The previous Qashqai’s biggest dynamic gift may have been that it gave interested drivers hope. It showed that crossovers could handle – a bit. And the new one strikes a similar compromise in some ways.
On ride comfort, it errs on the sportier side of the class norm, feeling taut, resolute and occasionally even a little fidgety over bad surfaces. But the secondary ride is very good and there’s seldom any accompanying noise or unwelcome edge to the bumps you feel. We have no reservations about declaring this a very comfortable car.
Above all, though, the handling is remarkable for how unremarkable it is – which is meant as a considerable compliment. You can tell that the Cranfield technical centre’s engineers had ‘car-like’ writ large on this Qashqai’s dynamic mood board, because the machine they’ve produced doesn’t feel at all large or cumbersome on the road.
It steers as directly and responds as quickly to the wheel as the average family hatch. It grips just as hard, is just as well balanced and has absolutely no more body roll or pitch than the average Golf-class hatchback, either. It’s Mr Normal, in other words, and at normal speeds it hides its higher roll axis and extra bulk as skilfully as a street magician does your £20 note.
The Qashqai’s unflappable stability in the dry comes at a slight cost, because it could be a little bit more incisive. There’s little charm or engagement to be found in the way this car sweeps around a corner – just an abundance of reassuring predictability and competence. The original Qashqai certainly had a more distinct dynamic character. But still, so much has been gained here that it’s probably worth the trade.
Only on the limit do you begin to see any dynamic trade-off compared with a modern family hatch. The 1.5-litre diesel Nissan proved just a second slower around the dry handling circuit than a Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi and 2.5sec slower than the 1.6 e-HDi Peugeot 308 – but still more than a second quicker than the closest rival crossover we’ve figured.
The car is stable, upright, precise and easy to drive fast. Ultimately, gentle understeer is expertly reined in by the stability control systems.
Should the need arise, Qashqai owners will find their car has some rough road and off-road ability. Its ground clearance and off-road angles put it on a level with the likes of the Honda CR-V and Subaru Outback. That’s assuming you opt for the range-topping 128bhp 4x4 diesel, which comes with a manual gearbox. The 4x4 system works via an electronically controlled clutch.