Pure pleasure of Nissan Qashqai

Peter Franzen says Nissan's popular Qashqai crossover makes a brilliant family car.

Apart from its difficult to pronounce name, there is little to fault the Qashqai – the fastest-selling model in the history of Nissan Europe. Part of a family of 'crossover' vehicles, it has now been extensively updated.

Designed, engineered and built in Britain, it was launched in 2007, but 2011 models have seen a complete front-end makeover, with new bonnet, front bumper, wings, grille and headlamps. The styling changes, together with a series of other modifications have improved aerodynamic efficiency leading to better performance, fuel-efficiency and cleaner emissions.

The culmination of these attributes is showcased in the new Pure Drive variant. This special Qashqai produces only 130g/km of CO2, reduced from the 137g/km of the standard model.

A weight reduction programme and the adoption of aerodynamic wheel covers, combined with the blanking of the fog lamp sockets, the fitment of low rolling resistance tyres and the lengthening of the final drive ratio, all work to maximise the Qashqai Pure Drive's efficiency. Combined fuel consumption improves from 54.3 to 57.6mpg.

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The Visia Pure Drive Qashqai 1.5 dCi's arrival coincided with the heavy snow but I still managed to cover 250 miles. I mention this because I did more than the usual amount of driving on urban roads and a fair bit of stop-start motoring due to the inclement weather. My overall fuel consumption did not match official figures, but 44.5mpg was good all things considered.

The big question for me was whether the 1,461cc diesel would prove to be a bit gutless. Most of the time it coped really well; however, overtaking was a bit ponderous and even when I changed down the power was disconcertingly late kicking in. Diesel rattle is well subdued, and at main road speeds noise levels are as refined as petrol variants.

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The Qashqai is one of those vehicles where you immediately feel at home. With great all-round visibility it is easy to park because although it has the air of a big sport utility vehicle as a result of raised driving position, it is more akin to a hatchback for comfort and driveability. Nissan has slightly altered the suspension, and the result is sharper handling, but the ride hasn't been compromised.

Space for those in the front is good and rear-seat passengers are also well looked after. I liked the focused cockpit environment complete with deeply-recessed instruments for the driver and a relaxing, airy space for the occupants.

One of the other benefits of the higher roofline is that occupants sit comparatively upright which translates into more interior leg, shoulder and head room. The cargo space with the rear luggage cover in place is 410 litres, a little more than is offered by cars like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra. This rises to a total of 1,513 litres to the roof with the rear seats folded.

It might be an entry-level model, but the Visia grade is far from poorly equipped. Major standard safety equipment covers ABS plus BAS and EBD as well as front, side and curtain airbags. Stability control is now also standard. Personal security features include automatic door locking when the car is moving above walking pace. Also standard is Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity.

Other practical and comfort features include electric power steering, a 60/40 folding rear bench, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, height-adjustable driver's seat, and all-round power windows. There's also air-conditioning, trip computer, a radio/CD and auxiliary socket for MP3 players.

The Qashqai makes a brilliant family car because it's roomy, comfortable, refined and affordable to run. And that name? Pronounced 'Cash Kai', it is borrowed from a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe living in the Zagros mountains in south western Iran. Not a lot of people know that!


Price: �17,495

Engine: 1,461cc, 110PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 12.7 seconds; top speed 109mph

MPG: Urban 47.9; extra urban 64.2; combined 57.6

Emissions: 130g/km

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