It’s a strange name. Qashqai, according to Wikipedia, refers to a conglomeration of clans in Iran and means a horse with a white face. Not sure how it relates to cars, but there you go…
And if you don’t like the thrills of an entry-level SUV, the Ti variant tested here brings with it more features and an impressive looking set of seats.
But if you read our recent Nissan X-Trail review, you’d see that Nissan is missing out some of the requirements of an SUV, such as the latest infotainment or the best drivability. Can the Qashqai do better?
The Nissan Qashqai is one of the few SUVs on the market that is still available with a manual transmission.
Kicking off from $27,990 (plus on-road costs), the Qashqai ST comes with a six-speed manual transmission, with an automatic gearbox a $2000 proposition thereafter.
The range runs all the way through to the car we’re testing here, the top-specification Qashqai Ti, which is priced at $38,490 (plus on-road costs) and comes exclusively with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
It’s also worth noting that the entire Qashqai range is available as front-wheel drive only. There are seven colours to choose from, with all but Vivid Blue an additional $595.
The Series 3 Nissan Qashqai was recently updated to include a revised infotainment system that brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the entire range.
The top-specification model comes with a stack of goodies, which include (on the exterior): 19-inch alloy wheels, panoramic glass roof, adaptive LED headlights, LED tail lights, radar cruise control, privacy glass, roof rails and high beam assist.
Inside the cabin, you get: Nappa leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, proximity entry and start, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, satellite navigation, heated seats, a 7.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six-speaker sound system, DAB+ digital radio, electric driver and front passenger seat, and rear cross-traffic alert.
When tested by ANCAP in 2017, the Nissan Qashqai scored a five star ANCAP safety rating.
Standard safety features include low-speed autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, six airbags, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and semi-autonomous self-parking.
Nappa leather is a premium grade of leather found in some high-end German luxury cars. It's standard equipment on the top-specification Ti model.
On first glance, the Qashqai’s interior looks a bit typical of Nissan. It’s not overly flashy, the colour palette is fairly bland and the use of piano black is predictably thrown in there to add a premium element.
If you’re anything like me – you detest the use of piano black. It looks dirty all the time and without even touching it, it’ll scratch, something that’ll get old pretty quickly.
But, if you poke around the interior a little more, you begin to notice this isn’t a typical Nissan product. The seats feature Nappa leather and come with ribbing on the back and bottom that makes the car look like it’s worth a lot more than it is.
Soft-touch surfaces feature on the dashboard and centre console, plus there’s a good-looking steering wheel that puts the sport into SUV. A panoramic roof helps lighten the interior and also make it feel expansive, while visibility out the front and sides is good with decent-sized wing mirrors.
There are still some nasty surfaces around the centre tunnel and door bottoms, but for the most part the Qashqai Ti feels premium enough to match its price tag.
On first glance, the 7.0-inch infotainment screen looks a bit bland, but Nissan has finally equipped this car with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which extends the functionality of the system and overcomes the frustrating usability issues of the base system.
Like most other Nissan infotainment systems, it can be tricky to use with menu items illogically nested within each other and basic functions like entering navigation addresses taking far longer than they should.
This infotainment system still doesn’t come close to matching things like Mazda Connect and Hyundai’s upgraded 10.25-inch system, but it’s a very welcome step in the right direction and addresses one of our main issues with the car previously.
Outside of the infotainment system, there is ample storage up front with USB connectivity for charging devices, along with 12V charging points, Bluetooth connectivity and a voice recognition system that works okay, but could certainly be better (it’s improved immeasurably by the use of the inbuilt smartphone mirroring).
The second row has good leg and head room, even for adults, but misses out on USB connectivity and air vents. You’ll find ISOFIX anchorage points on the two outboard seats, along with top tether points for all three second row seats.
There’s 430 litres of cargo capacity in the boot with the second row in place, which expands to 1598 litres when the second row is folded flat (in a 60/40 split-folding fashion).
The load floor offers a stack of configuration options with a dual-tier system that offers additional vertical storage space if required, or the option of a cover for valuables.
Powering the Qashqai is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that produces 106kW of power.
It sends torque to the front wheels through a CVT, which tries to make the most of the slightly underwhelming 200Nm of torque.
Combined fuel economy comes in at 6.9 litres of fuel per 100km and with a mix of highway and city driving, we achieved around 8.5L/100km.
With a 65 litre fuel tank, you can expect around 942km of range from each full tank of fuel.
Before we talk about the way the Qashqai drives, it’s worth calling out how poorly it rides.
The top-specification Ti model rides on 19-inch alloy wheels with 45 profile tyres. They pair with a fairly firm suspension tune, which causes the Qashqai to ride more like a sports car than a family-friendly SUV.
You’ll feel even the mildest of road imperfections, with bigger imperfections like pot holes and mid-corner bumps reverberating through the car.
Eventually you’ll get used to the ride, but it’s worth ensuring you go for an extended test drive if you’re looking at the Qashqai Ti, because it could end up bothering you in the long run. I fell into the same trap with my Tesla Model 3 Performance, which is quite firm and doesn’t get any softer over time. Each time you collect a bump and it jars through the body, you’re reminded of why you need to investigate smaller wheels or higher profile tyres.
Keep in mind you could fit the Ti with 18-inch alloy wheels or higher profile tyres to improve the ride, it simply means spending more money on something that should have been sorted during the engineering process.
On to the engine. With 200Nm of torque, it’s no race car, but the CVT does a commendable job of managing the 4400rpm peak torque figure. Revs gradually increase as you lean on the throttle and rise to a sonorous roar if you sink the boot in.
Firm, but not fair
The top-specification Ti model is let down by firm suspension that makes it ride more like a sports car than an SUV..
For the most part the Qashqai drives well and one of the upshots of the firmer ride is that it handles nicely too. The body sits flat through corners and feels sportier compared to some other competitors in this segment.
Nissan sharpened the steering ratio a couple of years ago to make steering inputs quicker, but it’s still not quite there. It requires more steering input than you’d think to make turns and go around corners. It’s not a big deal and something you’ll learn to live with.
Nissan offers the Qashqai with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with capped price servicing.
Servicing occurs every 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first).
Over a five year period, servicing comes in at $1451 or an average of around $290 per service.
You’ll also get away with 91RON unleaded petrol.
Nissan strangely drops the ball with SUVs in random places. It’s often with infotainment systems or underpowered engines and where the Qashqai makes up for Nissan’s infotainment shortcomings, it lacks ride comfort and ride quality.
But if you put the ride to one side, the Qashqai Ti offers an excellent package that is loaded with features and presents as a premium looking SUV.
So the pertinent question – should you consider buying one? I really like it. I’d urge you to take a test drive and if you’re comfortable with the firmness of the ride, or are prepared to look at another wheel and tyre combination, this is a classy SUV that you’ll find versatile and sporty to drive.
But if the ride is too firm, you’ll need to look elsewhere, which is a shame given the rest of the package is excellent.