Second-generation crossover gets a mid-life update with refreshed look and under the skin improvements. We take a closer look
What do we have here?
It’s a decade since Nissan took a huge gamble and pioneered a new car sector, the crossover SUV with the launch of the Qashqai.
Like the Qashqai, the sector has moved a long way in a short period of time as there are now 21 direct rivals for Nissan’s compact crossover.
Nissan’s gamble was to replace two traditional cars with one not so traditional vehicle. At the time, the new Qashqai replaced the Primera and Almera (although the Almera has since been resurrected as the Pulsar). A gamble that has been rewarded by the Qashqai selling more year on year since its launch and in 2016 it was the fifth best-selling car in the UK.
Over time, the Qashqai has turned from an ugly duckling into an elegant and classy five-door compact-SUV. Well, it was more hippo than duckling. It is now being pushed into a more premium sector.
This new model is the midlife facelift of the second-generation that was launched in 2014, however, it’s more than your usual facelift, in fact, it’s more of a second-generation 2.0.
There’s a familiar but new look to the front end, more technology, higher quality finish inside, improved performance and Nissan claims it’s more intuitive to use.
It retains strong UK links as it is built, engineered and designed on these shores.
Back to the updates and the new model gets fresh LED headlights, V-motion grille design as well as a new bonnet. At the back, the taillights styling has changed and there’s a new rear bumper with enhanced diffuser. There are also new 19in alloy wheels.
Inside sees an upgrade to materials including the major touch points, new seat designs and a 3mm thicker flat-bottomed steering wheel. Offering a more premium feel are the Nappa leather seats and Premium Bose sound system while DAB radio is now standard across the range.
There are four engines to pick from, two petrol and two diesel. The petrol options are a 1.2-litre DIG-T 115PS and a 1.6 DIG-T 163PS. Both engines get a six-speed manual gearbox and are powered through the front wheels.
The two diesel engines available are a 1.5-litre 110PS and a 1.6-litre 130PS. Both are fitted as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, while an optional Xtronic auto is available on the 1.6-litre. After all-wheel drive? The option is for it to be twinned with the 1.6-litre diesel with a manual gearbox.
Impressively the 1.5-litre emits just 99g/km of CO2 and returns an official 74.3mpg.
At launch, there are five trims to pick from: Visia; Acenta; N-Connecta; Tekna; and a new range-topping Tekna +. The mid-range N-Connecta is expected to make up nearly half of UK sales.
New and enhanced safety features include emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, rear cross traffic alert and LED adaptive lights.
In Spring 2018, Propilot 1.0 will be available with intelligent cruise control, lane keep assist and traffic jam pilot.
The range kicks off at £19,245, however, we’re testing the 1.6-litre DIG-T 163 petrol with a manual gearbox in range-topping Tekna + trim which costs £29,250.
Our model is finished in the optional Vivid Blue premium metallic paint costing £745.
How does it drive?
On the road, Nissan has worked to enhance the ride and handling while suppressing external noise.
For the ride, it gets a reduced spring rate alongside softer shock absorbers and dampers.
The front anti-roll bar is now 16% stiffer, there’s less transmission vibration through the steering wheel, while the self-centering weight has been increased.
To improve the occupant’s experience, there’s thicker rear glass and a new vortex generator under the front splitter to improve airflow under the Qashqai and reduce buffeting noise.
So has it worked? Sort of and here’s why.
Firstly, the ride. Get the Qashqai onto a well-paved A-road or motorway and the ride is perfect for swallowing up long distances and leaving those inside neither shaken or stirred.
Over crests ridges on the road, the damping settles the Qashqai very well with decent levels of compression.
However, on anything other than a bowls green lawn flat surface, the Qashqai struggles to deal with little bumps, leaving those inside shaken on the now fidgety ride.
On the handling front, the quicker you go the better it behaves through swooping corners, although it’s not sporty. Drop the speed though and the Qashqai really does lean through the bends, often leaving you running wide in tighter corners.
It’s steering is always on the light side, meaning getting around town is made brilliantly simple. It’s quicker to react and pretty consistent in its feel. The only time you raise a query is on quicker turns when you’ll feel a change in weighting mid-corner and may have to revise your turn angle.
What is poor is the lack of grip generated by the front wheels. Whether pulling away from junctions (even in the dry), cornering or on roundabouts.
