Car reviews - Nissan - Qashqai - TL
Good looks, appealing interior, quality and cabin space gains, torquey and economical diesel, improved safety
Room for improvement
No diesel manual, poor reversing vision, no AEB availability
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1 Dec 2014
Price and equipment
THAT old difficult second-album syndrome must have been ringing loudly in Nissan’s corporate ears when it came time to replace the first-generation Dualis.
Overseas, where it was mostly known as the Qashqai, the 2007 original doubled and tripled original sales forecasts, basically saving the company’s bacon and spurring on the small crossover craze that has since seen everybody come to the party.
In Europe alone, where Nissan had been trying for decades to muscle in on the small car scene fairly fruitlessly with the Sunny and then Almera models, the Qashqai hit the jackpot, exceeding 1.25 million sales in seven years, making it one of the most successful British-built vehicles of all time.
No pressure there then.
It’s early days yet, but the second-gen version seems set to do the same, not least because – though completely redesigned inside and out – the car is essentially cut from the same cloth. Nissan’s reluctance to spook its cash cow is absolutely understandable.
But everything’s not hunky dory if you’re a fan of the Dualis and want to update your ride. For starters, there’s no all-wheel drive version. The extended ‘Plus’ model is no more. And don’t go searching for the advanced downsized turbo-petrol tech that the Euros are enjoying, since a revised version of the old 2.0-litre engine takes its place.
At least the new diesel model obliges the latter, thanks to a dinky Renault-sourced dCi direct-injection unit that provides a hefty 320Nm of shove from just 1.6 litres as well as a sub-5.0L/100km fuel consumption. This time it’s an auto-only (CVT) proposition.
It doesn’t come cheap, however, from $33,200 plus on-road costs for the standard TS dCi, or a tenner under $38K in TL dCi guise as tested.
For your dosh the TL includes dual-zone climate control air-con, push-button start, idle-stop, rain-sensing wipers, electric folding mirrors, fog-lights, tinted glass, satellite navigation, a panoramic sunroof, auto headlights, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
It also features automatic parking assist, lane departure and blind spot warnings, an around view monitor with moving object detection, Driver Attention Support (complete with a coffee-cup icon), LED headlights, high-beam assist, 19-inch alloy wearing 225/45 R19 tyres, and an adaptable storage system in a boot that’s some 20 litres larger than in the Dualis.
But all auto-down/up electric windows should be standard at this price point, and where’s the Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) available on Qashqai in other markets, Nissan?
Dimensionally the new Qashqai is a bit longer at nearly 4400mm metres and a tad wider at 1800mm, but also (surprisingly) lower at a pinch under 1600mm tall.
Anyway, it feels much roomier than the Dualis ever did, thanks to a 16mm wheelbase stretch (to 2646mm) and some smarter packaging, benefitting heads, shoulders and legs in the back seat in particular. Redesigned front seats also rate highly for comfort.
Having said that, the Nissan is no Tardis, with limited front-seat rearward travel for taller occupants.
Nissan recently acquired a cookie-cutter cabin template, with the Qashqai’s dashboard almost indistinguishable from, well, any model other than the patchy Juke’s.
The difference here is that – being a European-sourced model – the J11’s dash only looks cheap and hard – in fact, the plastics in main view are soft and squidgy, with appealing matte metallic-like plastic trim contrasted by piano-black material. Lower down, they’re as low-fi as you’d expect from this company’s offerings.
From the front-seat perspective, everything works as it should.
We’re fans of the driving position, comprehensive and super-clear instruments that at last includes a digital speedo display, the easy to decipher touchscreen multimedia unit and smart leather-stitched steering wheel, and ample vision up ahead.
There’s space aplenty for odds and ends, with the deep bin under the central armrest providing device charging away from prying eyes. Nice one, Nissan.
Plus, the dash airvents are positioned in such a way that they don’t freeze hands. The standard surround-view cameras help overcome the limited vision brought on by the shallow side windows. And the Qashqai ditches the otherwise identical X-Trail cabin’s foot-operated park brake for an electronic one.
On the flipside, while there’s heaps more room in the rear, the cushion is a bit low, compromising thigh support. A couple of rear airvents would be appreciated too. Seats have ISOfix latches as well as tether hooks immediately behind the backrests so as to minimise luggage-space intrusion.
Speaking of which, and as mentioned earlier, cargo room rises a little, to 430 litres, with a flat floor available with the split/fold backrests dropped down.
The tailgate opens 230mm higher than before, while a dual-floor system with two reversible floor panels and underfloor storage is available on some variants.
