inchers on the car, but you can even have twenty-inchers) on low-profile tyres, obviously limits ride comfort somewhat, but even so, the Qashqai is compliant enough for comfortable cruising. The new car is excellently soundproofed and even a drive on the German autobahn at speeds above 140km/h is a complete breeze. Also thanks to the support of the sophisticated ProPilot assistant package but mainly thanks to the engine…

Much of that on-board comfort is down to the engine – a four-cylinder with a modest 1.33-litre displacement, but thanks to turbocharging it has a dense pull from low revs, so you’ll be no traffic-stopper with it. In normal driving, it’s also pleasantly quiet and settles for some six to seven litres per hundred kilometres. The 12V mild-hybrid technology doesn’t save much, as it only turns off the engine when it comes to a complete stop.</p

What engine to choose is very easy, there’s only one on offer – the aforementioned 1.3 DIG-T – and that’s in two power outputs at once. The weaker one we tested produces 140bhp and 240Nm, the stronger one 158bhp and 260Nm. They’re separated by 0.7 seconds in the zero to 60 time. Considering the price difference, it makes sense to pay extra for the more powerful variant if you drive long distances more often or fully loaded. Only the more powerful version can be had with an automatic transmission with X-Tronic (continuously variable transmission) and four-wheel drive. Another option will be the advanced E-Power hybrid powertrain promising an electric car-like driving experience. But let’s save that for another time…

This may sound like a ranting review but Nissan has simply gone to great lengths to make the new Qashqai virtually bulletproof. Okay, the engine range isn’t particularly wide and it lacks the much-maligned diesel nowadays. The infotainment lags a little behind the current top of the range in terms of design (it doesn’t detract from the functionality, though, you’ll still have your phone connected via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), and the prices aren’t downright low either, but they’re not staggeringly high either.

You’ll pay a list price of €26,690 for the lowest VISIA trim, while the (almost) highest TEKNA trim costs from €36,990. If you want a completely top-of-the-range with more powerful petrol engine, automatic and 4×4 drive, the TEKNA+ trim is priced at €41,790. For the new e-POWER hybrid, you’ll pay just…a scant two grand more…

Over all, this is a hilarious and sophisticated car that is suitably practical, rides well and is pleasant to drive, and has a wide range of equipment. So the only setback might be its controversial looks, which won’t suit everyone. So… how do you like the new Qashqai?!