‘This is an important car for Nissan,’ David Jackson, Communications Director of Nissan UK starts his presentation with at the launch of the new Nissan Qashqai. There’s a collective feeling in the room that this might be a little bit of an understatement, with the existing model being the third best selling car across any sector so far in 2017. The launch of the new model looks to capture upgrade potential from existing customers, as well as potentially attract new buyers away from the crowded market competitors with the promise of extra comfort, a more driver-centric approach and a refined cabin. Nissan are definitely aware of the quality in the ranks, and they’re coming out fighting with this latest Qashqai.
Since 2007, Nissan UK have seen year-on-year growth of the sector they helped start. Mini SUVs, or Crossovers as we all seem to call them, have become to go-to car of middle England. Twice as many Nissan Qashqais were sold in 2016 than their introductory year in 2007. More than
With such a huge market, therefore, Nissan are keen to stress that the refinements and updates seen on the latest Qashqai come purely from the customer. ‘We’ve listened to consumer feedback,’ was one of the defining messages from the new car’s launch in Austria.
From the outside, the car has been given a sharper, more modern feel. There’s new brand motifs dotted throughout, from the revised front grill to the newly shaped front and rear LED headlights. The older Qashqai may not have seemed to be getting old, as such, but the newer exterior model is improved. It’s a good looking car, and has more than enough sense of dynamism for its predominantly motoring-conservative target market. Innovative aerodynamics on the outside also improve the experience on the inside – shark-fin style diffusers at the bottom of the front bumper, for example, improve the feel and noise inside the cabin.
When Nissan UK asked their customers what they wanted, it was clear that it was what was directly in front of them that they cared most about. Because of this, the new Qashqai focusses to a great extent on how the car behaves and feels from the inside. A new steering wheel, thinner, with a flatter bottom and more intelligently placed buttons takes centre stage in terms of the refinements, but there are also more subtle touches here that makes a difference. It feels as though the whole driver’s side of the car has been angled more and the seating and dial positions have been fiddled with, making the cockpit and more immersive and pleasurable place to sit.
There’s a noticeably higher quality throughout – air vents, interior door handles and other features have been upgraded, and from N-Connecta grade an above, there are also new monoform seats with a higher back and additional support. They assist in making the interior spaciousness, comfort and feel one of the new Qashqai’s strongest assets. Another strong point is the updated sound-system – relfecting in Nissan’s words – customer demand for a superior audio system. It’s an eight-speaker surround sound system with subwoofer and supplies more than adequtate, enhanced audio quality.
It’s only when the speakers are off however that another of Nissan’s improvements to the new Qashqai is apparent. Throughout the car, sound dampening and deadening has been used to quieten and soften the interior of the car. A ‘more confident drive’ is the result, and alongside upgrades in terms of body roll, motion and impact shock, it renders the cabin of the Qashqai even more appealing. On the initial test drive, there’s no mistaking its refined nature, and this is likely to win the car even more praise from the general motoring public.
Nissan’s customer feedback suggests that more people are opting for higher-specced cars, so with the new Qashqai they are adding a new ‘Tekna +’ range. A 360 parking camera, panoramic roof, rear cross-traffic and pedestrian alert, additional lumbar support and rather nice quilted leather seats are all thrown in. Although there a few tweaks, engines have been carried over from the earlier versions, and offer a good everyday mix of economy and variation. Sometimes a can feel a little wheezy and the gearbox is left a little wanting however – the long throw doesn’t really help matters. For economy, due to its size and weight, I wonder whether the 2.0 from the X-Trail would work well here, but only time will tell. There’s also talk of the new ProPILOT, Nissan’s own semi-autonomous driving system, however it’s a shame that this won’t hit the range until well in 2018. It’s being tested in Japan, but we’re told it doesn’t work on European roads as yet. It should be a nice addition to the car when it arrives, though.
The handling and driving ability of the car itself is promising and direct, but it doesn’t have the agility of competitors such as the Seat Ateca or recently reviewed Peugeot 3008. It’s solid and safe, though, and you can tell there’s been a healthy amount of tinkering with the dampening, suspension and other places that matter. It’s a boost all round and it helps that the cabin is a nicer place to sit, too.
The price of the Qashqai puts the car in the realms of larger SUV’s such as the Kodiaq, and amongst that sort of competition, it’s hard to see where new buyers are coming from against arguably more exciting, forward-thinking rivals. Forward-thinking is not necessarily important for the Qashqai at this stage however, and this new car is more than good enough as a respectable successor to previous incarnations and there will be nothing stopping existing owners and crossover fans ordering it in droves. It does exactly what every crossover in middle-England needs to do, and to be honest it does it just as well if not better than most. It’s driving characteristics and interior refinement is superb, and it is practical enough, good enough to drive and attractive enough to warrant its position. Nissan haven’t broken any ground with this new Qashqai, but they’ve refined enough to ensure the car stays put near the very top of the crossover pecking order.