Nissan Qashqai 2.0 Acenta
Styling combines SUV and sporty design elements
- Exterior styling is a success
- Excellent execution proves the worth of crossovers
- Interior is well-designed and good quality
- Superb mix of ride and handling
- 2.0-litre petrol lacks smoothness
- Rear headroom slightly restricted with optional panoramic roof
- May be lumped unfairly with profligate SUVs
- Trim levels may confuse buyers
Marching boldly into the market is the Nissan Qashqai, one of the first genuine crossover vehicles to reach the UK market. Designed to fill a gap in the Nissan range, it also aims to steal sales from a range of different segments. With a clean sheet design and some fresh thinking, it has the potential to shake up the market and surprise both buyers and rival manufacturers.
The cessation of the Almera, Almera Tino and Primera model ranges marks a big step forward for Nissan, as at least two of those models will have no direct replacement. Instead, the Qashqai steps forward as a crossover; a vehicle designed to straddle more than one market segment with a combination of design attributes and therefore attract buyers from a wider market.
As is clear from the outside, the stance and lower half of the vehicle is SUV. Although not intended as an off-roader, it has greater than normal ground clearance and body cladding, two of the key signifiers of a car such as this. However, above the wais Nissan has included traditionally sporty styling cues, with strong curves and a smooth body shape. This eschews the traditional square look of SUVs.
Another crucial factor is the size of the Qashqai. At 4.3 metres long it is little bigger than many of the C-segment hatchbacks, and although taller it cleverly uses design elements to look bigger and square up to true SUVs. As well as reducing weight it makes the Qashqai more manageable, aids parking and reduces its social and environmental impact.
Unlike most SUVs, most Qashqai models are two-wheel drive, with only the 2.0-litre petrol and diesel models available with four-wheel drive as an option. This underlines the car's status as an on-road vehicle, which is the environment that most buyers would use it in, even with the 4x4 option.
Our verdict on the Nissan Qashqai 2.0 Acenta
It might look like a proper SUV but Nissan's Qashqai is more of a raised family wagon. This is no bad thing - the car's chunky styling is easy on the eye and the clever use of cabin space is welcome. And in line with current 'green' thinking, all-wheel drive is optional, thus saving you money at the pumps and making you feel good about your purchasing decision. The Qashqai might have a daft name, but there's nothing silly about Nissan's ant-SUV.
Running costs for the Qashqai should be good. Its slight weight and aerodynamic penalty compared with conventional hatchbacks will mean slightly poorer fuel economy, but still good in relative terms. However, the specification is good and the pricing will put it in contention with rivals.
Space and practicality
A crucial area, and one in which the Qashqai succeeds. Front seat passengers are well catered for, with good head and legroom. In the rear, legroom is also impressive, although headroom is reduced with the optional Panoramic roof exacerbating the sloping roof. Boot space is also impressive, making the most of the Qashqai's silhouette.
Controls and display
The cabin layout is straightforward and easy to use, with a deliberate 'cockpit' feel for the driver. The instruments are attractive, while the centre console is high up and easy to read. There are also some novel features, such as the rear air conditioning button which sends a mild flow of air along the roof of the cabin, ventilating it without disturbance.
The Qashqai is as comfortable as any of its rivals in the C-segment, with good, supportive seats, low wind and noise levels and good accommodation. Given its almost sporty handling, the ride quality is impressive. One slight negative is the amount of engine noise from the 2.0-litre petrol. Although not excessive, it can be heard working hard when making progress.
All models have remote central deadlocking and an automatic locking function once on the move, while an engine immobiliser is also standard. Acenta models and above have an alarm, while the top-spec Tekna has an intelligent key for keyless entry.
A high level of active and passive safety features are fitted as standard, including ABS with Brake Assist, active head restraints and six airbags. ESP is available as an option or as standard on all models too.
This is an area where the crossover Qashqai exceeds expectations. Despite its tall shape and SUV-like appearance, it rides and handles with impressive decorum. The steering is surprisingly weighty at speed, and when driven with enthusiasm it resists roll and grips very well for a car of its stature. In normal driving it delivers good ride quality too.
Family car appeal
This is the ideal role for the Qashqai, as it has the space to cope with a family. Its attractive styling and practical interior are likely to win favour with the family, and the option of four-wheel drive means it can perform light off-road duties or towing if required.
First car appeal
The Qashqai's appearance may put off inexperience buyers who mistake it for an SUV, but with a choice of two smaller engines and respectable prices, it could be a viable first car.
Quality and image
The all-round quality of the Qashqai is impressive. From outside to inside it has a premium feel and the design is also of a good quality. The materials used are also good, which results in a satisfying ambience. Nissan's image has been improved by its successful 4x4 models, and the Qashqai's mould-breaking approach should see it achieve success with the image-conscious.
The Qashqai is easy to enter both front and rear, thanks to the good door size and ride height. The same can be said for the boot, which has a particularly wide tailgate for easy access.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The standard fit audio system is a radio/CD with four speakers, but the model tested had an upgrade system which includes sat-nav, a reversing camera and a 6CD autochanger with auxiliary input. This provides a high level of sound quality, although occasionally the sat-nav system caused confusion.
Colours and trim
The Nissan's bold curves are highlighted by some strong exterior colours. Inside the predominate colour is black, but this is offset by the use of strong fabric colours on the seats. The trim itself is of a good quality, with plenty of soft-touch plastics.
The all-round visibility of the Qashqai is generally good, apart from the curved rear pillar which cuts down the over the shoulder view. This is helped however by the ultrasonic park system fitted as standard to the Acenta model, while sat-nav equipped cars have the reversing camera, which is very useful.
Space saver fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol engines: 1.6-litre (113bhp); 2.0-litre (139bhp). Diesel engines: 1.5-litre (105bhp); 2.0-litre (148bhp). Five and six-speed manual transmissions are available, as is a six-speed CVT and a six-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive is also available as an option. Trim levels are Visia, Acenta and Tekna.
Ford Focus Traditional C-segment class leader is brilliant all-rounder
Renault Scenic Impressive compact MPV is smart and practical
Vauxhall Zafira Good to drive and practical too
Toyota RAV4 Popular true SUV offers car-like driving experience