From £23,565
Was this still the family car rival manufacturers have to beat?

Why we ran it: To find out if the third generation of the best-selling SUV is still a cut above the growing ranks of Qashqai rivals.

Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Nissan Qashqai: Month 3

During nearly 5000 miles in the Qashqai, did we learn the secret of its success? - 16 March 2022

When Autocar’s Nissan Qashqai arrived a few months back, you might recall I named it Ed, after middle-of-the-road music maestro Ed Sheeran. My theory was that both the Qashqai and Sheeran had achieved phenomenal success through the super-smart tactic of appealing to the widest possible audience. Both tick all the boxes but, well, could be considered a little bit bland.

So the goal I set was to see if I could discover “any hidden depths of character” lurking inside the Qashqai. Well, reader, I could not. But what I’ve also realised over the past few months: I’m not sure that really matters.

The truth is I did nearly 5000 miles in the Qashqai – and virtually none of them were memorable.

There was never any real spark or hint of driver engagement, no real character to discover, no joy to be had in a machine excelling beyond expectation in any given task. But the truth is also this: during those nearly 5000 miles of driving on all sizes and types of road, on journeys short and long, the Qashqai fulfilled every task I asked of it with unruffled ease. My list of complaints is short, and most seem almost pettily minor.

Compile any list of traits you could reasonably want from a mid-size crossover, and the Qashqai would tick every single one of them.

And, ultimately, for this type of car in this type of market, that is far more important than any ‘hidden depths’. There’s a reason that most other cars of this size are still called ‘Qashqai rivals’.

We opted to fit out our Qashqai in relatively high-end £32,730 Tekna trim, but even with goodies such as a 12.3in touchscreen, head-up display and digital dash, the Qashqai didn’t feel anything other than mass-market mainstream inside. But, crucially, everything worked.

The physical buttons were all well placed and intuitive, the seats were comfortable and there was plenty of space with lots of storage. I’ve sat in many fancier, shinier cars that simply don’t function as well as the Qashqai.

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There were some minor frustrations with the Qashqai’s infotainment,whichonceortwice seemed to crash and reset mid-route. In the final days of my time with the Qashqai, it even asked to download an over-the-air update; although that required me to leave the car with the engine running while it was done, a task it claimed could take up to an hour. Still, I had less trouble with it than I did with the Volkswagen Golf I’d run previously, and the Qashqai had more proper buttons too.

The rear seats were big enough to keep any passengers happy, and while the boot wasn’t entirely as big as you might think (on an airport run with two big suitcases, I found it easier to chuck one on the rear seats), the adjustable lids on the false floor created a really practical, versatile space that effectively stopped shopping bags sliding everywhere.

On the road, the Qashqai rode well, had neutral handling and aided by a raft of monitors and cameras was easy to navigate around even the tightest of car parks. The Nissan Safety Shield suite of systems really impressed and, when applied on the motorway, the adaptive cruise control was among the better I’ve used regularly in recent years.

At times, the Qashqai’s 156bhp 1.3-litre mild-hybrid engine did feel a little lacking in power. It didn’t have the sort of torque that would be helpful at times, and having optioned the six-speed manual, I did find I spent far more time than would be ideal changing gear. As noted in previous reports, if given the option again, I’d probably have gone for the CVT, which would probably better suit the Qashqai’s demeanour. It will be interesting to learn if the forthcoming Hybrid version offers a little more power and character.

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But even if I wished for a little more power, it was rarely really necessary. There were times I’d have liked a bit more impetus when pulling away, or to accelerate on a motorway, but such moments were rare and fleeting.

Generally, though, for a family crossover, the Qashqai did everything you could possibly want without complaint. Much like an Ed Sheeran album on repeat loop, it simply fades into the background and provides an unobtrusive backdrop to everyday family life.

The Qashqai is a triumph of head over heart, of practicality over personality, or versatility over dynamic agility. Would I ever be excited to jump behind the wheel of a Qashqai? Probably not. But would I ever mind having to drive one? Absolutely not.

Perhaps, though, that is the hidden character of the Qashqai. What lots of people want from a car is an entirely unobtrusive machine that happens to blend into the background. That’s actually a really hard thing for a car to do. So the fact the Qashqai does it so well really is a bit of magic. Like Ed Sheeran, there’s a reason the Qashqai is usually found topping the charts.

Second Opinion

I found the Qashqai’s interior posher than the Nissan badge might suggest, and while it can be a bit jittery around town, it settles down on long road trips. The mild-hybrid engine gives it pretty decent fuel economy, too.

John Bradshaw

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Love it:

Styling The Qashqai is too mainstream to be edgy, but it’s not dull. And in this class, that’s a welcome attribute.

