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.