Still in shape
When Nissan designed the first Qashqai, it had the kingdom all to itself. By now, almost every brand offers a "crossover", and so Nissan tightened up the design of the third generation of the Qashqai considerably. Still, the Qashqai is characterised by a V-shaped grille and a prominent air intake under the front bumper. However, the lines are no longer cheerful and bulbous, but instead sharp and modern. More than before, the Qashqai is therefore chosen with feeling, and that is exactly what this kind of car is all about.
Compared to the previous generation, the Qashqai has grown in all directions (5 cm longer, 2 cm wider and 4 cm taller). This now places the Qashqai among the larger cars of its kind. The extra centimetres benefit rear legroom (+2 cm), headroom and shoulder room. Adults too therefore have plenty of room in the back. Even with the optional glass roof, tall occupants have plenty of headroom.
The increased length and a space-saving rear suspension make for a luggage space with a capacity of 504 litres. This certainly does not make the Qashqai the largest boot in its segment, but it does make the Nissan one of the more spacious cars of its kind. As with the previous Qashqai, the cargo floor is "adjustable". That way, one can opt for more luggage space (but with a lifting threshold) or a flat loading floor (but less space). Very convenient: one side of the floor is covered with a soft fabric, while the other side is made of easy to clean plastic.
The interior is spacious and the materials used are of above-average quality. Nissan does not opt for minimalist design, bold shapes or innovative ergonomics, but simply moves with the times. After all, creative excesses are reserved for the Juke, Nissan's other crossover. The Qashqai is the more conservative family car and so everything is focused on functionality.
The equipment is therefore not innovative, but it is up to date. For example, the Qashqai has the latest semi-self-driving functions, intelligent high beam (part of the beam is dimmed to avoid blinding oncoming traffic) and a modern infotainment system (audio, communication and sat nav). This can be operated via the touch-screen or by voice commands. As long as fixed terms are strictly adhered to in a fixed order, the latter function works properly. The optional Bose audio system has no "sound enhancers" and therefore sounds calmer and more harmonious than usual with this brand.
Through an app, the technical condition can be read remotely and restrictions can be set (including speed limit and area restriction). If desired, this app can be operated using Google's and Alexa's virtual assistants, but not Apple's.
To compete with more luxurious models, the Qashqai can now also be equipped with features like a massage function in the front seats, a wifi hotspot, head-up display and an electric tailgate.
Nissan believes that cars with combustion engine and electric motor require tailor-made platforms. That way, the technology could be used in the best possible way. While the "Ariya" is Nissan's electric-powered crossover, the Qashqai opts for a combustion engine. This counts four cylinders and has a capacity of 1.3 litres. Depending on the version, it produces 140 or 158 hp.
Regardless of the power chosen, the power unit uses "mild hybrid" technology. This stores energy that would otherwise be lost during braking and coasting in a battery (12v). When the engine has to work hard, a small electric motor can provide a boost (6 Nm) to reduce consumption.
For this test, the base model was driven first. The sound of the engine is immediately noticeable: the Qashqai 140 hp does not roar or hum, but rather hums! Up to around 4,000 rpm, the petrol engine is remarkably quiet and noises from the tyres are also minimal. Thanks to electric assist, the powerplant is smooth and forgiving even at low revs, making the shift indicator really necessary to know the best time to change gears. The latter unfortunately happens more often than desired, because while the Qashqai is feather light in all other areas, shifting gears is relatively heavy. The actual gear change hardly requires any muscle power, but pushing the gear lever from neutral to the left or right does.
The power of the base engine (140 hp / 240 Nm) is more than adequate in practice. Only when eco mode is chosen, power is squeezed too much. During this test, therefore, it was mainly driven in standard mode. A test drive with a lot of city traffic, inner roads and motorways cost 5.9 litres per 100 km, which is average for a car like this.
In contrast, the top version was also driven: the 158 hp / 270 Nm variant with X-Tronic automatic transmission. Although it has the same basic engine as the weaker version, this most muscular Qashqai actually does have a traditional humming engine sound. None of the extra power is noticeable in daily traffic. Only when the accelerator is pressed deeper, the stronger Qashqai performs with more ease and also has a stronger bite at high speed. This is logically offset by slightly higher consumption. Test consumption on the same route as with the base version was 6.4 litres per 100 km (equal to the promise in the brochure).
Handling is determined by mechanics and electronics. The latter involves systems to ensure grip in slippery conditions, but also to improve balance in the car. And unfortunately, these functions did not always work as intended. By using automatic and momentary braking on the rear wheels, Nissan aims to restore the balance in the bodywork as quickly as possible when the road surface is uneven. However, this also results in the car losing speed after taking a speed bump (smoothly), which is annoying and uncomfortable. This effect occurred only in the Qashqai with manual transmission, not in the automatic version.
Like many other modern cars, the Qashqai can assist with braking, steering and acceleration to improve safety and enhance comfort. As such, the Qashqai can therefore stay in the middle of the lane by itself (even on gentle bends) and maintain a safe distance from the car in front by itself. This works well, even in busier traffic.
However, when the electronics detect that subtle steering correction is not sufficient, one wheel is briefly braked to roughly pull the car in the desired direction. This is more effective than steering, but unfortunately the test car corrected too often and also at the wrong moment. For example, on a narrow embankment, the test driver steered over the left line of the road surface to safely pass a moped. The Qashqai responded by steering straight for that moped! Only by intervention by the test driver could an accident be avoided. In short: Nissan's technology is extremely effective, but the road sense to deploy it correctly is sometimes lacking.
When it comes to the mechanical part of the handling, the news is a lot more positive. The new Qashqai is on an entirely new platform. Moreover, weight has been saved (about 60 kg) and the fine-tuning has been set for a more dynamic character. This is not to say that the Qashqai has become a pushy or tiresome sports car. It does mean that the Qashqai steers more easily and precisely, gives more confidence when cornering and has much more reserve in exceptional situations. In other words, without compromising on comfort, the new Qashqai makes driving more fun and easier.
Since the introduction of the first generation of the Nissan Qashqai, the number of competitors has grown significantly. The aim of this third generation is therefore not only to be competitive, but above all to be desirable. The Qashqai is competitive when it comes to equipment, space and drivetrain. Then the car goes a step further with sharp design and equally sharp handling. With this, the Qashqai's original success formula has been successfully translated to the present day. Still in shape!
- Quiet and refined
- Modern, rich equipment
- Spacious and functional
- Heavy shifting (manual transmission)
- Many, unnecessary braking interventions
- Sat nav does not pause podcast or audiobook during instruction