Safety shield Nissan’s safety systems can be a little overbearing at times, but they’re generally really helpful.

Practicality The interior cabin and boot really are designed to cope with the rigours of everyday life.

Loathe it:

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Powertrain It lacks performance and character, and would benefit from a dash more torque.

Gearchanging Six-speed manual is worked hard because of the shortfall in torque. The CVT is a better bet.

Final mileage: 8236

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Sport, Normal or Eco? We work out how best to configure our crossover - 2 March 2022

The Nissan Qashqai has a Sport driving mode. This surprises me a bit, because the Qashqai isn’t the sort of car you would think of as being sporty in any way, shape or form. That’s not meant as a criticism: the Qashqai is very good at what it does. But I would describe it using words like practical, durable and sensible. Sport? Not so much.

Of course, lots of not very sporting cars now offer a Sport mode, I suspect because Sport is a better name than Practical or Sensible. Sport hints at a possibility of fun; it gives a sheen of performance. But here’s the thing about the Qashqai’s Sport mode: I can’t really tell what it does.

In fact, I can’t much tell the difference between any of the three modes – Sport, Normal and Eco – that you can pick using the D-Mode toggle. Changing between them doesn’t seem to affect the acceleration or output of the car in any particular way. Selecting Sport doesn’t even prompt an increase in fake engine noise or flashy red digital graphics, as you get in some cars (although I’m definitely not complaining about that).

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It could be because our Qashqai is a manual, so Nissan’s boffins are less able to alter performance through timing gearchanges. I’m not sure.

Anyway, I think it gets marginally better economy in Eco (it’s slight, but it seems to make a small difference), so I tend to stick it in that for every journey. When I remember, that is: the drive select defaults to Normal every time you switch the engine off.

Still, I’m not really complaining about the lack of difference in the driving modes. The Qashqai isn’t very sporty to drive, so I wouldn’t really want a more aggressive Sport mode. It’s more benign than that, which is fine.

Recently, I’ve had to make a series of relatively long motorway journeys and, given the price of petrol at the moment, I’m minded to try to be as efficient as possible. Through a bit of practice, I can regularly get an MPG in the mid-40s, but on occasion – and the right roads – I’ve eclipsed that.

The Qashqai’s trip computer logs all your journeys and prominently displays your best one. On a recent trip that involved steady driving on A-roads, I achieved a new best of 50.8mpg. At the end of the journey, the Qashqai asked me if I wanted to save my high score, much like an old-school arcade machine.

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And why, yes. Yes, I would like to save my score, thank you very much. It means that every time I turn on the Qashqai, I have a new efficiency target to aim for. Another reason why I’m not that bothered by Sport mode.

Love it:

Safety shield The Qashqai is laudably good at monitoring blindspots, alerting of speed cameras and so on, but...

Loathe it:

Pingdemic ...that does result in the car making an awful lot of pinging noises when you’re driving it.

Mileage: 7644

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Not so easy on the eyes - 16 February 2022

A handful of long journeys in the dark have revealed a slightly annoying quirk. The central touchscreen has a well-placed button to switch from ‘day’ to darkened ‘night’ mode, helping to reduce glare. But the digital display has no such dimming function. I understand key info needs to remain clear, but the glow can be a little off-putting at times.

Mileage: 6157

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Life with a Nissan Qashqai: Month 2

Does our car have any off-road DNA? We take it to the Jurassic X Prix to find out - 2 February 2022

The Extreme E electric SUV championship was designed to take place in some of the most remote, isolated and challenging locations on the planet. And a trip to the 2021 season finale late last year also proved an ideal chance to put the Nissan Qashqai to the test in the sort of terrain it was designed for.

No, I didn’t drive into the deserts of Saudi Arabia, across the shifting sand dunes of Senegal or past the fjords of Greenland. Instead, I braved the wilds of... the M27 and Poole town centre. Extreme? Well, the traffic was occasionally hairy, there were some narrow bumpy lanes to traverse in the Dorset countryside and the car park at my hotel was on a really awkward slope.

Okay, so driving to Dorset for the Jurassic X Prix wasn’t exactly the toughest of automotive tests. But motorway runs, urban hops and the occasional B-road jaunt are exactly the sort of driving conditions that the Qashqai was designed to master, in so doing creating a new category of car that is styled like an off-roader but intended for purely on-road use.

In a weird, full-circle loop, the electric Spark Odyssey buggy used in Extreme E is a proper off-roader (Dorset might not sound too extreme, but the Bovington tank-testing range where the event was held featured some serious mud and big jumps) sporting bodywork inspired by road- going crossovers such as the Qashqai. But while the Extreme E cars were conquering the mud, the Qashqai, thankfully, didn’t have to traverse anything rougher than a mild gravel trail leading to the media car park.

