Measure a road test’s importance by sales figures and this is already one of the year’s key entries. Measure it on the national interest gauge and it’s unlikely that even the new Mini will surpass its high-water mark.
The first-generation British-built Qashqai was a platinum-certified smash hit. Last year it remained at number six in the UK best-sellers list despite being at the end of a six-year life cycle. A slew of similarly shaped rivals has followed the Nissan into a snowballing segment, but none holds a candle to it for now.
Ostensibly the Qashqai was a replacement for the Terrano, but that isn’t a particularly satisfying account of its success. The Qashqai wasn’t the first crossover, but it was among the first to tap into the concept from a mainstream, family-size and affordable standpoint.
That, in the UK at least, it also replaced the Primera and Almera in 2007 shows the extent to which Nissan had bet all its chips on a single hand. Almost seven years on, the gamble better resembles a masterstroke.
The stakes for its replacement are obviously high. But the omens are good. Like Volkswagen reworking its Golf or Ford fettling the Focus, it seems on paper as though little has been left to chance – or, indeed, dramatically changed.
Convincingly reworking your best-selling car is the secret of being a successful car maker, and if by the end of this review Nissan has managed it, the triumph is once again indebted to homegrown expertise.
Not only is the new Nissan Qashqai built in Sunderland, but it was also designed in London and largely engineered at Cranfield in Bedfordshire.
Four trim levels are offered, starting with the relatively well equipped Visia model, rising through Acenta, Acenta Premium and range-topping Tekna.
There are two petrol engines (a 1.2-litre, 113bhp four at launch, then a 1.6-litre 148bhp four later this year) plus two diesels, the familiar 109bhp 1.5-litre Nissan shares with Renault, and a 128bhp 1.6-litre unit.
All come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, although the 1.6-litre diesel is also offered with the choice of a CVT or, alternatively, four-wheel drive in conjunction with the six-speed manual transmission.