The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol model is best suited to town driving, because you have to work the engine hard to get up to speed on faster roads. However, once you’re there, it will sit at a 70mph cruise relatively comfortably. The 1.6 petrol is much quicker, although it still needs a fair few revs to deliver its performance.
The 1.5-litre diesel, by contrast, isn’t particularly quick in outright pace, but it delivers its power smoothly and is gutsy from low revs, making it less stressful to drive and our pick of the engine range. The 1.6-litre diesel engine feels stronger still, making it useful if you regularly haul around your family and their luggage.
There’s the option of a CVT automatic on the 1.2 petrol and the 1.6 diesel, but for the best performance you should stick to the standard six-speed manual gearbox.
The Qashqai was developed at Nissan’s engineering base in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, hence its ability to ride battered British roads so well. Yes, the ride can be a little jittery over the worst surfaces around town, but it smooths out nicely on motorways and A-roads, and feels beautifully controlled over speed bumps. It’s certainly one of the better-riding cars in the class, although not as good all round as the Skoda Karoq.
One word of warning, though: the ride is terribly firm if you go for a high-end model on 19in wheels, so we’d avoid these at all costs. Stick to versions with 17in or 18in wheels instead.
You might not expect a tall SUV to handle particularly well, but there are cars in this class that do – namely the almost car-like agility of the Seat Ateca and the tidy-handling Karoq. The Qashqai feels a bit softer by comparison; with a lot more body lean in bends and rather vague steering that doesn’t tell you a great deal about what grip you have available, it’s not much fun.
That said, if you’re not bothered about sporty driving, you’ll find the Qashqai safe and secure, thanks to plenty of grip. It’s also light and easy to manage in town.
Not many family SUVs can match the Qashqai’s refinement. The two petrols and the 1.5 diesel engines stay smooth and quiet, even at high revs. Road and wind noise are also well suppressed on the motorway.
Only the 1.6 diesel engine lets the side down; it’s noisier than the smaller diesel and transmits vibrations through the pedals.
Most people shouldn’t have any problem getting comfortable in the Qashqai. There’s a good range of adjustment for the seat and the steering wheel moves in and out as well as up and down.
Lumbar support on the driver’s seat is standard on all but entry-level Visia models. Tekna+ upgrades this to four-way electric lumbar support adjustment, with manual lumbar support adjustment on the passenger seat.
The Qashqai has the sort of elevated driving position that's normal with an SUV, so you get a good view of the road ahead of you. Things aren’t perfect, though, because the windscreen pillars are quite thick so limit your field of vision a little.
The rear pillars are even more substantial – this, when combined with a narrow rear window, makes over-the-shoulder visibility pretty poor. Given this, it’s a shame that even rear parking sensors aren’t standard on Visia and Acenta models. N-Connecta versions and above get front and rear parking sensors, along with front, side and rear cameras for a 360deg view, while range-topping Tekna models come with a self-parking system.
The Qashqai’s infotainment system comes in two distinct grades. Visia and Acenta editions get a basic stereo, and Visia doesn’t even get a USB socket to go with it. You do get a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, though, and it’s simple to use, with big, clearly marked buttons.
Move up to N-Connecta or Tekna and you get Nissan’s Connect system, which is operated through a 7.0in touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard. It comes with a DAB radio, a USB socket and satellite navigation, but not Apple CarPlay or Android Auto; so, unlike some rival systems, you can’t use your smartphone through the touchscreen.
Even this range-topping system feels very out of date next to the better systems in the class, such as those fitted to the Seat Ateca and Skoda Kodiaq, or the best rotary-controlled systems in the BMW X1 and Audi Q2. By contrast, Nissan’s touchscreen has a lower resolution, small icons that are trickier to hit on the move and it’s not that responsive to commands.
The Qashqai can’t quite match premium-badged rivals for interior quality, but it gets closer than most. The dashboard is made of dense, soft materials in all the areas you’re likely to touch, and the buttons and switches operate with a solid, reassuring action.
Higher-end models get swish ambient lighting and a glossy piano-black finish around the colour screen in the centre of the dashboard. But, ultimately, while the Qashqai has one of the better interiors in this class, a Karoq looks and feels classier still.
There’s bags of space for adults in the front of most Qashqais, with more than enough head room for six-footers to sit in comfort. Just remember that the panoramic glass roof that’s standard on Tekna+ and optional on other trims eats into head room significantly.
Oddment space includes a deep glovebox, a pair of cupholders just ahead of the central armrest and door bins that can accommodate a large drinks bottle. The storage area ahead of the gearlever isn’t as useful as it could be, however, because a fair bit of space is taken up by a 12V socket and the switch for the electronic parking brake.
