Nissan Qashqai (2007 - 2013)
Life's a stage
In order to dispel any misunderstanding: a Google search has revealed that Qashqai (pronounced kas-kaai) is an Iranian tribe of nomads. The term has little to do with cars, but does sound particularly interesting. And that is exactly what Nissan aims to achieve with this car. The Qashqai is different; the Qashqai is an alternative to your average car and more importantly you won't have to delve deep into your pockets for something really exotic.
Externally, it is a cross between a small SUV, a tall hatchback and a short estate. The Qashqai is available with four-wheel drive, which is only meant as an extra safety feature. It is not designed as an off-road vehicle, but its considerable ground clearance of 200 mm is particularly useful on high pavement or sleeping policemen.
On the inside, the Qashqai is also a mix of existing cars. The dashboard is similar to that of your average car, with the quality of materials comparable to those used in an average modern Nissan.
Due to its high seating, it is easy to get in and out, as well as giving the driver a good overview of the traffic. Unfortunately the seats are too soft, causing the driver to sink into them. After a long drive, the driver tends to suffer from a hunched back when they get out of the car. The optional leather seats are a little bit firmer.
The space in front is no less; in the rear, the Qashqai offer more space than the average hatchback. The luggage space reminds you of an estate; even with the back seat in situ, this “crossover” can transport a considerable amount (410 litres). Here, the Qashqai offers more than just its unique appearance.
The test car is a Tekna model, which is favourably equipped with dual zone climate control system, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise-control, an audio system with mp3 compatibility, a huge glass roof, light and rain sensors and even anti-theft provisions. Note this is all as standard. The test car was also fitted with the particularly splendid optional navigational system with reversing camera.
But all these electronics can have gremlins and that was the case during this test ride. Once the key-free access packed it in, it meant that the car couldn't start. During the test, the display screen kept flickering as if there was a loose wire somewhere. The reversing camera wasn't always helpful, even blackscreening on the odd occasion. And if that isn't bad enough, the right door kept rattling.
It's no surprise but the driving characteristics of the Qashqai are also a combination of various car types. In small lanes or tight car parks, the car feels like an enormous SUV. The Qashqai requires a lot of steering movements to make turns, which further highlights that feeling of driving a big car. The Qashqai is in fact barely larger than a Ford Focus. Thus, real SUV-parking issues aren't really the case here.
The road handling is reminiscent of a saloon. With its high positioning, the experience is different from that in a low car, but the road handling is excellent. With sudden swerves, the car reacts calmly and unsuspectingly; a lot more pleasantly and more safely than many off-road vehicles. Also at high speed the Qashqai maintains a straight and safe line. The suspension is neither too soft nor too hard, but just right.
The performance is strongly dependent on the type of engine. Since Nissan has recommended the Qashqai as a new alternative to the average boring company car, the choice for the test drive was the diesel engine. There is either as a 2.0 or 1.5 litre engine, the last of which is in fact too light for a car of its type.
In reality, the engine, which is from Renault, is heavily dependent on the turbo. This very audible turbo regularly increases the revs. On paper, the Qashqai is fuel efficient. However in order to move away smoothly alongside the rest of the traffic, this diesel engine with its particle filter does have to work quite hard. It has an average fuel consumption, which is no more favourable than that of a SUV. Once on the motorway, the Qashqai does become more economical. With its sixth gear, it easily achieves a consumption of 5 litres per 100 km.
What is the point of the Nissan Qashqai? To be perfectly honest, this strange mix of cars doesn't seem to have any particular goal. The Qashqai doesn't drive any better than any other car nor is it any cheaper. It is all show and it is up to the theatre-goers whether this performance is a success.
The 1.5 litre diesel engine only delivers a moderate performance, however it is heavy on consumption. The test car didn't highlight the reliability of the car, however Nissan has emphasised that this was one of the first pre-production models and thus not representative of those cars coming off the production line. On the other hand, the Qashqai does score on space, ease of access, good overview with relation to the traffic and of course its unique appearance.