It appears car manufacturers listen to criticism. Or more likely, time their product launches so that they keep the best for last.
The current Nissan Qashqai is a very good family crossover. It looks sharp, has all the kit you might need and smoothly fits into everyday life. It’s not the class leader, however, due to a dated infotainment system, and more jarringly, an underperforming 1.3-litre engine paired to either an obstructive manual gearbox or a wheezy CVT.
When we road tested the Qashqai, we speculated that a smoother and more powerful full-hybrid powertrain would complete the package. Having now driven the E-Power, it mostly does.
It’s quite an unusual system in that it is the only series hybrid on sale right now. If you’ve not been keeping up on your hybrid lingo, that means the engine only drives a generator to charge the battery, and the wheels are exclusively driven by the electric motor.
The petrol engine is a rather nifty turbocharged 156bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder with a variable compression ratio. It’s a technology that was first introduced by Infiniti on US-market models and is now coming to Europe. An adjuster on the crankshaft allows the engine to have a compression ratio that varies near-infinitely from 8:1 during high load, to 14:1 during steady, low load.
Driving the wheels, however, is all taken care of by a 188bhp electric motor. To make sure there is always enough charge in reserve, there is a 2.1kWh battery, of which 1.85kWh is usable. That’s very large for a full hybrid.
The benefit, according to Nissan, is that the Qashqai E-Power feels like an EV to drive, but without the inconvenience of charging. In the words of the Nissan executives, a system without compromise. Sounds appealing.