Back it was called the Dualis, the Nissan Qashqai was a trailblazer in what’s now a booming segment in Australia.
The previous-generation model lived past its used-by date, though. As rivals moved to offer turbocharged and hybrid power, the last Qashqai was saddled with a breathless naturally-aspirated engine and a droney CVT. That’s no longer the case.
Even the base model now features a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engine with more power and torque, which is a good start, and its creaky interior has been overhauled with a more modern design, more up-to-date technology, and a more spacious rear.
It even has an e-Power hybrid option – or it will, hopefully at some point in 2023.
We’ve already driven high-end versions of the new Qashqai, but we haven’t dived deeper into what’s on offer for buyers on a budget.
Does the 2023 Nissan Qashqai ST+ strike the right balance between value and exciting inclusions?
The new Qashqai range kicks off at $33,890 before on-roads, and extends to $47,390 before on-roads.
Our Qashqai ST+ tester sits in the middle at $37,890 before on-roads.
2023 Nissan Qashqai pricing:
- Nissan Qashqai ST: $33,890
- Nissan Qashqai ST+: $37,890
- Nissan Qashqai ST-L: $42,190
- Nissan Qashqai Ti: $47,390
Prices exclude on-road costs
Like the larger X-Trail, the latest Qashqai has been treated to a bit of a glow up for 2023.
The wing-shaped dashboard is home to a new 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system running more modern software than the dated previous-generation model, and the driver is faced with a 7.0-inch TFT trip computer. It all looks flash, although the plastic steering wheel is pretty nasty.
Who at Nissan thought it was okay to trim the passenger side of the dashboard (as in, the bit no-one touches) in soft faux leather, and then decided not to bother with the wheel in a small SUV worth more than $40k drive-away?
The rest of the main touch points are solid. The seats are trimmed in solid-feeling cloth and offer more support than in the old car, where it always felt like you were perched on crates; while the view out is more SUV than high-riding hatch.
The infotainment system is much better than the low-res, low-tech touchscreen that served in the last Qashqai. With wireless Apple CarPlay, reasonably attractive graphics, and sharp responses. It’s very functional.
Nissan still can’t match the Volkswagen Group when it comes to the polish of the graphics and animations though, and the lack of app connectivity is disappointing from a new car, with a steeper new price.
We’d also love to see Nissan roll out its full digital instrument binnacle across the range. The regular trip computer is fine, but it’s nothing more – and the Qashqai’s rivals, along with its corporate cousins at Renault, offer higher-tech options for similar money.
There’s plenty of storage up front, with deep cupholders and a slot beneath the dashboard. You also get a decent bin under the central armrest, and spacious door pockets.
Access to the rear comes courtesy of doors that open to 90 degrees, which anyone loading a child will appreciate. The wide opening makes it easier to get child seats in without painful contortion, and bigger adults are more easily able to clamber in if required.
Once in, there’s above-average levels of legroom and headroom. Also handy are the dual USB ports and air vents, along with the central fold-down armrest. It’s a very usable space, more in line with a Kia Seltos than the outgoing Hyundai Kona.
ISOFIX points feature on the outboard rear seats, and there’s a trio of top-tether points for child seats.
Quoted boot space ST+ is 429 litres with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1524 litres with them folded.
Power across the Qashqai comes from a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, making 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
That’s up 7kW and 50Nm on the naturally-aspirated engine in the previous model, and peak torque comes on tap 2800rpm earlier (at just 1600rpm) and hangs around until 3750rpm.
It’s still mated with a CVT automatic, rather than the dual-clutch transmission paired with the same engine in the Renault and Mercedes-Benz worlds.
Claimed fuel economy is 6.1 litres per 100km, and the fuel tank hold 55 litres. You’ll need to stump for 95 RON premium unleaded, rather than cheaper 91 RON.
There’s more punch and more polish than was on offer in the last model, that’s for sure.
The turbocharged engine fires quietly, and the fact Nissan has opted for a CVT instead of the dual-clutch that features in Renault and Mercedes-Benz vehicles with the same engine makes it smoother around town.
