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Driven: Nissan set to rake in the Qashqai

Name game: This is the second-generation Qashqai, but Australians are more familiar with the Dualis nameplate that has adorned the original since 2008.

Euro-sourced Qashqai compact SUV to boost Nissan's fortunes in Australia

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15 Jul 2014

NISSAN has launched the second-generation Qashqai in Australia this week with high hopes that the compact SUV will build upon the popularity of the Dualis it replaces.

Buoyed by a strong response from the dealer network, the company is confident that the newcomer might even reduce the sales gap that existed between the old model and the larger, more popular X-Trail.

Speaking at the launch in Brisbane this week, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery told GoAuto that the new Qashqai has the X factor that will draw in fresh customers to the brand.

“I think it is going to surprise even us,” he said.

“As soon as I started with the company I had a drive of Qashqai and it surprised me instantly as to how capable it was in terms of where we’re at with price and spec… and it has surprised the dealers (too).

“We’ve already had a great run with X-Trail. I suspect this will do better in terms of supply and demand.

“Traditionally (the sales ratio) has been 2:1 in terms of X-Trail and Dualis – that’s how it worked. But I suspect this car might close that gap.”

With a pre-release campaign on how to pronounce the name running for a few weeks now, Mr Emery does not believe there will be any consumer backlash or confusion.

Nissan Australia was instructed to drop the Dualis badge for the second-generation compact SUV.

“Qashqai falls under our global naming branding, and if there’s ever a car that can carry off the change, this is it,” he said. “Qashqai is different from Dualis. We’ve been preparing. And we’re confident this is the right time to make the change.

“Previously we were given a choice, but now they’ve wanted the global name out there – so it was more a discussion about needing to make the change.

“The dealers were a little reserved at first because of the name change.”

As revealed last month, there is no ‘+2’ seven-seat version – that role has essentially been filled by the advent of a third-row in the closely related X-Trail.

The all-wheel drive (AWD) version is also not slated for Australia at this time, though if there is demand for it, Nissan hinted that it might reconsider the decision in the future.

“We’re not pursuing it,” Nissan Australia executive general manager of marketing, Peter Clissold, said.

“Saying ‘never’ is always a dangerous thing. But we feel confident that between Juke and X-Trail, we have SUV consumers’ needs covered.

“Only about five per cent of Dualis sales were for the AWD so we decided to drop it.”

The same no-show also applies to the smaller turbo engine options available elsewhere, since Nissan is confident the naturally aspirated petrol and a turbocharged diesel will suffice for the Australian market.

“With no AWD or seven-seater option, the offering is different compared to the Dualis, so the sales mix will be different,” Mr Clissold said.

“We expect about 50 per cent of sales to be for the (entry-level) ST, with the diesel accounting for about 20 per cent.”

To help give the Qashqai a boost, it debuts Nissan’s new extended servicing regime that sees intervals doubled from six to 12 months, or every 10,000km – whichever comes first. More Nissan models will follow shortly.

They are also fixed-price for six years or 120,000km. Odd-numbered services (the first, third and so on) cost $207 while even ones vary from $279 to $503, depending on the mileage and interval.

As Nissan revealed in June, the ST manual kicks off from $25,850, plus on-road costs, with an auto adding $2640, while the cheapest diesel is the TS auto from $33,200.

Based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s Common Module Family platform, the Qashqai follows in the Dualis’ footsteps by being built in the United Kingdom.

Like its predecessor, the new model was designed in London and engineered at Nissan’s Technical Centre facilities in the UK and Spain with input from head office in Japan.

Dimensionally the Qashqai is slightly longer at 4377mm and wider at 1806mm but lower at 1595mm tall, and sits on a 2646mm wheelbase that has seen a 16mm stretch.

Most of that benefits shoulders, heads and rear-seat legroom better bolsters have been incorporated in the redesigned front seats to aid pelvis, lumbar and chest support, and cushioned knee-pads have been fitted.

