While crossovers like the Nissan Qashqai might have not have been the norm in 2007, they certainly are now.
And when you’re the market leader, having got it right first time with a new and widely imitated basic size, price and positioning formula, Nissan has rightly stuck with more of the same this time around: updated the exterior and save the game-changing stuff for the inside where the most work was needed.
Evolutionary improvement works for the Volkswagen Golf, after all.
That evolution extends to its road manners also. I’ve already had a quick go in various development mules in the build-up to the new Qashqai’s launch, and have found nothing in these early days to switch anyone off buying one.
In fact, it already feels a stiffer, less brittle, and much more polished performer than its predecessor. One with a commanding driving position and good visibility of the road ahead.
On the roads around Barcelona I tried the test mules and the ride was, on the whole, comfortable and smooth. Even without the final NVH package, it was a quiet and comfortable motorway cruiser. Around town on bumpier surfaces, there was some bump-thump from the suspension, however.
The handling is now more involving; you wouldn’t call this new Qashqai a fun car to drive, but it turns in nicely and the controls are all nicely weighted. The inevitable body roll is well controlled, and it’s not a model to go lurching all over the road. A bit of tyre squeal is possible if you really push, but there’s always an abundance of grip.
As for the engines, the entry-level turbocharged 113bhp 1.2-litre petrol is smooth, but a touch sluggish in a car of this size and weight. The 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel is much more driveable thanks to its significant reserves of torque, and is another smooth unit.
The range-topping 1.6-litre diesel feels the most grown-up here. It’s more tractable and driveable still than the 1.5 dCi, and oozes refinement on the motorway.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox is a slick shifter, but the real news is the new CVT gearbox. Nissan claims it performs like a conventional auto', and has the connected feel of a dual-clutch ‘box.
In the not-quite-finished version we tried, you can still tell it’s a CVT rather than a conventional auto’, but only just. There’s still a bit of CVT drone there, but it feels more like a conventional auto’ now with better responses and quick, precise shifts in manual mode.