The weight of expectation is high for the new, benchmark crossover from Nissan - luckily the car maker has delivered an impressive proposition to the market

What is it?

The most important version of the second-generation Nissan Qashqai.

This 1.5-litre turbodiesel comes with carbon emissions of just 99g/km, and is priced from under £20k, making it a natural choice for UK company car drivers looking for something a bit more useful and desirable than the average family hatchback. If it’s good enough, this is the model that will guarantee the Qashqai’s spot in the UK’s sales top ten for the next seven years.

Nissan has pushed the boat out with this car in all ways but one. The platform is new, as is a lot of the in-car safety and connectivity technology, and at least one of the engines offered hasn’t appeared in a Qashqai before. 

But the exterior styling tells you how much Nissan’s mission has shifted, and how the weight of expectation on this car has grown. Instead of conquesting buyers, this car must retain them – and that pressure always leads towards type. So don’t be surprised that the new Qashqai looks familiar; like a lot of other crossovers on the market. That was almost inevitable.

What's it like?

A much-improved car in most of the ways that matter. It’s lower than the car it replaces, but roomier inside; more refined and more efficient; better finished and better equipped. Less distinctive, perhaps – but much better executed than before.

Before it does anything else, the new Qashqai gives you an impression of spaciousness when you climb aboard. There’s head-, knee and elbow room to spare, even for larger occupants – and that’s not something you’d necessarily have said about a Qashqai before. The cabin materials aren’t spectacular but they’re tactile, very consistently finished, and just plush enough for an understated aura of quality. The indicator stalks, for example, are hefty and grained, while the seats are very comfortable indeed. Nissan borrowed ergonomic design principals from NASA when it commissioned them, apparently. Who’d have thought seats needed to be supportive in zero-gravity?

The attention to detail extends a long way into the Qashqai’s driving experience, too. That 1.5-litre turbodiesel is as quiet as they come, and while it’s a little bit slow to respond at very low revs, at medium and high revs it's keener and generally serves this oversized hatchback with more-than-adequate acceleration. Very good real-world economy, too; 55mpg comes up on a mixed cruise without any serious commitment to driving efficiently.

The striking impression of rolling refinement also flows from a remarkably quiet secondary ride. Most versions of the new Qashqai retain a torsion beam rear suspension layout, but all of them get innovative double-piston dampers as standard. Distinct from ‘twin-tube’ shocks which work differently, these dampers allow for two separate damping rates for high- and low-frequency lumps and bumps, and they deliver a very flat, controlled ride for the Qashqai at one moment, and quiet, smooth bump absorption the next. At times, the car’s body control can feel a little bit too muscular, but it’s generally quite pliant and all-but-impervious to things like grates, drains and small potholes.

The Qashqai’s handling isn’t particularly athletic or exciting. The steering has several assistance settings, but even the lightest has plenty of weight, and grip is ultimately balanced for stability. So while the car doesn’t roll much, it also doesn’t have much of an appetite for corners. It’s manageable at low speeds, though, as well as secure on the motorway, and very competent on a cross-country road. 

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Should I buy one?

You should. The Qashqai reeks of careful conception and painstaking fine-tuning, and brings proper Western European maturity to a crossover class that hasn’t had an outstanding proposition. Until now.

As a driver’s car it could offer a natch more. As an object of desire it seems considerably less powerful than the original Qashqai once did – although that’s as much to do with the developing state of the crossover segment, and the yolk of success that this Nissan now carries. 

But as a daily driver and an alternative to a mainstream C-segment hatchback, there’s a lot more substance to the Qashqai than there once was. And that means there’s a lot more going for it in the grand scheme of things.

Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta 2WD

Price £20,840; 0-62mph 12.4sec; Top speed 112mph; Economy 74.3mpg; CO2 99g/km; Kerb weight tbc; Engine 4 cyls, 1461cc, turbodiesel; Power 109bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 192lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Add a comment…
Marv 10 January 2014

Considering the responses above.....

........I don't see Nissan having any trouble shifting large quantities of this car, much like the previous version.
Yeah, it may only have 109BHP, cost £21k, look dreary compared to whatever, but as a family holdall it does exactly what a lot of buyers will ask of it.
We've gone a for a CX-5 2.2d ourselves as we prefer the styling, extra power and handling, but good look again to Nissan. I think they have another winner on their hands.
Mark Rodriguez 9 January 2014

Utterly forgettable

The real question is how much is Autocar being paid by Nissan to write glowing reviews of their cars, regardless of how crap they are?

Come on Matt Saunders, the general public ain't stupid. Four and a half stars for a car costing 21K yet with only 109hp and slower from 0-60 than a Ford Fiesta 1.0? You're on drugs, right?

Also, don't forget the painfully drab and generic styling- Nissan have really outdone themselves in coming up with a true copy and paste job here. Add to that the fact that its resale value will tumble quicker than a sumo wrestler in freefall and you've got a real turkey in your hands.

It's time to return that brown envelope to Nissan HQ, Matt.

Fox Terrier 9 January 2014

My heart would sink everytime

My heart would sink everytime I walked out of my front door if this was what I had to get into every day. I really would rather walk, cycle or take public transport. I'm sure its technically better than the original but did they have to make it such an emotional hoover to look at?