The rear half of the Qashqai’s interior is spacious by family SUV standards, with lots of head room and knee room. This makes it possible for three adults to sit in the back for short journeys, and two tall grown-ups will be perfectly comfortable for longer trips.
There isn’t much in the way of storage, though, other than a small cubby in the centre console between the back of the front seats and fairly small door pockets.
The Qashqai does the basics, but there’s nothing particularly clever here. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split rather than the more versatile 40/20/40 arrangement you get in other SUVs and, when folded down, the backrests sit at a slight angle rather than lying completely flat.
There are few neat tricks; you don’t get super-convenient 'remote' handles in the boot to lower the rear seatbacks like in some rivals; you have to reach forward or open the rear doors to reach the release catches on the top of the rear seats.
Nor does the front passenger seat fold down flat to help you accommodate longer loads. The rear seats don’t slide or recline, either, as they do in some competitors.
The boot offers 430 litres of space with the rear seats in place, unless you opt for Tekna or Tekna+ trims – these get a subwoofer in the boot that reduces space to 401 litres. In real-world terms, that’s enough room for the weekly shopping or a couple of sets of golf clubs. However, the Qashqai’s heavily outclassed by the Skoda Karoq, which can fit nine carry-on suitcases in the boot to its six.
All Qashqais bar entry-level Visia editions get a false boot floor. This is useful in several ways: you can raise it to create separate underfloor storage; in its upper position, the floor smooths out the lip by the tailgate opening and the step created when you fold down the rear seats; or you can slot one of the floor sections in vertically halfway along the boot, creating a divider that stops your shopping bags from flying around.
The Qashqai isn’t cheap to buy, but reasonable resale values help make up for this, so its total bills over three years are comparable with those of many inferior rivals. That said, a Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq will hold onto more of their value after three years.
Fuel economy figures are also impressive. Although the 1.5-litre diesel can’t match its claimed figures, it still got a thrifty 51.9mpg on our True MPG cycle. Even the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol should manage more than 40mpg when driven carefully.
The 1.5-litre diesel is particularly tempting if you’re a company car driver, because its sub-100g/km CO2 emissions help keep tax bills down. On the other hand, the turbocharged 1.6 petrol is neither cheap to buy nor to run.
Entry-level Visia models come with air conditioning, Bluetooth and cruise control, but they miss out on lots of desirable kit, so we’d recommend going for a higher-spec model if you can.
Acenta trim is certainly worth considering, because it adds dual-zone climate control, 17in alloy wheels, power-folding door mirrors, driver’s seat lumbar adjustment and automatic lights and wipers.
Our favourite, however, is N-Connecta, which brings luxuries such as a 7.0in touchscreen with sat-nav, a 360deg camera system, privacy glass and front and rear parking sensors. It also has 18in wheels, keyless engine starting and lots more safety kit, which we’ll talk about in detail later.
Tekna models are too pricey to recommend and the bigger 19in alloy wheels ruin ride quality, but for those who must have a lot of toys Tekna comes with heated leather seats, LED headlights and a heated windscreen. Meanwhile, Tekna+ has more luxurious nappa leather seats, lumbar adjustment and a Bose sound system.
Nissan as a brand disappointed in the most recent What Car? reliability survey, finishing 29th of 32 manufacturers – below Skoda, Seat, Peugeot and Vauxhall.
Meanwhile, the Qashqai was the worst-performing family SUV, with a woeful average of 89 faults per 100 vehicles.
Batteries, bodywork and non-engine electrics topped the list of problem areas, although it wasn't all bad news, because most cars were fixed in less than a week for free.
At least you get the peace of mind of a three-year/ 60,000-mile warranty that includes breakdown cover.
All Qashqais come with six airbags, stability control and emergency brake assist, which automatically applies maximum braking pressure if the system detects that you haven’t braked hard enough in an emergency. The Smart Vision Pack (optional on Visia and Acenta trims, standard on more expensive models) adds cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking, which brakes for you if the system detects that you’re about to hit the vehicle in front and haven’t braked at all.
Nissan now offers its semi-autonomous driver assistance system on the Qashqai. ProPilot will take care of the steering in certain situations (such as motorway driving) while keeping you a set distance from the car in front. The system is seamless in operation and has an intuitive user interface.
Currently, ProPilot is available as an option on Tekna and Tekna+ and comes as standard on Pilot One Edition. Nissan says the system will be available on lesser models in the near future.
The Qashqai received the maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test in 2014, with scores of 88% for adult protection, 83% for child protection and 69% for pedestrian protection.
An alarm and engine immobiliser help protect against thieves, prompting security experts Thatcham Research to give the car a maximum five stars for resisting theft. The Qashqai also received four out of five for resisting being broken into.
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