Judging by its looks, the answer to the last question is: no. Since the Qashqai entered the market, many other brands have also introduced similar cars. And because looks are the most important reason to choose a car like this, all brands made sure their car looked as attractive as possible.
For Nissan, the Qashqai is a true cash cow and that's why the carmaker didn't want to take any risks. So the new Qashqai looks decent, but it isn't as bold as some of its rivals. The new Qashqai is a bit lower than before, making it look more like a normal hatchback. Because of this lower body, the seating position has also been lowered and, consequently, the Qashqai no longer gives the driver the feeling of operating a mighty machine.
Yet, this second generation Qashqai is more spacious inside because both its length and width have increased. The space is ample, not only in the front, but also in the rear. Because the boot has grown significantly and since there's a double loading floor, the more spacious "Qashqai+2" has been discontinued. However, with 439 litres of boot space the Qashqai offers less luggage room than some other "crossovers" of this size.
The biggest improvement is in the build quality and equipment levels. The Qashqai is packed with technologies that improve both comfort and safety. Until now many of these features were only available on bigger, more expensive cars. But the Qashqai always takes it one step further. For example, there's not only the usual reversing camera, the Qashqai has cameras on all four sides of the vehicle to provide the driver with a 360 degree view. The computer recognises objects while manoeuvring and will warn the driver of hazardous objects (like children!) in the path of the car.
A camera mounted in the windscreen is used to automatically operate the headlights, warn the driver when accidentally crossing the markings on the road and shows the last seen speed limit as a reminder in a display next to the speedometer.
Of course Nissan offers an integrated audio, satnav and communications system. During the first test drive the Bluetooth connection didn't work well. On a second drive with a different car, Bluetooth worked as it should.
Another minor flaw: the climate control system really likes to heat up the cabin, but hardly responds to a request to cool down. After requesting 17 degrees Celsius the system continued blowing hot air and if was only after more than an hour that it finally (and loudly!) changed to cooling down.
Handling is also improved by smart technology which doesn't really make the car any more expensive, but certainly makes it more attractive. By briefly braking only the front or rear wheels, the back or front of the car can be pulled down or pushed up. This counter-move is utilised on (speed) bumps to soften the ride.
Even a test vehicle on 19 inch rims (Dunlop tyres) still offered remarkably high comfort on bad roads, without affecting handling. However, a car on 17 inch rims with Michelin tyres handled just as well but offered less comfort (while the smaller rims should offer more). In other words: when taking a test drive at the dealership, do mind the rim size and/or ask for a test car that has the same tyre size as the car to buy.
If necessary, the computer can briefly brake the inner or outer wheel to distribute engine power more evenly while cornering. In this way understeer is being prevented while keeping the feeling in the steering wheel more pure. Thanks to this technology, together with some serious weight reduction, the Qashqai handles brilliantly. In fact, this crossover handles just as well as a traditional car.
The new Qashqai isn't just better because of its computer gadgets; when it comes to mechanics Nissan also innovates. With most other brands a 1.6 litre engine is the smallest power-plant on the list. Nissan dares to be different and offers a tiny 1.2 litre petrol engine. Thanks to a turbo, its power output of 115 PS / 190 Nm is still comparable.
The big difference is in its efficiency. When driving calmly, it's hardly noticeable that the "Qashqai DIG-T" has a much smaller engine than usual. The car sets off with ease and flows along with traffic effortlessly. When trying to save fuel by anticipating traffic and keeping the engine speed low, the Qashqai is even more efficient than Nissan promises!
However, there is a downside to this down-sized engine. When asked to perform, the Qashqai simply does not respond. Pressing the pedal harder simply has no effect. It's only when pushing the pedal all the way to the metal that the DIG-T comes alive and performs just as well as rivalling crossovers with bigger engines. However, because the Nissan engine has to work so hard to perform, it will then use just as much fuel as the bigger engine.
Next to a frugal petrol engine, there's an evenly frugal diesel. The "1.5 dCi" has been developed together with Renault and can be found in many cars by many brands. And for good reason! Despite its relatively simple technology this small diesel engine offers a superb combination of power, performance and efficiency.
Even after a cold start the modest diesel engine runs smoothly and quietly. The gearbox ratios have been chosen to make driving efficiently as easy as possible. Without much effort the test car was more frugal than Nissan promises (3.8 litres per 100 km (74 mpg)).
Thanks to its high torque (260 Nm), a gentle touch on the accelerator is enough to speed up instantly. Because the 1.5 dCi performs with so much ease, the Qashqai covers longs distances with ease.
Is the second generation of the Nissan Qashqai as much of a revolution as the first? Yes and no. When judging by its looks alone, the Qashqai has been surpassed by just about all of its rivals. Instead of being even more daring, yesterday's rebel has turned into a bland office worker in a bland suit.
Therefore, the real improvement is underneath the skin. The Qashqai makes technologies from a higher segment available to a wider audience. This gives the Qashqai a great advantage over its rivals. Handling has always been good, but thanks to smart electronics the Qashqai raises handling to an even higher level.
The engines are daring as well. Nissan dares to ship the Qashqai with smaller engines than all other brands. While this does affect performance, it makes the Qashqai cheaper to buy and run. Despite its conservative looks, its innovative technology makes the second generation Qashqai just as revolutionary as the first generation.
- Excellent handling
- Smart, innovative technology
- Climate control doesn't respond well
- Bluetooth connection not 100% reliable
"French twist" Kia Sportage
"Divide and conquer"