Powerful new case for Nissan Qashqai

A powerful new engine with high economy and low emissions further boosts the appeal of Nissan's Qashqai, says Andy Russell, motoring editor.

The number plate on the Nissan Qashqai – X70 VER – clearly referred to it being a crossover, combining the practicality of a hatchback with the styling and ground clearance of a sport utility vehicle.

The Qashqai started the crossover craze, a three-in-one replacing the Primera, Almera and Almera Tino. Since its launch in 2007, more than a million Sunderland-build Qashqais have been sold worldwide, making it Nissan's fastest-selling model, with year-on-year sales increases – 80pc of them conquest sales, bringing new customers to the brand.

It's still one of the best-sellers in its class with updates and tweaks keeping its appeal fresh as more car-makers jump on the crossover bandwagon.

The Qashqai, and seven-seat Qashqai+2, were given a facelift a couple of years ago but now Nissan has given it a new, more environmentally-friendly 1.6-litre turbo diesel. The result of a 230 million euro investment, it replaces the 2.0-litre turbo diesel in manual models although the latter continues with an automatic gearbox.

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The lighter 130PS 1.6 dCi engine has the same performance, still producing a healthy 320 Newton metres of torque but lower in the rev range at just 1,750rpm, along with fuel economy up to 31pc better in the two-wheel drive model at 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions as low as 119g/km.

So good is this engine that as well as the extra performance, its emissions and fuel consumption are lower than the 110PS 1.5-litre turbo diesel. But it costs �1,500 more and that buys a lot of fuel.

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This new engine is the most powerful in its class – ready, willing and able from low revs with punchy mid-range poke and spinning freely. I never saw less than 50mpg and had a best of 61mpg. The six-speed manual gearbox's shift was not as smooth as I would have hoped, despite 8,000 miles on the clock.

For those who don't want diesel the Qashqai also offers 117PS 1.6-litre and 140PS 2.0-litre petrol engines.

The Qashqai is surprisingly car-like to drive. This is no roly-poly SUV with little body lean through corners and plenty of grip and traction, especially the four-wheel drive versions which put power to the front wheels in normal driving to boost economy but can automatically transfer up to 50pc of torque to the back wheels or it can be locked in all-wheel drive mode.

The supple suspension does a fine job of smoothing away bumps and lumps and, given the larger tyres, there is not a lot of road noise.

As you would expect from Nissan, the cabin is well finished. There is plenty of legroom all round but headroom is tight – my head was brushing the roof lining in the back and my 6ft 1in son's head was actually in the aperture for the large glass panoramic sunroof on my Tekna test car. The front passenger seat is too high and I found it unbelievable that this range-topping model does not have height adjustment for it.

The well-shaped 410-litre boot is easy to load with its low lip and the 60/40 rear seat backs fold flat but leave a little step up from the boot floor which is a shame. The other niggle is that the tailgate does not rise high enough so even average-height people will bump their head on it and the parcel shelf until they get used to it.

Available in Visia, Acenta, n-tec+ and Tekna specification, all come attractively equipped with safety kit and creature comforts.

The Qashqai is still one of the best-looking, best-driving crossovers on the market – a million owners can't be wrong.

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