Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Nissan Qashqai Review

The QASHQAI (pronounced Cash Kai), is named after a desert-dwelling tribe who live near the Zagros mountains, in South Western Iran. However obscure the origin of the name, Nissan’snew crossover is bound to become known as the ‘Cash Cow’ - if it hasn’t already.

It’s a curious thing, but unless you’ve seen a QASHQAI in the metal, it is very difficult to gauge its size from photographs. And that can only mean that the designers have fulfilled their brief, which was to create a crossover vehicle that has all the benefits of an SUV, such as a high driving position, and the looks, comfort and feel of a hatchback, while not taking up too much road-space. In fact, we are told that the QASHQAI has a similar footprint as the Ford Focus, which is a fair indication of its size.

So, while not excessively large, it is imposing and stylish, in a strange way. There are few design lines and a distinct lack of the fashionable but overly-flared wheel arches. From that brief description, it might seem bland, but it isn’t - a better word would be, subtle.

Sat in the comfortably contoured seats, which were chocolate leather in the test car, the driver is faced with quite an array of buttons - some on the rake and reach-adjustable steering wheel and plenty more on the centre console.

The simple, soft-touch fascia incorporates the neat instrument nacelle and a fairly slender centre console. In the TEKNA, the centre console was topped by the screen for the optional sat-nav system, which looks like it should fold away but doesn’t. Nevertheless, it is perfectly positioned in line of sight, making routes and instructions easier to follow. Below the large, round air-vents, is the control panel, which also includes the audio controls. Nestled below that, are the temperature controls and a handy, 12v socket.

I should point out that the Satellite Navigation system can be ordered with ACENTA and TEKNA models only. A 6-Cd (in-dash) autochanger is standard on these versions, as is the audio system with six speakers. The base, VISIA model comes with a single CD/radio and four speakers but standard throughout the range, is Bluetooth connectivity.

Briefly, the trim level equipment list reads as: height-adjustable driver’s seat, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors, all-round electric windows, air conditioning with glove-box cooler and pollen filter, and 16-inch alloys for the VISIA.

The ACENTA builds on this by adding lumbar support for the driver, automatic headlights and wipers, ultrasonic rear parking sensors, front fogs, dual-zone climate control and a central armrest for the rear passengers.

The all-singing and dancing TEKNA has leather upholstery, heated front seats, and xenon headlamps in place of halogen, 17-inch alloy wheels and the indispensable, Intelligent Key system. The TEKNA also benefits from a huge, panoramic roof, which is a £700 option on the ACENTA. Expensive? Not really as it is made from laminated privacy glass for filtering out UV rays and a ‘heat-soak’ function as well as an electrically operated, one-touch sunshade. What is more, the large amount of glass adds to the already spacious feeling within the cabin.

Because all occupants sit tall, there’s plenty of legroom and plenty of luggage space too: 410-litres under the cover, 860-litres to the window-line and if you lose the rear passengers and lower the 60:40 folding seats, the capacity is increased to a maximum of 1,513-litres to the roof.

General storage space isn’t a problem either. The 14-litre glovebox will take no less that 15 cans of drink, which we are told, beats the NOTE’s record by two. The centre storage box, below the sliding armrest, will hold up to eight CDs and the top two trim levels gain a 4-litre capacity drawer beneath the front passenger’s seat. Door bins, cubbies and cupholders provide map and oddments storage.

There are two diesel and two petrol engines available. The petrol engines are a 1.6 (115PS) and a 2.0-litre, which produces 140PS. The diesels are 1.5 (106PS) and 2.0 cDi units. The latter was in the test car, where it produced 150 PS at 4,000 rpm and 320Nm at 2,000rpm.

The torque figure speaks volumes about the performance and pulling power of this particular QASHQAI and for those that tow or need extra traction occasionally, both of the 2.0-litre engines can be specified with Nissan’s capable, ALL-MODE, 4WD system, selectable via a dial between the front seats.

The 1.6 petrol engine is mated to a 5-speed manual ‘box, while the others have an extra gear. Alternatively, the 2.0-litre petrol is available with Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) for both 2- and 4WD versions, while the larger diesel can be linked to a 6-speed automatic gearbox, but only with 4WD.

Back to the test car and its 2.0 dCi, manual gearchange and 4WD capabilities. It takes 10.9 seconds for it to reach 62mph from standstill and the top speed is 118mph. Fuel consumption figures read as a very reasonable 32.5mpg for the urban cycle, 47.9mpg for the extra-urban and 40.9 for the combined. As a diesel, CO2 emissions are quite low, at 184g/km.

All QASHQAI s have ABS with EBD and Brake Assist. Only the 2.0-litre engines have the added benefit of ESP, as standard but this is an option with the two smaller engines. The ESP system includes brake- and engine-torque control and the braking system features Hydraulic Fade Control (HFC).

Every QASHQAI arrives with ISOFIX anchors in the rear seats, pre-tensioners and load-limiters for the front seatbelts, along with airbags for the front occupants, side and curtain airbags. In the EuroNCAP safety tests, the QASHQAI is the only car ever, to score 36.83 out of a possible 37 points for Occupant Safety, gaining it 5-stars. Child Protection was rated at 4-stars and Pedestrian Safety at 2-stars.

There is something about this car that makes it so enjoyable to drive but it is very difficult to pin down exactly what it is. It could well be the easily-found, ideal driving position, the sensible gear ratios or maybe the handling and ride quality. Whatever it is, the QASHQAI has it and is bound to fill the trophy cabinet with an array of awards. So far, the QASHQAI has been voted ‘Best SUV’ by What Diesel Car? and also ‘Best small Family Car’ (£13,000-£14,500) in the What Car? Car of the Year awards. And has won an award for the TV advertising campaign.

Prices range from £13,499 for the 1.6 VISIA to £23,299 for the 2.0 dCi, in TEKNA trim with 4WD and automatic transmission, so there’s something to suit most budgets.

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