Nissan's second generation Qashqai is at its most popular in 1.5-litre dCi diesel form. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
Ten Second Review
Nissan's massive-selling Qashqai crossover is back, bigger and more efficient than ever, with a range of class-leading safety systems, a bigger boot, a classier cabin and cleaner engines. British designed and built, this one's going to take some knocking off the number one spot. Most buyers are going to want it in 1.5 dCi diesel guise. Let's check that variant out.
Mention Nissan to most people and they'll think of a Japanese car manufacturer. Nothing particularly remarkable. To a Top Gear viewer it's the company that built the GT-R, a sports car that can humble Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Ask car industry experts about Nissan and they'll tell you a different story. Nissan is the company that made the most audacious gamble in recent automotive history, and it's one that paid off. The vehicle they went all-in on? This one right here, the Qashqai. So what's it decided to do with the replacement for this defining crossover model? Gamble again? Nope. Even Nissan isn't that brave. This second generation Qashqai takes the same qualities that made the original such a winner in the crossover class and refines them. Since the first version of this design initially appeared in 2007, a whole host of copycats have sprung up, so this one's going to have to work harder than ever to retain its position. Is that too much to ask? Let's check out this car in volume 1.5 dCi diesel form to see if it can put rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and the Skoda Yeti in their place.
Commit to a corner and this Qashqai doesn't feel appreciably different to a Golf or a Focus. You expect it to. You anticipate a certain tippiness, a laziness on its springs that's the hallmark of a higher-riding vehicle, but it's really not there. Body control is excellent, the steering is light and accurate and there's nothing cumbersome about it at all, helped in no small part by an engine that weighs next to nothing. Ride comfort is possibly a tad sportier than the class norm, and it can feel a little chattery on really bad surfaces but most of the time it just feels agreeably taut and direct. The suspension is a fairly straightforward setup of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the back. There's no 4WD offered on this 1.5-litre dCi model and most buyers won't want it anyway. What they will want is reasonable performance and, with 110PS on tap, this variant obliges - to a point, getting to 62mph in a leisurely 12.4 seconds. Overall though, in all the basics that you'd want from the car, this Qashqai delivers. The brakes are excellent. Visibility is great. The driving position is spot-on. Refinement gets a big tick, even with this tiny 1.2-litre engine on the motorway. There's really not any significant Achilles heel you could identify in this car's dynamic repertoire. A little more performance and sparkle would be welcome. Otherwise it's tough to see how Nissan could have done much better.
Design and Build
Perhaps stung a little by criticisms from journalists that this Qashqai looked quite a lot like its predecessor, one of Nissan's senior suits was heard to ask "Well how different is the new Golf?" And, when you think about it, he has a point. Geese that lay golden eggs don't need to look like swans. It's undoubtedly a more mature, assured looking thing, clearly well-engineered without having to adopt try-hard tactics to attract your attention. The front end gets a corporate Nissan V-grille and a bonnet that's all curves and swage lines. And inside? Well this time round, Nissan has wisely concentrated on improving materials quality and also offering a more expressive style to the cabin. The main instrument panel is a major element of this MK2 design. Visually, it expands the width of the cockpit and flows into the door design. This creates a focus point at the centre for all the important displays and Nissan claims it makes passengers feel protected by the car. In the back, there's more legroom on offer which may placate customers disappointed by the fact that there's no 7-seater '+2' bodystyle offered this time around. There's a bigger 439-litre boot too, extendable to 1585-litres with the rear bench folded.
Market and Model
Pricing for this MK2 Qashqai in 1.5 dCi form sits in the same £20,000 to £25,000 bracket common to other like-minded family-sized crossover models. Unfortunately, you can't get the slick Xtronic automatic gearbox at this level. And there's no 7 seat option across the range: Nissan wants buyers looking for that to opt for its latest X-Trail SUV. Equipment across the range includes gear like automatic air conditioning, Hill Start Assist, a five-inch colour HD infotainment screen, Chassis Control, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and Speed Limiter/Cruise control. You'll need to step up a grade and pay around £1,500 more for gear like dual-zone automatic air conditioning, premium leather steering wheel and gear knob, 17-inch alloy wheels, a Luggage Board System, front fog lamps, auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. Both of these trims can be fitted with a Smart Vision Pack for about £450 that adds Nissan's advanced Safety Shield system, incorporating smart safety features like Front Collision Avoidance and Traffic Sign Recognition. Of course if you want to spend more, Nissan will gladly indulge you. The range-topping trim gets features like a DAB stereo, rear view camera, a panoramic glass roof, and safety features like Front Collision Avoidance, High Beam Assist and Lane Departure Warning. There are also Bi-LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, part-leather heated seats, front and rear parking sensors and Intelligent key with engine start button. At this level, the latest-generation NissanConnect system is also standard, including a seven-inch touch screen display, Around View Monitor and smartphone connectivity.
Cost of Ownership
The old Qashqai model's diesel engines were always extremely economical, but the units fitted in this MK2 version are that little bit better again. Choose a 1.5-litre diesel and you'll see 74.3mpg and emissions of just 99g/km. We're used to manufacturers like Nissan introducing more spacious, quicker, safer and better-built cars which somehow seem to improve on the fuel economy of the or predecessors but how exactly do they do this? Weight saving is the current engineering solution and despite being a bigger car than before, this Qashqai weighs around 80kg less model for model, thanks to Nissan's latest CMF chassis. The aerodynamics are better, frictional losses in the drivetrain have been reduced and the rolling resistance of the tyres is lower. You'll also save in other areas too. With around sixty per cent of all Qashqai sales going to fleet buyers, Nissan has to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' when it comes to running costs. And that's right across the board, including servicing costs, insurance premiums, benefit-in-kind taxation and residual values. A reduction in parts costs and labour hours required means a 1.5 dCi in a midspec trim will benefit from a 20 per cent fall in servicing costs across 36 months/30,000 miles against its outgoing predecessor. This reduction in total cost of ownership is reflected in improved retained values. According to industry experts CAP, that particular Qashqai model will retain 50 per cent of its value after three years/30,000 miles - a 10 per cent improvement on its predecessor - and making it cheaper to run than an equivalent Volkswagen Golf. That really is quite a remarkable performance.
With this second generation Qashqai model, Nissan has worked its socks off to keep buyers loyal. As a result, this classic crossover is genuinely hard to fault. It's practical, safe, well-priced and well-finished. It's got a great chassis, you get plenty of standard equipment for your money and the running costs in 1.5-litre dCi diesel form brook no arguments whatsoever. It's become the quintessential car for small families. Of course, it has a huge array of rivals, but in the price bracket this car competes in it's as clear a class leader as any I've seen. You could choose a Hyundai ix35, a Kia Sportage or a Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross and you'd be buying different but don't delude yourself that you're buying better. In this sector only the classy but much pricier Mazda CX-5 holds a candle to the Qashqai. It all means that this Nissan, a car that once appealed on the basis of style, has now become the biggest advocate of substance over style. Quite a change. Something tells us though that its appeal will remain undiminished.