Hit and Nissan – new Qashqai raises bar in crossover sector

Nissan's Qashqai is credited with launching the crossover sector and now it has raised the bar with

Nissan's Qashqai is credited with launching the crossover sector and now it has raised the bar with the second-generation model. - Credit: Nissan

Crossover pioneer Nissan has risen to the challengers with its second-generation Qashqai, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

When a new pop star bursts on to the music scene with a debut album, the pressure is really on to deliver with their second.

It was a similar predicament for Nissan with the second-generation Sunderland-built Qashqai for its breakthrough star launched the blossoming crossover sector which has made us reassess our motoring needs. The result is more than two million sales worldwide since 2007 while a top-10 UK seller.

Little wonder then that the new Qashqai is evolution rather than revolution as Nissan looks to woo new customers without losing existing ones with this crossover having wide appeal and competing with hatchbacks, estate cars, sport utility and multi-purpose vehicles. The new model is longer, wider and lower, with a bolder, more stylish look – important given a host of up-and-coming rivals – but is still clearly a Qashqai.

What isn't so obvious is the new all-turbo engine line-up. The 110PS 1.5 and 130PS 1.6-litre turbo diesels – the latter also offered with intelligent four-wheel drive – are now even more efficient but have been joined by new small-capacity turbo petrol units. A 115PS 1.2 DIG-T unit replaces the naturally-aspirated 1.6 while a 150PS 1.6 DIG-T joins the range in autumn.

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The diesels will be big sellers but, if you don't do the miles, the 1.2 DIG-T makes a good case for itself. It's flexible enough at low revs not to have to keep stirring the gearbox to keep up with urban traffic. On the open road its needs to be worked harder, not difficult given the slick six-speed manual transmission, and becomes lively above 3,000rpm but remains refined and relatively quiet. I was getting 40mpg running around and nudging 50 on a run which gave a respectable mid-40s overall.

The new Qashqai is also more grown up to drive with a well-sorted chassis. The ride, particularly good for a tall vehicle with more ground clearance than a conventional car, is supple and absorbent at speed, making for comfortable cruising, but can be caught out on poor, pock-marked urban surfaces which unsettle its otherwise fine composure. The ride hasn't been at the expense of roadholding with the Qashqai able to attack meandering country roads with great verve and confidence with good body control through the twists and turns and nicely-weighted electronic power steering with normal and sport modes with the emphasis on effortless and entertaining driving respectively. Even in two-wheel guise the Qashqai grips well through corners but push really hard and there is some understeer but it is easy to forget this is a crossover, not a sporty hatchback.

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The interior ambience has also come in for a lot of attention with a more upmarket feel for the cabin materials. The interior looks and feels classy with interesting textures and tactile soft-touch plastics where you come into contact with them.

The cabin is big on space, as well as quality, with plenty of leg and headroom for five large adults and a roomy 430-litre boot that can swallow family clutter or large loads with the 60/40 rear seat backs folded flat to open up a 1,585-litre load bay. A two-level boot floor, standard on all but entry Visia, has removable luggage boards which can also be stood upright to restrain loads and give up to 16 different storage combinations – the solid parcel shelf fits beneath them when they are in the higher position flush with the load sill.

Cabin storage is good with a large glovebox, deep lidded locker between the front seats and decent door bins.

A good range of seat and steering adjustment, clear instruments, user-friendly controls, a touchscreen infotainment system on top models that does not need you to have a degree in electronics to work and the elevated driving position mean you soon feel at home behind the wheel. Well, going forwards at least because chunky back pillars and small windows restrict rear visibility – front and rear parking sensors, standard on the top two models, are part of a £450 smart vision pack option, along with anti-dazzle mirror, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, forward emergency braking and, apart from Visia, high beam assist.

If you like technology you'll like the range-topping Tekna model which gets Nissan's Safety Shield with a bird's-eye around view monitor to aid manoeuvring in tight spaces, blind spot warning, detects moving objects when parking and even alerts the driver when drowsy.

The original Qashqai was always going to be a hard act to follow but Nissan achieved it with style and set the bar higher – it's easy to drive, easy to live with and easy to like.

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