Cargo space also improves, by 20 litres to 430L compared to the Dualis. 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 across the range.

At the other end of the Qashqai, the engine is mounted transversely, between a pair of MacPherson struts and ventilated disc brakes. Moving to the rear, you will find an independent multi-link suspension system and solid discs.

New double-piston shock absorbers are now included for a promised better ride quality across the dynamic spectrum.

Speaking of which, there has been a five per cent reduction in the electric rack and pinion steering’s ratio over the Dualis. Effort is changeable thanks to a Normal or Sport mode device.

The petrol versions use an iteration of the Dualis’ 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-cam 16-valve unit.

Gaining direct injection and variable valve timing control among a host of other improvements, the 1997cc MRDD unit produces 106kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4400rpm. That’s 4kW and 2Nm better than the Dualis’ outputs respectively.

On the combined average fuel consumption cycle, the 2.0-litre manual returns 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres (CVT: 6.9L/100km) and 178 grams/km of carbon dioxide emissions (CVT: 159g/km).

Two transmission options drive the front wheels – a six-speed manual or a new-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT) with manual mode. About 70 per cent of parts inside the gearbox have been revised.

On the diesel front, the Qashqai is relying on Renault’s RM9 1.6-litre direct-injection common-rail four-cylinder engine, delivering 96kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm at 1750rpm, and matched solely with the CVT.

This is the most economical Qashqai available in Australia, returning 4.9L/100km for a 129g/km CO2 rating.

Among the technology advances seen in the Dualis’ transformation into Qashqai are Active Ride Control, Active Engine Brake (which Nissan says harnesses the power and controllability of the CVT for shorter stopping distances and better brake feel), and Active Trace Control that applies extra braking force if necessary when cornering.

All models include six airbags, ISOFIX child-seat anchors, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution and anti-lock brakes for a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating, as well as Hill Start Assist and a reversing cameraThey also feature cruise control, LED daytime running lights, adjustable steering modes, electric park brake, smart-phone connectivity, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, roof spoiler and alloys – 17-inch wheels shod with 215/60 R17 on the ST and TS, 19-inch items wearing 225/45 R19 rubber on the Ti and TL.

Over the ST, the TS diesel models gain dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, push-button start, idle stop, rain-sensing wipers, electric folding mirrors, fog-lights, tinted glass, an adaptable storage system and improved audio.

Stepping up to the Ti petrol adds satellite-navigation as part of a larger central display screen, a panoramic sunroof, auto headlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats and larger alloy wheels. Intelligent park assist and a round-view monitor are also included.

Finally, the TL diesel flagship tops that with an automatic parking system, 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 and high-beam assist.

The CVT petrol has a braked towing capacity of 1200kg while all other models including the 2.0L manual manage another 200kg.

Tare weight varies between 1372kg to 1457kg in petrol cars and between 1556kg and 1605kg in the diesel models.

While the Qashqai name is new to Australia, it adorned the Dualis in all other markets (including New Zealand) since the previous model surfaced in 2007.

A worldwide smash hit that quickly doubled sales projections in Europe, the Qashqai/Dualis has gone on to surpass the two million unit sales mark, becoming one of the six best-selling English-built vehicles of all time.

However, Australian consumers were slower to catch on back when the Dualis debuted in December 2007, due to high pricing and AWD-only availability positioning it too closely to the established X-Trail.

That situation was only rectified after Nissan Australia introduced cheaper FWD versions two years later.

The Dualis’ best sales year was in 2012 when 13,141 units found buyers in Australia. Last year sales were down 5.4 per cent to 12,434 units.

Nissan Qashqai pricing*
ST 2.0L petrol$25,850
ST 2.0L petrol (a)$28,490
Ti 2.0L petrol$32,490
Ti 2.0L petrol (a)$34,990
TS 1.6L diesel (a)$33,200
TL 1.6L diesel (a)$37,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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