On a car that is intended to appeal to a wide audience, the only area where the new Qashqai really frustrates is with its powertrain. For this road test, we have tried the manual 156bhp 1.3 with front-wheel drive. On paper, that makes it at least a little stronger than some of its rivals, which all offer just under 150bhp, but in reality the Qashqai doesn’t quite feel it.
The engine does its best work in the mid-range, but we would like a little more low-end grunt. It needs 2000rpm to really get going, so swift progress requires a bit more effort than you feel inclined to invest in driving a compact family SUV. This comes as a bit of a surprise, given that both petrol engines are mild hybrids, where the starter motor can help out at low revs. At least the 12V system offers smooth operation of the stop/start system.
We couldn’t quite match Nissan’s 9.5sec 0-62mph claim during our testing but we didn’t miss it by much. The 1.3-litre four-cylinder remains smooth and, most of the time, it’s admirably quiet. That said, when it speaks up, it sounds a little dieselly.
When a car’s gearbox is a joy to use, such defects can perhaps be ignored, but Nissan has a habit of making its clutch pedals feel a bit spongy, with a high bite point – just as it has here. To make matters worse, engine revs drop very slowly when the clutch is disengaged, which makes it more difficult than it need be to change gear quickly and smoothly. The action of the gearchange could be better defined, too. It’s light, with a mildly notchy but longish throw.