Can a facelift for this popular SUV get back its crown?
The Qashqai has been Nissan’s cash cow for year now – last year Nissan sold nearly double the volume of its popular SUV as it did in its first launch year of 2007. But there’s no doubt that more recent vehicles, like the Seat Ateca, have come along to steal the Qashqai’s crown. And the Qashqai is fighting back with a stylish second-generation makeover.
It certainly looks sharper and more aggressive. The revised nose and lights with more prominent body creases along the flanks signal a fresh departure. However, under that new bonnet the 1.6 DIG-T engine needs a fair dose of revs before it gets up and goes. But once it’s up and running then it settles down to a smooth delivery, working smartly with the six-speed manual transmission.
With 161bhp, that’s comfortably more powerful than the 128bhp 1.6 dCi diesel, which gets a touch raucous when you make it work hard. The other engines remain unchanged so there’s no great advance in terms of power. However, the suspension has had a rethink.
Really, Nissan has simply doubled down on the original vehicle’s reputation as an easy-going car in the handling stakes. While the anti-roll bars have been stiffened, the springing has actually been softened. The result is a fair bit of body roll in the corners, reminding you you’re in a small SUV rather than a hot hatch. Understeer coming in early completes that feeling.
Nissan Qashqai 1.6 DIG-T 163 Tekna
Engine: 16.-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1483kg
Top speed 124mph
Economy 47.1mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band 138g/km, 26%
But the flip side is that passengers will certainly be comfortable assuming the person behind the wheel isn’t have a fit of the racing drivers. There’s a suppleness to handling and ride that will please most owners. And you can extend that further with a new Active Ride Control to damp down major oscillations. Along with really effective new measures to dampen noise, the cabin feels quite a premium location.
Inside, there’s a five-inch infotainment screen with more operations conducted through the new flat-bottomed steering wheel than before. Higher trim levels get very comfy, well appointed seats with electric lumbar support and memory functions if you go for Tekna+ trim. The driver sits high and has a clear view mostly, while even those in the back will have plenty of headroom, with a good-sized boot behind them.
Overall the new Qashqai seems to have been designed to play to its strengths rather than iron out weaknesses. It’s now even more comfortable and practical than it was and, with the new Tekna+ trim, you can have a cabin full of quality kit. But in price terms that puts it up against an Audi Q3 and, in terms of cabin quality alone, that’s a fight that Nissan is never going to win.
Similarly, if you don’t fancy the thought of an SUV where comfort is at the expense of any sort of driving experience and pleasure, then the Seat Ateca will come to mind, and at a keen price too – much like the larger Skoda Kodiaq. But if you liked the old Qashqai then you’ll like the new one even more and, judging by the sales figures, you won’t be the only one.