Powering this model is a 1.6-litre petrol that develops 161bhp and 177lb feet of torque. Once the power bands for each have been reached - 2000-4000 for the torque and 5600 for the power - then the Qashqai has a good turn of speed.
The problem is, there is a major black hole below 2000rpm, leaving the engine to bog down if you’re in the wrong gear. This means you’ll be swapping cogs more regularly than is ideal.
The manual gearbox has an inverted stork leg as a gear lever and quite a long throw. It can also be a little notchy. The clutch, however, isn’t too heavy.
However, the engine is perfectly refined, smooth in its power delivery (once over 2200 revs) and excellently hushed at cruising speeds.
While underbody turbulence noise has been removed, there is wind noise at 50mph and above, consistent road roar and suspension noise.
What's it like inside?
A, perhaps unintentional, homage to the hippo remains inside with the two central air vents appear to be peeking out of the water, just like a hippo taking a dip.
The main features of the Qashqai are the large buttoned dual-zone climate controls, the 7.0in colour touchscreen and leather trim with contrasting stitching on the seats, centre console and on the doors.
This model gets some uplifting brushed aluminium look trim around the air vents and, piano black on the centre console and around the gear lever while there’s carbon effect trim on the doors and ahead of the passenger seat.
Inside is finished with predominately soft touch plastics and leather. Only lower down are the plastics harder.
The navigation display is basic, doesn’t feel as up to date with newer rivals and isn’t that intuitive to use.
Standard equipment includes an electronic handbrake, heated seats, lane departure warning, cruise control, Bluetooth, satellite navigation and a fixed panoramic sunroof with retractable sliding cover.
This model gets 3D effect Nappa leather finish while both front seats are electronically adjustable with two memory settings on the driver’s seat which also gets electronic lumbar support.
In the lowest setting, you still have a high-up commanding driving position and there’s plenty of headroom for the driver. It feels roomy with excellent shoulder and elbow room. There are two comfortable armrests, one on the door and one between the seats.
The steering wheel has decent reach and tilt adjustment.
In the door, there’s a narrow storage compartment and space for a bottle of water. Ahead of the gear lever is a small tray, there are two cupholders between the seats and a further smaller tray head of the central armrest.
The armrest itself has two paddles to open it, one to a small tray ideal for a phone and a second to open a deeper compartment that contains a USB and aux port. The glovebox is deep and usable.
The rear doors open to provide good clean access. Settle on to the comfortable leather seats and you’re greeted by good levels of leg and knee room with very decent head room. The only quibble is your foot nearest to the centre of the car can’t sit straight due to the floor mounts of the front seats.
There’s more leather on the door armrest which also gets a small storage bin large enough for a can of pop. The high window level may leave smaller children feeling a little cut off from the world.
There’s a small storage compartment between the front seats and a relatively low and narrow transmission tunnel. The central armrest folds down, is well padded and has two cupholders.
Three can fit in but it’s very comfortable and roomy for just two.
The tailgate is manually operated but opens to reveal a wide and low lip. The boot aperture does narrow slightly about half way up the opening.
The floor is flat with next to no step to the boot lip and it is square in shape. There are two compartments, one either side.
The floor is made up of two split unfixed panels. These can be repositioned to deepen the boot floor or provide vertical screens to compartmentalise the boot. However, they can be cumbersome and obstructive when trying to access the tyre inflation kit.
This model has 401-litres of capacity as the Bose sound system takes up some of the 430-litre capacity offered in lesser trims.
On an official combined cycle, this 1.6-litre petrol is claimed to return 48.7mpg. Impressively over 200 miles of testing on motorways, A and B roads we easily managed 44mpg.
Company car users will face a 25% BIK tax banding due to emissions of 134g/km of CO2.
This model falls into insurance band 15.
Service intervals are every year or 12,500 and 18,000 miles for the petrol and diesel, respectively.
The Qashqai gets a three-year 60,000-mile manufacturers warranty. There are options to extend.
During the standard warranty duration, it also gets Nissan European Roadside Assistance cover.
So, have the updates worked?
In part, yes. It feels a more refined long distance cruiser, has good safety kit, a premium feel inside and a refined and economical engine.
However, ride is too jiggly on anything other than perfect road surfaces, the front-end grip is lacking as is low end grunt while the infotainment system trials most of its rivals.
While this refresh has improved the Qashqai, the strength of its opposition has improved even further to leave Nissan’s faithful crossover looking up at the best now rather than over its shoulder.