So for the first day in a week, we drew breath. On Sunday, Autocar's trek across Europe in the new Nissan Qashqai reached the end of the outward-bound leg in Istanbul, and yesterday we remained in the capital, seeking out locations for snapper Stan to shoot the car.

It was a strange feeling to temporarily put down roots after several 500-mile thrashes across countries. Constant motion gets under your skin; days blend together, and you start distinguishing between nations by the quality of their road network and frequency of service stations.

The odometer told us that we'd amassed 2983 miles since the first Autocar driving team – Richard Bremner and Stan Papior – left Nissan's production facility in Sunderland on Monday 17 February. We'd not taken the most direct route across the Continent, but we'd ticked off as many countries as was practical on our way to Istanbul. Greece gave us the slip; the signpost temptingly hove into view as we headed across Bulgaria, but we were worried about border hold-ups at Turkey so decided not to divert south.

Istanbul was chosen as our destination because it represents one of the points where east meets west, and seemed to reflect the ethos behind the Qashqai, the product of a Japanese company that is woven into European culture.

The rest day didn't mean that our Qashqai was spared from work, but instead of miles of featureless motorway, it had to negotiate the streets of Istanbul, one of the busiest and most vibrant cities on the planet, renowned for its feverish drivers who make up for lack of road discipline with absolute commitment that they have the right of way.

For the Qashqai, this meant plenty of shunting between first and second gears on tight cobbled streets, plus decent use of the parking sensors to avoid ambitiously parked cars, kamikaze pedestrians and the odd feral feline. We were grateful for the lightness of the Qashqai's controls, given the frequency with which we were juggling them. 

We threaded down the narrowest of roads, got stuck behind a shoe shop delivery truck for the best part of an hour as it dropped off its stock at various stores on a single-lane one-way street, and even participated in one of those horn-blaring, improvise-your-own-lane routines at a gridlocked roundabout. 

It's equal parts exasperating and hilarious, although I suspect most of the locals noted the unfamiliar numberplate on the Qashqai and the steering wheel on the wrong side and cautiously gave us an extra couple of inches of room.

In between all that, we visited some of the most amazing sights of this bustling city, and met some of its friendly inhabitants. We were accompanied on a tour of the city by Halil, our local guide for the day, and as soon as he explained what we were trying to achieve to the officials, nothing was too much trouble. 

We were given access to riverside jetties that were out of bounds to traffic, to secret car parks where the police store seized vehicles, and up private access lanes to beautiful buildings. It was a stark contrast to the reception we would get in London, where every request would be greeted with a gruff and resolute 'No' or a demand for hundreds of pounds.

Here, so long as Stan took a picture of the relevant officials with their car – or, in the case of the amiable food stall vendor, a snap of his delicious produce – they were happy to help and extremely inquisitive about the unfamiliar new car that we'd brought to their city.

Yesterday we also treated our Qashqai to its first wash since it left Sunderland. Initially we were planning to leave the dirt on it, much like they do with the winning car at Le Mans, but it made the pearlescent white paint job look a little dowdy and we began to feel guilty.

Today we turn vaguely north and start for home, with the plan to head back across Turkey, up through Bulgaria and make Bucharest in Romania our next overnight stop. Both Stan and I are a little sad to leave this magnificent city, but somewhat relieved to be a significant step closer to home.

Follow our progress at @matt_burt_ and @autocar.

Nissan Qashqai from Sunderland to Istanbul, day one

Nissan Qashqai from Sunderland to Istanbul, day two

Nissan Qashqai from Sunderland to Istanbul, day three

Nissan Qashqai from Sunderland to Istanbul, day four

Nissan Qashqai from Sunderland to Istanbul, day five

Nissan Qashqai from Sunderland to Istanbul, day six

Nissan Qashai from Sunderland to Istanbul, day seven