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First drive: Nissan Qashqai steps up

N-Sport variant and updates to connectivity and safety headline MY20 Nissan Qashqai

6 Feb 2020

NISSAN Australia intends to maintain the popularity of its British-built Qashqai small SUV with a raft of upgrades for the 2020 model year now on sale.

 

There is also a new Qashqai variant called N-Sport, positioned below the flagship Ti and wearing a $35,000 (plus on-road costs) pricetag – $1000 more than the ST-L upon which it is based.

 

Intended as a sporty limited edition, capped at 600 units, the N-Sport is a locally driven initiative that cherry-picks a bunch of available extras and packages them together to create a unique-looking model.

 

Front and rear bumpers in full body colour – regular Qashqais have charcoal-plastic lower sections –  body-coloured lower door mouldings and extensive matte-silver detailing (including mirror caps) differentiate the N-Sport from regular-line Qashqai variants.

 

The N-Sport also wears unique 10-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels – one inch larger than on the ST-L – with a completely different spoke design to the 19s featured on the Ti.

 

Inside, apart from new charcoal headlining, the N-Sport is identical to an ST-L.

 

The regular-production MY20 Qashqai range sees price rises of $500 for the $27,990 ST manual, $29,990 ST CVT auto and $38,490 Ti, plus a $1200 hike for the ST+ now starting at $31,990. Nissan says these were all justified by improvements in specification.

 

All MY20 Qashqai models now feature Apple CarPlay/Android Auto with voice recognition, as well as digital radio, as part of an upgraded multimedia system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen and six speakers, common across the range.

 

This is in addition to the entry-level ST’s existing equipment list which includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, electric park brake with auto hold, hill-start assist, a rearview camera with front and rear parking sensors, push-button start, cruise control, a leather-clad steering wheel, front seat lumbar adjustment, four auto up/down power windows, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning and lane-departure warning.

 

The ST+ has received the most attention, gaining foglights, auto headlights, auto high beam, rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent driver alert.

 

This is in conjunction with additions over ST such as embedded navigation, power-folding heated door mirrors, an around-view monitor with moving object detection, and privacy glass.

 

Besides the upgraded multimedia system, the ST-L remains unchanged, meaning 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, leather/cloth upholstery, heated front seats (with electric adjustment for the driver) and a centre-rear armrest in addition to the ST+.

 

The Ti remains similarly unaltered besides new pedestrian detection for its AEB system, which operates at speeds of up to 60km/h, and the multimedia upgrade.

 

Those features join 19-inch alloys, LED headlamps with adaptive cornering lights, matte-silver bumper accents, a panoramic glass roof, dual-zone climate control, quilted Nappa leather seat trim, a six-way electric front passenger seat, driver’s electric lumbar adjustment plus two-position seat memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a flexible cargo system, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, park assist and an adjustable speed limiter.

 

Nissan showcased its fresh-for-2020 SUV line-up over a two-day event on New Zealand’s north island this week, including the new Pathfinder N-Trek, X-Trail N-Trek and MY20 Patrol, as well as the MY20 Qashqai.

 

Nissan has made no mechanical changes to the Qashqai since its mid-life facelift in late 2017, although the Ti we drove was only introduced as a model variant in July 2018 (replacing the N-Tec).

 

Befitting its range-topping status, the Qashqai Ti definitely looks the part – particularly its striking diamond-cut 19-inch alloys, trick LED headlamps and almost Citroen-esque woven leather seat trim.

 

Alongside the parts-bin N-Sport, the Ti appears more holistic in its overall styling, with charcoal-plastic body mouldings visually lightening and lowering the Qashqai’s form compared to the single-colour N-Sport.

 

When the lower cladding is all painted the same hue, the Qashqai appears taller and less svelte.

 

The addition of Apple CarPlay definitely improves the Qashqai’s multimedia interface, but it is unusual that the top-spec Ti shares its six-speaker audio set-up with the entry-level ST.

 

All Qashqais also share a 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine, mated exclusively to a CVT automatic in everything bar the base six-speed manual ST.

 

Apparently 99 per cent of Australian Qashqai buyers choose the auto, which is unsurprising given the manual’s lack of availability across the range.

 

In our test Ti, that 2.0-litre CVT drivetrain proved as sweet and seamless as always. There isn’t a whole lot of outright grunt, though the Qashqai makes the most of what it has, and does so unobtrusively.

 

It is a pity, though, that Australia doesn’t see the turbo-petrol alternative offered in European markets.

 

On snaking Kiwi roads, the Qashqai put its UK chassis tuning to good use. It is pleasantly balanced, tending towards mild understeer when pushed hard, and points faithfully, even though its electric steering set-up feels artificial and oddly out of place.

 

Proper feedback and more rear-end involvement would be greatly appreciated, and are hopefully on the cards for the all-new third-generation Qashqai, expected here next year.

 

Perhaps the ST wearing higher-profile 215/60R17 tyres provides the Qashqai with a little more steering feel. They certainly deliver a better ride, though the 225/45R19s on the Ti don’t feel nearly as brittle as you’d think on rough roads. Their main issue is road rumble on coarse-chip surfaces.

 

Despite having gone on sale way back in July 2014, Nissan has had an impressive run with the Qashqai in Australia.

 

Replacing the similarly popular Dualis, which wore the Qashqai nameplate overseas, the current Qashqai has proven quite resilient in the Australian market.

 

Nissan sold 11,653 Qashqais here in 2019, placing it fifth in segment behind the Mitsubishi ASX (20,806), Mazda CX-3 (14,813), Hyundai Kona (13,342) and Honda HR-V (11,731).

 

However, that full-year figure was down 16.5 per cent compared to Qashqai’s 2018 sales performance (13,950 units), as well as 1.9 market share points, in a small SUV category up by 0.1 per cent in overall volume.

 

2020 Nissan Qashqai pricing*

ST $27,990
ST (a) $29,990
ST+ (a) $31,990
ST-L (a) $34,000
N-Sport (a) $35,000
Ti (a) $38,490

*Excludes on-road costs


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