Rather than hesitating or jerking off the line it feels conventional, slurring around town inoffensively and making fake gearshifts to do a convincing torque converter impression.
There’s a hint of turbo lag off the mark but it’s not hard to drive around it, and once you’re up and running the extra torque relative to the naturally-aspirated model before it is welcome when you put your foot down.
Ride comfort in variants with bigger wheels has been widely praised, so it should be no surprise the ST+ feels cushy on its 18-inch alloys. It floats nicely over pimpled city streets, and settles down at highway speeds like a bigger car.
There’s also a bit of fun dialled into the drive. The light steering doesn’t necessarily scream sports car, but it’s quite quick off-centre, making it easy to dart around tight city streets.
Not only does that make the Qashqai easy to park, it combines with a suspension tune that calls to mind the Ford Puma. Throw it into a corner and it feels light on its feet, with enough body roll to be lively and enough grip to be sporty.
Fun isn’t a word you could have really used to describe the last Qashqai, but it does feel relevant with the new one.
Outside the city, there’s very little road or wind noise in the cabin to ruin the serenity.
Nissan’s suite of ProPilot driver assists, which includes active lane-centring and adaptive cruise on the highway, is smartly calibrated.
It smoothly maintains a gap to the car in front, and the lane-keeping feels confident enough to intervene when required, but clever enough to stay hands-off when not required.
Regardless of which assists are active, you need to keep your hands on that plastic steering wheel…
Qashqai ST highlights:
- Auto LED headlights, tail lights
- LED daytime running lights
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Temporary spare wheel
- One-touch power windows with remote operation
- Proximity key access
- Auto-folding, heated side mirrors with LED indicators
- Reversing sensors and rear camera
- Urethane steering wheel with rake and reach adjustment
- 7.0-inch TFT trip computer
- Manual air-con controls with rear vents
- 8.0-inch touchscreen display
- Wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- AM/FM and DAB+
- Inbuilt voice controls
- Front and rear USB-A and USB-C ports
- 6-speaker sound system
- Driver’s seat lumbar adjust
- Charcoal cloth seats
Qashqai ST+ adds:
- Rain-sensing wipers
- LED front fog lights
- 18-inch wheels
- 360-degree cameras
- 12.3-inch touchscreen display
- Satellite navigation with live traffic
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
The Nissan Qashqai has a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing carried out in 2021.
The Qashqai managed 91 per cent for both adult and child occupant protection, 70 per cent for vulnerable road-user protection, and a very strong 95 per cent for safety assist features.
Standard safety features include:
- 7 airbags incl. front-centre
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Junction assist
- Reverse AEB incl. Pedestrian detection
- Active speed limiter
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Forward collision warning
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera
- Traffic sign recognition
- Tyre pressure monitoring
Qashqai ST+ adds:
- Intelligent Around View Monitor (360 cameras)
- Moving Object Detection
The Qashqai is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia, along with five years of roadside assist.
Nissan is charging a pretty penny for servicing. Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, and the first six services will set you back an average of $670.66 each time.
The fourth ($1027) and sixth services ($1108) are particularly nasty, and even the cheapest service ($375, service one) is more expensive than you’ll pay for any visit to the dealer in the first five years of Honda HR-V, Toyota Corolla Cross, or Mazda CX-30 ownership.
The new Qashqai is much better than the car it replaces in essentially every way – but then again, it needed to be.
The new interior feels properly modern, the new engine packs enough of a punch, and the exterior is sharp enough to stand out in a growing crowd.
Nissan deserves points for offering a handy back seat and boot in what’s still a relatively compact package, and for including tech like a surround-view camera on even the one-from-base Qashqai ST+.
It’s generally a well-specced, well-priced package with one key exception.
The urethane steering wheel would be almost enough to prise the circa-$4000 more you need to pay for a ST-L from my pocket… but ultimately, the ST+ still represents a sweet spot in the Qashqai range.
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