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Car reviews - Nissan - Qashqai


We like
Zesty and efficient driveline, quiet and comfortable ride, agile handling, spacious cabin, assembly quality, ease of use, outward visibility
Room for improvement
Uneven step-off acceleration, some practicality features reserved for higher grades, uneven bonnet shut line, more efficient hybrid model not yet available

Nissan’s right-sized Qashqai has hit the market, but is it a case of too little too late?

12 Jan 2023



NISSAN has launched its Qashqai small SUV in Australia this month, the all-new model – which shares its CMF-C underpinnings with the larger X-Trail – priced from $33,890 plus on-road costs.


Offering more power and torque, as well as improved fuel economy, from its 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) combination, the five-seat Qashqai is also larger, safer, and better value when compared with its predecessor.


Sculpted at the Nissan Design Europe facility in London, and manufactured in the UK, the Qashqai draws on the styling of its X-Trail sibling with a familial ‘floating’ roof with integrated spoiler, Nissan’s trademark V-motion grille and frontal motif, Boomerang LED headlights, active grille shutters, and a single ‘fast line’ that runs in profile from front to rear.


The tailgate, which is now constructed of composite material and weighs 2.6kg less than before, offers horizontal theming to exaggerate the model’s width, giving it a ‘more athletic’ stance, Nissan says.


With a stiffer body than before, the new Qashqai is said to offer 41 per cent greater torsional rigidity while being some 60kg lighter. The front and rear doors, front mudguards and bonnet are all constructed from aluminium, delivering not only a safer and stronger body, but improved refinement, handling and response.


Nissan has grown the Qashqai in every dimension. The wheelbase is now 19mm longer than before which overall length grows 31mm. The model is also 30mm taller and 29mm wider, making it the widest model available in the Small SUV under $40K segment.


Braked towing capacity for the model jumps 300kg to 1500kg, bettering some models even in the next segment up (Medium SUV under $60K).


Like the X-Trail, the Qashqai offers wide-opening doors (85 degrees) to improve ingress and egress, while rear-seat leg- and knee-room is likewise improved.


Enhanced passenger comfort also stems from the use of multi-link rear suspension (replacing the torsion beam arrangement offered previously) in all grades. The front-end retains a MacPherson strut set-up.


Under the bonnet, the Qashqai arrives exclusively with turbocharged petrol power, for now, Nissan set to offer its e-Power hybrid driveline from later in 2023. At launch, the Qashqai arrives only with Nissan-Renault’s HR13DDT four-cylinder unit coupled to a continuously variable transmission and driving the front wheels.


Power and torque numbers are listed at 110kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1600-3750rpm) while fuel consumption comes in at 6.1 litres per 100km, down 0.8 litres. The engine is also equipped with idle-stop technology, trimming combined cycle CO2 emissions to 138g/km, down 21g.


Braking is disc all-round with the expected electronic aids as standard. Alloy wheels are likewise standard across the range.


Inside, and on the technology front, we find all Qashqai variants equipped with a touchscreen audio system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.


All model variants receive keyless entry and push-button ignition, folding wing mirrors and rear-seat air vents as well as LED headlights with high beam assist, LED DRLs and a shark fin-style antenna.


For more information on specification and pricing of the 2023 Nissan Qashqai range, click here.


Driving Impressions


As good as it was, there is no denying the outgoing Qashqai was getting a little long in the tooth. You might even suggest the new model was overdue… But I think most people that jump into the new model will immediately agree that this car has been worth the wait.


Too little, too late? Absolutely not.


Based on the same underpinnings as the equally-new X-Trail, the new Qashqai offers a significantly broader cabin than the old car – in fact, it feels bigger throughout the cabin, despite only incremental on-paper growth.


Not only does the additional cabin space mean the Qashqai is more accommodating than before, it is also a far more comfortable ride – even on larger diameter whee. The tauter Qashqai delivers the kind of responsive and nimble handling one should expect from a city-sized SUV, along with the quietness category buyers deserve. In a word, this car is far more refined than the model it replaces.


In addition to being more agile, the Qashqai is also a more mature proposition, feeling decidedly more European this time around. The seating position and comfort cooperate with a thoughtfully designed glasshouse to offer a terrific view out – the position of the wing mirrors particularly well-placed in extending sightlines beyond the A-pillar, which is most helpful when navigating roundabouts and tricky intersections.


