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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Can pioneering SUV keep up with its competitors?

Nissan Qashqai drive by Steve Rogers

Fed up seeing nothing but SUVs on the roads? Blame Nissan.

It all started in 2007 when the Japanese company hit a brick wall with the Almera hatchback. I had the misfortune to have two company cars and hated both.

It could not compete with anyone, let alone leaders Ford and Volkswagen, so Almera was ditched in favour of something radical. Enter the Qashqai, a strange name for a very different looking car, a high riding five door, five seater that crossed the boundaries between hatchback and SUV.

Bold, brave, gamble? All three, and we Brits loved it making it the best selling SUV in the land year after year. So far more than three million have come out of the Sunderland factory, a third going to British buyers. That is a fantastic achievement.

It didn't take long for the rest of the car industry to realise that Nissan had struck gold and followed suit as quickly as they could making life far more difficult for the third generation Qashqai. Can it hold on to the top spot?

Each generation has improved but this one has made the biggest strides. More tech, more comfort, more room, better handling, more money. My Tech+ is the other side of £37k with extras and that is a whole load of cash.

To put it into context Tekna+ has a full suite of safety kit and is fully loaded with heated steering wheel, heated windscreen (shouldn't every car have that) brilliant head up display, heated front seats and loads of other stuff. The only car I can think of with a better spec sheet is the Kia Sportage which has air conditioned front seats and heated outer rear seats.

So what has happened to Qashqai to make it a top contender again? For starters it is built on a new platform which has sharpened the handling and there has been a quantum leap in the quality of trim, certainly on my Techna+. It was evident along the dashboard and door cards where everything has moved up a few notches.

All the key functions are nicely placed with physical switches for the heating controls and a dominant nine inch screen for navigation, smart phone connections etc. Better still is the 12.3in driver's display which has super sharp graphics which can be changed by toggling through a switch on the steering wheel along with clear head up display for speed, navigation directions and speed limits. I like to think of it as selecting a chapter in a book and then scrolling through the pages. Works for me and friends who find the whole digital dashboard a confusing minefield.

The driver gets powered memory seats which always gets you off to a good start as I hate the manual ratchet adjustment for the back rest which never gets the perfect position for driving. A little extra cabin space and a higher level of technology is one thing but the performance and economy from the 1.3 litre petrol engine tops both. There are two output levels and I can only speak for the most powerful which is a revelation when mated to the seven speed automatic gearbox and steering wheel paddle shifters. How they do it is beyond me but car companies are brilliant at pushing the boundaries.

It is even economical averaging 48mpg over a 100 mile cruise through twisting mid Wales roads and topping just over 44mpg at the end of nearly 600 miles of mixed driving.

You can enter the world of Qashqai at £23,535 but as you can see from my test car you have to spend a lot more to get the things we all crave. I particularly like the adaptive LED auto dipping headlights, you always worry they are dazzling oncoming drivers but never seem to, and the air bag between the front seats to cushion a side impact is an excellent innovation.

This third generation Qashqai is going to have its work cut out against a mountain of opposition compared to when it first appeared all those years ago. But it has evolved and improved and although it has not got the best handling, or is the most comfortable, it has a bit of everything so is still the benchmark SUV. 

I ended up wishing I could trade in my Renault Kadar for a new Qashqai. Because of the tie up with Nissan the Kadjar is basically a Qashqai with Renault trimmings, but at this moment I want a new Qashqai.

Fast facts

Nissan Qashqai Tekna+

£36,125 (starts £23,535)

1.3 litre petrol; 156bhp

0-62mph 9.2secs; 124mph

43.8mpg combined


Insurance group 16

Boot 436-1379 litres

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