Review: Nissan Qashqai

The bonnet and intake of the new Qashqai are more svelte.
The bonnet and intake of the new Qashqai are more svelte.
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Nissan has refreshed its Qashqai, but what else can one say about the success of this family car from Sunderland? Quite a bit, actually.

In September it was easily the country’s best-selling new car, knocking the Ford Fiesta off the top spot it is used to. One month doesn’t prove a trend, but in the first nine months the Qashqai was solidly in fourth place behind the Golf, Focus and Fiesta. This makes it the best-selling UK-produced car in the list. The other contenders, Astra and Mini, are 6th and 9th.

In percentage sales gains this year Nissan is doing better than its rivals. It gained by 6.3 per cent. Ford fell 7.8 per cent, VW gained 1.45 per cent. Vauxhall sales fell by 20.3 per cent – a loss of 41,000 registrations.

Qashqai’s success comes in the teeth of continuous jousting from rivals anxious to plunder its magic. Among them is the now classic Honda CRV, Ford’s edgy Kuga and the Kadjar, from Nissan’s Alliance partner, Renault.

Nissan has now reached 150 million cars since 1933, with 50 million produced in the past 11 years. Its biggest European factory is Sunderland, opened in 1986 by prime minister Margaret Thatcher with the Bluebird. Today it is the only European maker of the electric LEAF, the Juke, the Infiniti Q30 and QX30. It is the main maker of Qashqai, which is also made in St Petersburg.

The changes in its trading position are evident. Until 2006 three in every four Nissans was made in Japan. In the last decade, only one in four Nissans has come from there. Production in England has reached nine million, with Russia and Spain building four million.

Qashqai is the major success, with 2.3 million sales making it the best-seller in the crossover bridge between hatchback and SUV. It’s the most successful car from Nissan so far. Gongs include 19 car of the year awards. In March it recorded its highest monthly sales since its debut ten years ago.

Some may be puzzled to explain its success. But its appeal seems to lie in its practicality, value for money and a style that is neither flashy nor dull.

This summer’s revisions to the 2014 second generation Qashqai are credited to its staff in England (including technology and design studious in the south), Spain and Germany. They bring changes to the exterior, improved interior quality and sweeter handling with reduced harshness. Next year it will be available with proPILOT, Nissan’s autonomous steering, acceleration and braking system in heavy traffic or motorway cruising.

All new models have a smaller wheel with a thicker rim and flat bottom, giving better grip and fit and over-the-top visibility. I also like the stationary-hold with the manual gearbox. It holds the car on the flat or a slope, so there’s no need to hold it on the footbrake or with the clutch dipped. After three minutes the parking brake comes on.

The face of the Qashqai has changed in 10 years, from a demure intake to the latest striking expanse of gloss black with a chromed inset under a new flat bonnet lip, flanked by new light units. LED running lamps are fitted front and back.

In total, it’s the most complex Qashqai to date, with a refreshed style that looks as good as any rival.

Prices range from just under £20,000 for the 113.4bhp 1.2-litre petrol Visia to £32,530 for the 128bhp 1.6 diesel Tekna+ with four-wheel drive. The cheapest automatic is the 1.2 Acenta at £23,130. The cheapest with 4x4 is the N-Connecta 128bhp diesel at £28,505.

On test here, the N-Connecta with 1,461cc, 108.5 bhp turbo diesel raising 184lb ft of torque between 1,750 and 2,500rpm. It’s been a grotty time for the honesty of diesel emission ratings, and even tougher this year as city legislators start to impose, or hint at, restrictions and levies on older diesel cars. We are told that the latest cleaner diesels banish such threats and face no known tariffs.

My test car was a beacon of diesel appeal. It was quiet, pulled well, gave good economy. It’s the only Qashqai rated at under 100g of CO2, meaning exemption from annual road tax.

Brochure figures claim 99g, 67.3mpg urban, 78.5mpg extra urban, 74.3mpg combined. While I didn’t match those figures, I did get 65mpg on a long motorway trip and 55mpg on my mixed-route 60-mile “commuter” run. I can live with that.

Verdict: It should be knighted.