ROAD TEST:

Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta review

Nissan Qashqai.
Engine
1461cc, 4 cylinders
Power
105bhp
Transmission
6-speed manual
Fuel/CO2
52.3mpg / 145g/km
Acceleration
0-62mph: 12.2 seconds
Top speed
108mph
Price
£16,099
Details correct at publication date


This is an appropriate time to be writing about the Qashqai. During my test of the 1.5 dCi Acenta, I didn't crash the car (I knew there was something I'd forgotten), but Euro NCAP did, and the results must have been greeted with whoops of delight back at Nissan headquarters.

The Qashqai achieved the highest score for adult occupant protection of any vehicle to have been given the Euro NCAP treatment in the past ten years. Nissan's marketing department will no doubt make much of this, and it's certainly something to think about if you're wondering whether to write that cheque.

It won't be the only consideration, though, so let's look at this in more detail. The Qashqai (named, in case you were wondering, after a nomadic tribe in the desert of south-western Iran) is a crossover, intended to combine the features of a medium-sized hatchback with those of an SUV. It takes up about the same amount of road space as your average hatch, but it's significantly taller - enough, at least, for the driver to get a decent view of the road ahead.

Note that I said "ahead". Nissan's efforts to give the Qashqai a coupé-like profile have led to the use of pathetically small rear side windows. I complain a lot about this kind of thing, but even at a time when hardly any manufacturer seems to be paying attention to rear visibility, the Qashqai stands out as being an especially ridiculous example.

It does better in terms of interior space. Passenger room is decent enough, and there's 410 litres of luggage capacity with the seats up. With the seats down the figure increases to 1513 if you load the car to the roof, or 860 litres if you restrict yourself to the window line.

There could probably have been more space again, but Nissan has had to compromise because some versions of the Qashqai have four-wheel drive, so the boot floor has to be high enough to clear a rear axle assembly. That does not apply, however, in the case of the car tested here, which uses the 1.5-litre dCi turbo diesel engine provided by Nissan's alliance partner, Renault.

If this is the engine you want, you're stuck with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox (there are automatic and CVT options, but only in conjunction with the two-litre petrol or diesel engines). The 1.5 dCi has a maximum of 105bhp, which doesn't sound like much for a car of this size. Quite honestly, though, in a test which included several hundred miles' worth of driving on everything from motorways to single-track roads, I never felt that the Qashqai was struggling. The fact that there isn't enough power to upset the chassis also made it surprisingly good fun to drive hard, where conditions and enthusiasm permitted.

Better still, it was very difficult to persuade the Qashqai to drink much diesel. The official combined fuel consumption figure is 52.3mpg, and although I didn't check this I can quite believe that it's close to the real-world situation. It was certainly possible to drive for over 600 miles between refills, and I always get a warm, cosy feeling when that happens.

The Qashqai is the first Nissan to be sold in the UK with trim levels rejoicing in the names of Visia, Acenta and Tekna (that's reading from the bottom up, though I must admit I had to check that). They all sound a bit daft, and I'm glad I never had to tell anyone that I was driving a "Nissan Qashqai Acenta" - they probably wouldn't have understood a word. But we're going to have to get used to all this, because Nissan will be introducing the same names to other ranges in this country.

Acenta is the middle level, and it adds £1500 to the cost of the basic Visia (meaning, in terms of the 1.5 dCi, a hike to £16,099). The extra equipment includes rear parking sensors - useful as a target finder when you're trying to reverse over whoever was responsible for the rear side windows - folding door mirrors, front foglights, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, a remote control audio system with 6-CD autochanger, a rear central armrest, driver's seat lumbar support, a leather-covered steering wheel and an alarm system.

If you want a Qashqai 1.5 dCi with leather upholstery, heated seats, 17" alloys instead of the standard 16" ones and an Intelligent Key, you can have it, but it's called the Tekna and it costs £17,599.

Those items are not even options on the Acenta, but a few other things are. One is a satellite navigation system whose screen is also used as a monitor for a rear-mounted camera (so you can see whoever was responsible for the rear side windows as you try to reverse over them - this is getting better all the time). Strictly speaking this is not an option, because Nissan considers any Qashqai fitted with it to be a separate model. In this case, it would be called the Nissan Qashqai Acenta Sat Nav, and if I get some spare time I'll try to work out what that's an anagram of.

The "real" options are, in ascending order of price, ESP at £365 (but standard on all two-litre Qashqais), metallic, pearlescent or black paint at £425 and a panoramic glass sunroof at £700. I'm not a fan of panoramic roofs myself, and put the shutter over this one at the first opportunity, but if you like a really airy feel to the cabin it certainly provides that very thing.

445stars

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