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Steering, suspension and comfort

Even in a segment where an engaging driving experience is hard to find, the Qashqai has never been the most dynamic car to drive – and the new one doesn’t change that. Nissan has done a good job prioritising ride comfort, though.

A car in this class is unlikely to benefit from the most sophisticated suspension, but potholes tend not to be too intrusive in the Qashqai and the body is kept under control pretty well on longer-wave undulations.

The steering weights up in fast corners, but not in a natural, predictable way. Under continuous hard cornering, the system does settle on one weight, but it varies with speed. More consistency would be better.

At town speeds, there can sometimes be a little jiggle in the car’s ride when the dampers occasionally fail to deal with small imperfections in one go, but overall this is a very comfortable car.

Handling is tuned for safety, rather than any kind of engagement. Despite having a meaty 235 section, the Continental EcoContact tyres aren’t the grippiest, but they are perfectly adequate for this type of car, and our handling course showed that the ESP system is good at unobtrusively managing the car’s on-limit behaviour. The brakes also hauled the car to a standstill from 60mph in a respectable 2.7sec.

The one dynamic flaw is the steering. It’s very light at smaller steering angles and weights up more suddenly as you dive into tighter corners with a bit more speed and lock. That sounds like a good thing – but in reality, it feels artificial and inconsistent, and generally discourages any enthusiasm at the wheel because you can’t be completely confident in placing the car.

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The upside of the light steering is that manoeuvring the Qashqai is nice and easy and, with a turning circle of 11.1m, it’s not too much of an oiltanker to park, even if being a larger car than before doesn’t help. That fancy floating D-pillar does create a bit of an over-shoulder blindspot, but forward visibility is good. The tall driving position and long, flat bonnet mean that it’s also easy to see the edges and place the car in town.

Assisted driving notes

Even the most basic Qashqais have a comprehensive suite of active safety features. They can all be turned off through the menu screens in the instrument cluster using the buttons on the steering wheel. It’s a rather cumbersome process, but we found no real need to turn any of them off, other than the occasional unwarranted intervention from the lane departure warning system on twistier country roads.

The car’s ProPilot intelligent cruise control works quite well. It’s smooth when slowing down and tends to do so far enough in advance of traffic slowing ahead, although it can get confused by cars in an adjacent lane. A welcome feature is that it will recognise changing speed limits but wait for the driver to confirm before changing the vehicle’s set speed. You can change gear without disabling the cruise control, too. On higher trims, it will steer for you to keep the car in lane if desired, and it does so pretty competently without encouraging you to mentally switch off.

Comfort and isolation

Over our week with the Qashqai, we were impressed with the seats. They don’t look like anything too special, but over long motorway journeys they proved supportive, thanks to a wide range of adjustment as standard, including lumbar support and variable pitch for the seat base. A relatively long cushion means they are well suited to taller drivers. On top-of-the-range Tekna+ cars, they even offer a massage function. There isn’t a lot of lateral support, but then the rest of the driving experience doesn’t encourage high-g cornering anyway.

Combine the seat comfort with the soft but relatively composed ride and you have the makings of a very comfortable long- and short-distance car. It’s a shame, then, that it is let down by the noise levels. The engine is not the issue, as it is quiet unless worked particularly hard. Instead, road roar is to blame.

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This is borne out by the 39dBA measurement at idle, which is better than most competitors. However, as the speeds rise, the Qashqai gets louder than average, and it is a good few decibels worse at 70mph than its rivals. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it might just be worth coughing up for the upgraded Bose sound system, as the standard one isn’t the best, either.