UK Drive: Can the new Nissan Qashqai maintain its best-selling streak?

Nissan’s latest Qashqai promises big improvements, but does it succeed? Ted Welford finds out.

Nissan Qashqai
Nissan Qashqai

What is it?

Nissan Qashqai
On larger wheels the Qashqai can feel a bit unsettled

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Nissan’s Qashqai has proven not only an enormous success story for this Japanese firm, but also for Britain. Widely considered as the original ‘crossover’ – offering a blend of hatchback compactness and SUV looks and practicality – more than three million versions of this chunky-looking model have rolled off Nissan’s Sunderland production line since 2007. It also helped to launch the smaller Juke to much success as well.

But times have shifted dramatically since then, and with just about every mainstream manufacturer offering a model in this segment – some even several – it means the latest third-generation Qashqai faces a tougher fight than ever. But does it succeed?

What’s new?

Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai has been a huge success for Nissan

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Though still looking unmistakably like a Qashqai, there’s plenty at play here that makes this Nissan ‘all new’. For starters, it’s the first model in Europe to use the Alliance’s (also including Renault and Mitsubishi) CMF-B platform, which allows for the integration of electrified powertrains for the first time, while also allowing greater freedom when it comes to interior space.

There’s a raft of new technology at play too, including a large new head-up display and infotainment system to name but a few features.

What’s under the bonnet?

Nissan Qashqai
The engine receives mild-hybrid assistance

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Though Nissan will introduce an ‘ePower’ version next year as its first full hybrid model in Europe, for the time being just a pair of turbocharged petrol units are offered. It’s important to note that no diesel will be launched, either

The engine is much the same as before, using a 1.3-litre petrol unit that’s available with outputs of 138bhp or 156bhp. Both are also lightly electrified with a mild-hybrid setup, though you’ll likely forget that the system is even there.

Our test car is the 156bhp version, which is paired to an Xtronic CVT automatic gearbox, though a manual is also available. It can manage 0-60mph in a respectable nine seconds while returning a claimed 43.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 146g/km. You can also have it with four-wheel-drive, should you need that added capability.

What’s it like to drive?

Nissan makes it a big song and dance about the improvements to the way the Qashqai drives, and it’s certainly a step up compared to its predecessor. Though it won’t challenge the Seat Ateca for class honours behind the wheel, this crossover handles far more like a hatchback than a high-riding crossover, while its easy-to-use driver assistance technology – known as ProPilot – which offers the likes of adaptive cruise control and lane centring technology – makes motorway driving as hassle-free as possible.

It’s not all perfect though, with some issues being exaggerated by the huge 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car. Despite looking the part, they make the ride quite unsettled, as it seemingly fidgets and wobbles down the road, rather than gliding along it. A smaller set of alloy wheels is certainly a must where comfort is concerned.

How does it look?

Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai features large alloy wheels

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Though looks are always subjective, we reckon the previous Qashqai was still quite attractive even as it bowed out of production. It’s no surprise – especially given the number of Qashqai owners in the UK – that Nissan hasn’t ripped up the rule book, but instead been able to give the model more of a fresher look.

Looking especially striking in our test car’s Tekna+ trim with a two-tone colour scheme, this crossover gets sharp new full-LED Lights, which also wrap around the front and rear of the car, which is a neat touch. Though growing marginally in every direction, it also retains the relatively compact dimensions that many buyers in this class still appreciate.

What’s it like inside?

Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai’s interior has been given a push upmarket

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With the Qashqai often being bought as a family car, Nissan has really worked hard to improve practicality. With a boot that’s 50 litres larger than before and now features a two-level design, it’s more practical than ever, while the rear doors almost open at right angles and are great for easy access to the back. Our test car’s full glass roof also gave the cabin a very light and airy feel.

There have been lots of improvements elsewhere, not least with the large touchscreen and digital dials, which are a lot better to use than the previous systems, while offering far greater ‘connectivity’ than before, with elements like Google Street View even integrated. The quality is also better than before, though it doesn’t feel quite so ‘premium’ in places as Nissan would like you to believe.

What’s the spec like?

Nissan Qashqai
The boot now features a split-level design

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With not even any alloy wheels or a touchscreen on the entry-level Visia trim, we’d recommend starting from the Acenta Premium grade, which addresses both of those equipment shortfalls, while also adding keyless entry, climate control and a reversing camera.

N-Connecta brings a surround-view camera system and digital dials, while Tekna gets you a head-up display, a wireless charging pad and the ProPilot driver assistance pack. Our flagship Tekna+ brought those mammoth 20-inch alloy wheels, along with massaging quilted leather seats and a Bose sound system.

There’s quite the difference in price depending on trim, though. With prices starting from £23,535 it’s initially one of the more affordable choices in this segment, though a top-spec trim with four-wheel-drive and in a nice colour costs close to £40,000. Somewhere under £30,000 is where the Qashqai makes the most sense.

Verdict

This latest Qashqai is certainly a further step in the right direction for this best-selling Nissan. There’s more space, more technology and we reckon it looks better inside and out than ever.

While our test car, with its hefty price and ride-ruining alloy wheels, doesn’t feel like the pick of the Qashqai range, there’s still a lot to like about this Nissan. It perhaps doesn’t move the game forward quite as much as it could have done, but it’s certainly up there with the best and deserves to be a best-seller yet again.

  • Model: Nissan Qashqai
  • Base price: £23,535
  • Model as tested: Nissan Qashqai Tekna+ DIG-T 158 Mild Hybrid Xtronic 2WD
  • Price as tested: £36,125
  • Engine: 1.3-litre mild-hybrid petrol
  • Power: 156bhp
  • Torque: 260Nm
  • Max speed: 124mph
  • 0-60mph: 9.0 seconds
  • MPG: 43.5mpg
  • Emissions: 146g/km

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