After covering more than 1000 miles on Europe’s motorway network, a busy city centre rush hour could almost be classified as welcome respite.
A trip around Trieste yesterday morning proved to be the most manic drive yet on this trip, as I diced with a multitude of scooters and local motorists.
The Qashqai held its own again; it’s got good visibility and an airy cabin thanks to that commanding driving position and that rare thing – a panoramic roof that floods the interior with daylight, excellent for long road trips. The engine is torquey enough, too, and the controls light enough to exploit gaps in the traffic.
It’s also an easy car to manoeuvre, and our 1.6d dCi Acenta Premium model has the added help of parking sensors and a rear-view camera to help squeeze into tight spaces in Italian underground car parks; especially those where the proprietors have left the lights turned out, as we experienced in Trieste.
The last few days of motorway running have allowed for a thorough test of some of the other gadgets of our well-equipped test car. The lane departure warning system was a bit irritating and was soon turned off (which you could argue is driver error…), but other than that this Sunderland-built car scores highly on the tech front.
The traffic sign recognition system is a godsend when flicking between so many countries with differing road rules and speeds. The sat-nav is also starring; it has covered everywhere we've wanted to go, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, in minute detail, and allows multiple waypoints to be easily tapped in.
Slovenia was the next destination in the sat-nav, and a deserted border post led the way to a subtly different landscape, with more sparsely populated villages and a more spacious feel. That's apparently down to having lots of land that’s not been flogged for all it’s worth.
The trip to Slovenia was short, though, as neighbouring Croatia was on our hit list. At the border, the guard attending to us shouted for his colleague Mario to come over to “[something in Croatian] Qashqai”. He was also enthralled with the fact I came from Norwich, which is a first.
Croatia is the home of the EU-funded (and usually empty) mega motorway, and we followed one into Rijeka before heading down the Adriatic coastline after a stop at the picturesque horseshoe bay at Bakar.
The drive down the east Adriatic coast (on a brand spanking new road, of course) could claim to be Europe’s own version of the Pacific Coast Highway, so sweeping were the bends and stunning was the scenery.
My sadness at leaving it as we headed inland towards Bosnia was tempered because a foggy mountain had to be climbed, and a tight and twisty road was the only way up. I wasn’t quite in tyre-squealing mode, but the Qashqai again revealed the safe and steady traits in its handling.
More EU roads followed, complete with lots of roundabouts, one of which a Mazda 323 estate driver took exception to and negotiated in the wrong direction, making it a 90deg turn for him instead of a 270deg one.
Our last port of call in Croatia was to be the Plitvice Lakes national park, but the fog scuppered our plans to snap the car in some stunning scenery, so the dash into Bosnia – and outside the EU – was made instead.