The Nissan Qashqai is widely credited for kickstarting the current trend which has made compact crossover SUV cars so popular in the UK and beyond, particularly among family motorists. It’s also one of the best-selling new cars in the UK market, occupying third overall in the year-to-date sales after five months of 2017.
It’s easy to understand then why Nissan are keen to highlight the importance it places in this car. But while the Qashqai started out as fairly niche product, the number of direct rivals it has to contend with nowadays is tremendously high.
The number of newcomers that have arrived in the last few years alone has been remarkable, as almost every manufacturer look to cash in on a lucrative trend. Just some of the names the Qashqai has to contend with now includes the Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan and Peugeot 3008.
In response to all the rivals that have popped up, Nissan has decided to give its second-generation Qashqai a refresh. Numerous updates to the exterior styling, interior and safety kit list are included.
A popular choice of engine among Qashqai customers is the 128bhp 1.6-litre dCi diesel, which has been re-tuned to improve refinement as part of the SUV’s refresh. Available also, however, is a 1.6-litre DIG-T turbocharged petrol engine, which is what we tested out. This is hooked up to a front-wheel drive powertrain with a six-speed manual gearbox.
With 161bhp on tap, the petrol has considerably more oomph than the diesel engine and offers a 0-62mph sprint time of 8.9 seconds.
The engine has a decent amount of pulling power, though you do have to be quite aggressive with the gas pedal to get the most out of the turbocharger. Gear changes from the six-speed manual are smooth and the engine itself is very quiet, especially when on the motorway. The additional soundproofing and new door seals added as part of the Qashqai’s refresh is welcome indeed.
Ride and handling
When it comes to the driving experience, the Nissan Qashqai has always prioritised comfort and feeling easy to use. As a result, while it’s never likely to get your pulse racing if you’re a driving enthusiast, it feels well suited to anyone who just wants a gentle and practical family car.
The very refined drive does a good job of absorbing bumps and cracks in the road. The steering is somewhat lacking in feedback but does feel reasonably weighted and responsive.
The steering has been revised as part of the Qashqai’s facelift and while the Sport mode has the heaviest and most engaging steering, other settings are very light and feel best suited for tight urban corners.
There’s a decent amount of grip offered from the Qashqai through the corners themselves. While there’s unsurprisingly some body roll involved with taking this SUV through turns, it doesn’t produce an alarming amount at least.
Interior and equipment
Inside the refreshed Qashqai, most of the changes are focused on making the cabin of the Nissan feel more sophisticated and user-friendly. Examples of such changes include the redesigned steering wheel with a flat bottom and the extra leather applied the doors and dashboard. Because virtually everything in the interior is black which makes it feel dark, the Qashqai’s interior doesn’t feel quite as lively as other compact SUV cabins, but the materials and controls do feel upmarket.
Seating in the Qashqai is comfortable and offers decent head and legroom all-round and visibility at the front is really good. The rear window is not so good for visibility compared to some of the Qashqai’s rivals though.
The boot offers 430 litres of capacity as standard. That figure is not as high as some rivals like the Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage, but it should still be plenty for a weekly shopping trip.
Higher trim levels are more popular among Qashqai customers and the Tekna trim comes with plenty of kit including climate control, heated leather seats, parking sensors and sat-nav. There’s now also the new Tekna+ trim which features an eight-speaker Bose sound system, a panoramic glass roof, adaptive LED headlights and Nissan’s 360-degree parking camera.
The safety kit list is improved as part of the Qashqai facelift with additions such as rear-cross traffic alert and pedestrian detection for the autonomous braking system. From the middle of 2018 onwards, Qashqai models in Europe should be available with the ProPILOT semi-autonomous driving aid.
With the 1.6-litre petrol onboard, the Qashqai returns an official figure of 48.7mpg combined, while CO2 emissions are at 134g/km.
That’s a decent figure when compared purely to other compact SUVs with similarly-sized petrol engine. However, if good running costs are a major priority you’re more likely to consider other units in the Qashqai range, especially the 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel which not only emits just under 100g/km but officially averages 74.3mpg combined.
Also, other diesel units and less powerful petrol engines in the Nissan’s range can offer between about 50-60mpg combined.
You either get the appeal of having a compact SUV for predominantly driving on the road or you don’t. If you’re very much in the former camp, then the Qashqai is one of the more noticeable options in its class and the changes for its refresh make small but welcome differences.
Is it the must-have family SUV though? Well, the trouble is there are a lot of similarly-priced rivals out there nowadays which are very good as well. But while it doesn’t feel quite as much of a stand-out car as it did in the past, the Qashqai is still one of the finer examples of SUVs in its segment.
If your mind is set on the Qashqai, then we’d recommend the diesel engine ahead of the petrol unit we tested for improved running costs.
Regardless of engine choice though, the Qashqai is still an appealing family car that does everything you’d want a car in its segment to be good at in a very competent manner.