Add that surety to the Qashqai’s high driving position and it’s not hard to see how confidence-inspiring this Small SUV is for drivers of almost any age. First-time drivers will feel as settled behind the wheel as those downsizing from further up the range, and with straightforward and receptive controls it takes no time at all to feel at home in Nissan’s latest five-seat model.


We found reversing and parking the Qashqai equally straightforward with good natural vision and a crisp view from the reversing camera – which also offers a 360-degree on higher grades. At carpark speeds the steering is light, and the turning circle tight, which means you’ll look like a pro when squeezing the Qashqai into tight spots.


Personally, I think the Qashqai is just the right size for the suburbs and offers appropriately well-tuned driving dynamics for the job at hand.


The turbocharged engine is a lovely fit for the role, too. Like the X-Trail, it’s not the most charismatic sounding engine under load, but it gets the job done with a minimum of fuss and is well paired to Nissan’s X-tronic CVT, the ratio spread wonderfully well paired to the low-end torque offered from under the bonnet.


That said, we think a little more polish could have been applied to the Qashqai’s step-off response. Getting away from a standstill the Qashqai tends to surge forth before relaxing slightly, then gaining momentum once more. It is not as linear as it ought to be here, and though time with the car will teach you to “drive around” it, we can’t help but thinking a little fine tuning is in order.


Away from that foible, the Qashqai is an otherwise strong performer, and one that is equally frugal at the pump. On launch, the city-centric drive route returned an average of 6.2 litres per 100km – and this from an engine that was barely broken in, showing just 700km on the odometer.


With more miles on the clock, and a good freeway stretch, we see no reason the Qashqai couldn’t be more economical still.


Of course, bringing a car to rest is as important as getting it moving, and it’s here that Nissan has again shown how brake response should be. The pedal stroke and assistance offered from the Qashqai’s all-disc stoppers is just about ideal, the level of metering enabling smooth stops with a confident braking action, almost irrespective of speed.


What’s great about that is that the pedal action means passengers are treated to a calmer ride and will not be subjected to that nasty and abrupt ‘jerk’ as the car comes to rest.


We also found the driver assistants offered in the Qashqai just to our liking, offering the kind of progressive protection drivers deserve without the over-zealous, reactionary and (let’s face it) annoying chimes and steering inputs encountered in many vehicles at this price point.


But there’s plenty more to like about the Qashqai besides the way it drives. We love how easy it is to “get to know” the car and understand how everything operates without needing the consult the owner’s manual. The infotainment array and digital instrument panel are a cinch to use, the menu logic so easy to understand that we reckon anyone with a smartphone will get used to the Qashqai’s operating system in no time at all.


The wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity and inductive charging offered in higher models works very well, as does the Qashqai’s climate control system which it has to be said operates efficient and quietly, far better in fact than the X-Trail we recently experienced over the summer break (more on that in a forthcoming review).


Further back, the Qashqai’s capacious cargo area and clever folding floor (Ti models only) makes trips to the shops a breeze. Nothing rolls around and, in terms of outright space, we reckon there’s almost as much room here as in some models the next segment up.


If you have a growing family or a downsizing from a larger car, the boot space of the Qashqai might just surprise you.


We had no real quibbles with the fit and finish of the Qashqai and would say the only real issue of note is a little bit of variance in the shut line of the bonnet as it means the aft portion of the mudguards. Otherwise, everything else appears to line up as intended.


The quality of materials is likewise very good for the money. The cabin has a premium feel to it while the paint has a lovely deep lustre and is applied evenly across horizontal and vertical surfaces. The continuity of paint finish across metal, composite (tailgate) and plastic (bumper covers) surfaces is likewise impressive, and something we feel some manufacturers could do well to take a lesson from.


Overall, we think the Qashqai will really hit the sweet spot for what I like to call “upper Small SUV” buyers. It’s large enough to be useful, but small enough to remain manageable and cheap to run. The ride and handling balance is wonderfully well sorted, and – excusing that small issue on step-off – so too is the performance of the driveline.


Sure, Nissan could have brought this model to market sooner, and it certainly has its work cut out for it in selling within an ultra-competitive segment. But with the level of quality and comfort, not to mention great value for money, the new Qashqai offers, we’re sure anyone jumping behind the wheel for a test drive would be very hard pressed to find a better car for the money elsewhere.

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