Not that I’m criticising Nissan for the lack of heavy-duty off-road running gear: in every aspect, the Qashqai is designed and refined to serve as practical, comfortable family transport. It has excellent all-round visibility for negotiating tight spaces, such as hotel car parks built on really awkward slopes. There’s plenty of space to carry luggage, such as walking boots and warm clothes for a weekend in the Dorset countryside, while featuring the sort of hard- wearing interior that is easy to clean when you get a bit of mud inside it. And the Qashqai’s raft of advanced driver assistance systems really help when driving in occasionally fraught motorway traffic.

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Even some of my slight annoyances with the car make sense in the context of its mission statement.

My chief complaint is that the 1.2-litre mild-hybrid engine lacks much in the way of character or responsiveness, but it’s hard to be too critical, given that it’s quiet and refined at most speeds, and once up to pace cruises happily on motorways.

It’s perhaps not helped by our choice of the six-speed manual gearbox: five gears would probably have sufficed, given the engine’s power, but regardless we suspect its nature would be better suited to the automatic option. Look, here at Autocar we love a manual as much as anyone, but on a practical family SUV, we would lean towards the more unobtrusive, easy-going option.

That’s because the Qashqai is all about being easy-going. Considering the capability of all modern cars, I suspect it would cope better with the sand dunes of Senegal than you might suspect. But, let’s face it, you wouldn’t really want to try. Extreme? Perhaps not, but the Qashqai is extremely good at what it’s designed to do.

Love it:

Cruising along The adaptive cruise control works really well, making motorway cruising easy.

Loathe it:

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Auto stop? Don’t start An occasional niggle with the auto engine-off system has caused me to stall the car. I suspect it’s driver error more than a car fault, though.

Mileage: 5476

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Simple yet convenient - 26 January 2022

As innovations go, the Qashqai’s two-piece boot floor is far from the most high-tech, but it’s incredibly useful. The two raised panels can be lifted to give access to a storage area or turned sideways and positioned in slots to create two narrow but deep storage spaces. They’re brilliant for taking my shopping home without it flying all over the boot.

Mileage: 5213

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Consistency is key - 5 January 2022

The Qashqai is remarkably easy to drive in tight spaces such as car parks. It’s aided by the excellent Safety Shield sensors, including the clear all-round reversing camera display. One thing does bug me: our Qashqai is a lovely shade of blue, but the (computer-generated) one that appears on the overhead camera view is a bland shade of grey.

Mileage: 4984

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Life with a Nissan Qashqai: Month 1

Not annoying in the slightest - 17 November 2021

BEEP BEEP. Our Qashqai’s powered bootlid is really very useful. BEEP BEEP. That said, in order to prevent people getting hit, it emits a shrill BEEP BEEP every time the boot is opened or closed. Yes. BEEP BEEP. Every single BEEPing time. I’m sure it’s useful for preventing accidental bootlid strikes, but it does get really quite annoying. BEEP BEEP.

Mileage: 3897

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Welcoming the Qashqai to the fleet - 10 November 2021

I’m not usually one for naming cars, but I’ve decided to call our new Nissan Qashqai Ed. As in Sheeran. You see, I reckon the scruffy-haired singer-songwriter and Nissan’s family SUV have quite a lot in common. 

For starters, they’re both among Britain’s biggest exports, achieving phenomenal global popularity. And they’ve both used similar tactics to achieve that success. Ed Sheeran basically nicked elements from a handful of genres and repackaged them into a musical form that seemed quite fresh but was actually determinedly mainstream and laser-focused to achieve mass-market musical domination. 

Similarly, the Qashqai took edgy elements from four-wheel-drive off-roaders (mostly the high-riding position and rugged styling cues) and appropriated them into an automotive form that seemed quite fresh but was actually determinedly mainstream and laser-focused to achieve mass-market motoring domination. It’s the same trick in two different guises: make a populist mainstream product feel like it’s still a bit radical. 

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But now both Sheeran and the Qashqai face a challenge: how do you maintain a semblance of edgy cool once you’ve become so successful that you’re at the centre of the mainstream mass market and have a raft of identikit rivals trying to steal your sales with their own twist on your formula? 

With this third generation, the Qashqai is entering its sell-out stadium tour phase – and that brings pressure to keep offering the proven hits while also keeping the product fresh. 

Let’s face it: while this Qashqai is an entirely new model, it already looks incredibly familiar. That’s partly because I’ve already seen loads on the roads, mere months after it was first launched, but also because it’s still recognisably a Qashqai. 

