First Drive: Nissan Qashqai
Sector: Crossover Price: £17,595–£27,845 Fuel: 50.4–74.3mpg CO2: 99–132g/km
While Nissan’s claims of inventing the crossover segment with the first Qashqai are debatable, this was certainly the model which set out the formula for every newcomer since. Even against its broadest ever competition, this is as much a crossover benchmark as the Volkswagen Golf is to the C-segment.
So it seems the gamble paid off. The Qashqai has enjoyed record sales every year since its 2007 launch, more than doubling expectations to reach a total of 250,000 units sold in the UK. This time around, there’s no gamble. All Nissan had to do was modernise a successful formula, while setting a few new benchmarks for the rest of the pack to follow.
That staggering fuel economy figure comes right at the top of the list. When the first-generation Qashqai launched, Volkswagen was trumpeting the achievement of a 99g/km, 74.3mpg Polo – a yardstick Nissan has just reached with a crossover. Against the segment norm of between 130-140g/km for a two-wheel drive version, it’s a very impressive place to be.
There are several reasons for this. The new Qashqai is the first car to use Renault-Nissan’s new Common Module Family, a platform which separates a car into shared modules to cut down on unique parts. Cost savings aside, it’s shed 40kg from the crossover’s kerb weight.
Styling has been brought up to date with Nissan’s new SUV family face, shared with the forthcoming X-Trail among others. It’s a much sharper, more aggressive-looking car, lower and more aerodynamic with it. There will only be one body style this time, but the load volume has been increased to bring it closer to the now-discontinued Qashqai +2. Most of the seven-seater’s buyers were, Nissan says, seeking extra boot space rather than a third row of seats.
There’s been a noticeable effort to maximise its usability as a load carrier. The rear seats drop completely flat, and level with the boot floor, which is removable on all except the entry-level trim to provide separate storage for items including the parcel shelf or to extend the boot space. It can also be reversed to a stain-resistant rubber-covered side, and the rear of the two sections can be fixed upright to stop shopping rolling around.
The rest of the cabin is similarly well thought out. Front and rear seats are firm but very comfortable, both rows offer plentiful leg and headroom and the layout and plastics have improved markedly over its predecessor. Road and engine noise are impressively well suppressed and the ride quality is excellent, even on the Tekna’s 19-inch wheels.
Launch engines comprise one petrol and two diesels familiar from other Renault and Nissan products, with range-best economy offered from the latest version of the Alliance’s ubiquitous 110bhp 1.5-litre diesel. This now delivers more torque, in turn enabling more economical gearing and makes this easily the most attractive option for head and heart – it’s incredibly quiet and flexible to use and, in theory, very efficient too.
The turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol is impressive, too, a huge improvement on the 1.6-litre unit found in the old model despite not matching the eagerness of the diesel. Four-wheel drive and a new CVT gearbox with stepped ratios, engineered to feel more like a dual-clutch unit than the usual springiness offered from this type of unit, are optional on the 1.6-litre diesel.
Nissan reaped the rewards of a well-targeted product with the first Qashqai and, like the Mk1 Golf, it’s set what is now the standard for this segment. With updates in all the right places, Nissan’s segment-defining crossover has the right ingredients for another seven years at the top.
Great to look at, comfortable, efficient and incredibly practical, the Qashqai has once again raised the bar in what has become a competitive segment in recent years. Nissan is hoping to maintain, rather than vastly accelerate, its sales in this segment, and this newcomer is exactly the car it needs.