Classy and clever UK-made SUV works remarkably well with small and impressively frugal petrol turbo engine

What is it?

You’re looking at the latest, smallest-capacity version of Nissan’s all-conquering Nissan Qashqai SUV; designed, developed and built right here in the UK.

This is a two-wheel-drive model, conceived in the knowledge that many more soft-roaders are employed to collect kids from school than to climb mountains, so their owners are happy to avoid paying for a lot of heavy all-wheel-drive paraphernalia strapped underneath, a saving that amounts to several thousand pounds and 60-80kg.  

A few years ago, an SUV with a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, even if turbocharged and able to muster a healthy 113bhp and 140lb ft of torque, would have been laughed out of court. Not enough grunt, people would have said. It’ll rev its head off and probably wear out before the rest of the car has lived half a life.

But times have changed. Modern customer demands (and modern engine design theory) have shown that small engines can deliver top-class durability while saving mass, space and internal friction, to the benefit of the total vehicle’s agility, performance, fuel consumption and braking performance.

This is why Nissan has chosen to offer its lightweight 1.2-litre 16-valve four-cylinder turbo petrol engine in Sunderland’s super-successful SUV, providing an entry-level alternative to the 108bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel, already one of the range’s best-sellers. The petrol model is expected to gain altitude rapidly as customers discover its virtues.

What's it like?

A scan of the specifications sheet shows what close competition it poses for the similar-performance, somewhat more conventional 1.5-litre diesel (which we tested at the start of the year).

The 1.2-litre petrol, which comes with a standard six-speed gearbox, undercuts the diesel’s price by a handy £1260 and despite its lack of cubic inches it provides slightly brisker performance: 11.3sec 0-62mph acceleration against 12.4sec for the diesel.

The trade-off is fuel consumption 8-10mpg behind the 1.5dCi’s day-to-day figure in the late 40s, but a real-world figure of 38-42mpg is still impressive for any SUV, and some buyers will doubtless prefer the quietness and smoothness of a petrol engine (not to mention the lower price of four-star) to somewhat messier, pricier diesel fuel. 

Best of all, there’s a comparative nose-lightness about the petrol model that adds delicacy to the Nissan Qashqai’s already excellent steering: repeatedly on test we’ve found remarkably little difference between the agility of this well-developed SUV and the better-class C-segment saloons.

The Qashqai’s ride comfort is especially impressive: it’s quiet, well damped but well controlled and never wallowy. You quickly come to appreciate that this suspension has been developed with the UK’s widely varied (and frequently rutted and uneven) roads in mind.

All the usual Nissan Qashqai virtues are present in this lower-end petrol Acenta: impressive trim, convenient and easily read instruments, a pervading aura of quality, comfortable seats and better rear space than both opposition models and the previous Qashqai. The UK-built crossover already sells in huge numbers, and this new economical petrol model well deserves to share the success.

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Should I buy one?

Yes, it’s a great small family-sized SUV. And the Acenta’s plush-but-sensible equipment level seems ideal for most modern users. But whether you choose the previously tested diesel or this latest petrol model probably comes down to personal prejudice.

The petrol model is a little smoother and quieter but not so frugal — but it saves you £1260 at the dealership. The diesel, though refined, rattles more at idle, is a bit more vocal on the motorway and can’t impart the special sensation of a sweet-revving petrol engine. On the other hand it’s bound to be better at light towing.

Nissan Qashqai Acenta 1.2 2WD

Price £19,580; 0-62mph 11.3sec; Top speed 114mph; Economy 50.4mpg combined; CO2 129gm/km; Kerb weight 1434kg; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1197cc, transverse; Power 113bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 140lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
treaclefeet 18 September 2018

an honest review

Thank the lord, an honest review for normal people who just want a nice car.  I am in the process of buying one of these and so far I have loved it, what a great drive. 

hoangvanti 1 June 2014


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DBtechnician 31 May 2014

This is the one to go for if it's the school run,,

I keep looking at these and a few years ago while visiting the local Nissan dealer was told the diesel versions regularly come in with DPF issues and associated warning lights, I guess if your journeys are mostly long motorway ones the diesel would suit best and if most are local short ones then this would be fine. Be interesting to know what the mpg figures are at motorway speeds.