That’s not to say Nissan hasn’t put effort into the exterior design: compared with the previous model, the developments are clear to spot; park it next to an original Qashqai and the progress is remarkable. The sharp creases and lines keep the Qashqai in line with the latest Nissan Juke and give it a bit of an edge without really changing the template. It’s not as radical as Nissan’s Ariya EV, but it’s enough to not feel totally middle-of-the-road bland. 

But much like the first single off a new Ed Sheeran album often has a little edge compared with the rest of the tracks, the exterior of the Qashqai is far more distinctive than the interior. In fact, I struggle to remember another car where the disconnect between bold exterior and utterly conventional interior is so stark. 

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That’s not to say the interior isn’t very pleasant, comfortable, spacious and well laid out: it’s all of those things. It’s just a little… plain. It’s conventional and a bit drab, with a finish that’s perfectly fine but not exceptional. But that plays to the Qashqai’s appeal: it has everything you would need from a family car. It feels plush enough to have a little premium sheen but isn’t so posh that you would be afraid to let the kids go a bit wild in the back. You will be comfortable in there for just about any journey, but it won’t leave you with exciting memories. 

The Qashqai range starts with the entry-level Visia trim at £23,985, but we’ve opted for the higher-level Tekna, which comes in at £31,565 (Ed the Qashqai’s smart metallic blue paint with a two-tone black roof adds £1145 to that price). 

The extra spend nets the sort of comprehensive kit list that should appeal to family SUV buyers, including a 12.3in touchscreen, a head-up display, a digital dash, extra USB ports, 19in tyres and a raft of additional driver assistance systems and sensors. There’s an electric boot door and the spacious luggage area has very useful floor panels that make that space more usable. 

Really, it offers everything you need in a perfectly nice, functional package. Having just switched out of a Volkswagen Golf GTI with its slick infotainment, the Qashqai’s touchscreen system feels a little clunky and counterintuitive – but then again, unlike with the Golf’s, it doesn’t feel glitchy or irritating. 

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At the moment, the Qashqai is offered in the UK only with a 1.3-litre petrol engine with two power outputs (a full hybrid option is coming soon and Nissan has ditched all of the diesel powertrains). We’ve gone for the more powerful 156bhp version and chosen the six-speed manual gearbox over the CVT. 

When we subjected the Qashqai to Autocar’s extensive road test, that powertrain was the only element of the car that really “frustrated”, with the engine and gearbox not feeling particularly well matched. That certainly tallies with my experience so far, with the caveat that once I’ve got the Qashqai up to speed, it’s generally smooth, serene and pleasant. 

This is certainly no dynamic driver, but then you wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s made for amiably easy motoring so far, whether for short around-town trips or motorway jaunts. Much like with an Ed Sheeran album, even those who desire something more edgy would have to respect how easy the Qashqai is to live with. 

I doubt the next few months will prove the Qashqai to be anything other than amiable family transport. What we’re aiming to discover are any hidden depths and character, or if it proves as forgettably inoffensive as any Ed Sheeran album.

Second opinion - Illya Verpraet 

How much excitement do you want from your family SUV? In all too many cars, a bit too much ‘excitement’ comes from buggy multimedia systems and wonky ergonomics. The Qashqai has none of that, and there is something to be said for being able to listen to Ed Sheeran in peace, even if I prefer a bit of jazzy improv.

Nissan Qashqai DiG-T 158PS Tekna specification

Prices: List price new £31,565 List price now £32,585 Price as tested £32,710

Options: Magnetic Blue paint £745, two-tone pearl black roof £400

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 44.1mpg Fuel tank 55 litres Test average 41.7mpg Test best 44.9mpg Test worst 40.8mpg Real-world range 505 miles

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Tech highlights: 0-62mph 9.5sec Top speed 128mph Engine 4 cyls in line, 1332cc, turbocharged, petrol Max power 156bhp at 5500rpm Max torque 192lb ft at 1800-4000rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Boot capacity 479 litres Wheels 7.5Jx19in Tyres 235/50 R19 Kerb weight 1435kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £385 CO2 145g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £761.42 Running costs inc fuel £761.42 Cost per mile 16.6 pence Faults none

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Comments
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Add a comment…
Krg1222 8 January 2022

Needs a proper auto option not CVT to make it onto my shortlist. 

Mans432 8 January 2022

 

S mail, you must make it using only a check.

beechie 21 November 2021
You've seem to have distilled the secret of worldwide success to its essence with such effortlessness, James. I'm astonished that you haven't seen fit to drink the potion yourself.