The spare is a space saver.
Well made, spacious enough now not to rankle adults in the rear, and easy on the eye, the Qashqai’s cabin gets a solid B+.
Engine and transmission
Renault’s RM9 1.6-litre direct-injection common-rail four-pot turbo-diesel, which delivers 96kW at 4000rpm and a heady 320Nm at 1750rpm, is an engine of three characters.
Driving the front wheels via a new-gen CVT, it can feel deceptively lethargic if you haven’t learned the available performance choices – the self-explanatory Econ that is hell-bent on being in the highest possible ratio for the lowest possible consumption Drive, that provides sufficient off-the-line acceleration except when you floor it, in which case the CVT seems to hesitate momentarily before dishing out the right ratio and Drive Sport, that feels properly eager off the line, maintains the rage through the mid-ranges, and allows for some pretty impressive kick down oomph at higher velocities.
If you’re content to potter about, and don’t mind the odd strange diesel-related resonance zizzing through the firewall, Econ’s fine and the upshot is an exceptional 4.9L/100km fuel consumption average. We barely bothered with that, though, and struggled to see 9.0L/100km in our enthusiastically driven Nissan.
Sum up? Barely turning over 1800rpm at 100km/h, the 1.6 dCi is best as a quiet and laid-back cruiser, yet it responds quickly enough to throttle requests for it to be lively when you need it.
Ride and handling
To bring you up to speed with some of the key differences between Dualis and Qashqai, the MacPherson strut front and independent multi-link rear suspension system feature new double-piston shock absorbers for a better ride quality combined with improved dynamics.
Plus, there’s now a whole five per cent reduction in the electric rack and pinion steering’s ratio over the old model, with effort being changeable thanks to a Normal or Sport mode devices.
Result? There’s no point pretending this is even remotely sporty, but the quality Continental 225/40 R19 tyres do provide a meaty base for the chassis to do its thing.
Steering is typical modern-Nissan – nicely progressive, agreeably weighted, and almost totally devoid of feel and feedback. Most buyers won’t care about the latter, and nor should you, because all you need to know is that the Qashqai can be confidently placed accurately through even the most ragged corner, backed up by a prodigious amount of road-holding grip. The TL really sticks to the road.
Happily, the expected firm ride trade-off never really reared its ugly head, with sufficient round-town suppleness, a decent amount of body control over bigger bumps, and a hunkered-down attitude on loose gravel. Nissan’s traction control tuning is on the safe side, but it isn’t obtrusive like in many rival compact SUVs.
Nor is there that much tyre drone, except on coarse bitumen, but even then it isn’t terribly distracting.
Dirt/gravel as well as wet-road braking is also a Qashqai strength, no doubt helped out by those quiet and competent Continentals.
Safety and servicing
The Qashqai has garnered a maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating. But that AWOL AEB is a big no-no, Nissan.
The warranty period is for three years/100,000km, with 12-monthly and/or 10,000km service intervals. Capped Price Servicing under the myNissan scheme is for the first six years or 120,000kms, with prices varying between $240 and $705, averaging $341 over that period.
Nissan’s latest compact SUV deserves the success of its historically popular predecessor, righting almost all the previous wrongs without losing sight of what made the original Dualis so appealing.
Our only real desire is to see a bit more choice offered – a diesel manual, a turbo-petrol alternative, and AWD – but as it stands the TL dCi makes for an effective (and more appealing) alternative to most medium SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander.
That’s a big thumb’s up, folks, especially if you are into long-distance commuting. Difficult second-album syndrome narrowly avoided then.
1. Ford Kuga Trend TDCi AWD auto, from $39,240 plus on-road costs
The best-driving and handling medium SUV also brings a smooth and punchy 2.0L turbo-diesel powerplant coupled to an AWD and six-speed auto drivetrain. Why the dynamic and refined Kuga isn’t a best-seller is beyond us.
2. Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.2D AWD auto, from $39,470 plus on-road costs
A sporty chassis and strong engine/transmission combination match the CX-5’s great styling, but the Mazda is noisy, drab inside, and has some surprising spec omissions that undermine value. Still, it’s a far-better choice than most rivals.
3. Skoda Yeti Outdoor 103TDI AWD, from $33,590 plus on-road costs
Another unfairly underrated contender, the Yeti is a bit of a favourite with its anti-style design, deep side windows, excellent interior packaging, lusty VW-derived drivetrain, appealing dash and keen value pricing. Only a firm ride detracts.
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