words: Mike Humble
Images: J A Lawler
They say “from little acorns big trees grow” and that’s certainly fitting when you think of Nissan in Britain. From their first foray into British assembly with the Bluebird to the portfolio of current UK built vehicles, they have certainly developed well since the mid `80s. The Nissan Qashqai – despite the odd nondescript name has been nothing short of a sales sensation since its introduction with over 2 million models dropping off the end of the Sunderland production line to date. In my own opinion, the current face lifted model looks so much better than the original – and the public seem to agree, it looks almost premium rather than mass produced.
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET were given the opportunity to get to grips with the top of the range “Tekna” model fitted with their 1.2 16v DIG-T engine and six speed gearbox. Tipping the money scales at £23.670 (including a metallic paint option) this flagship model of the Qashqai is far from being cheap. But that said, and in all fairness, you get one hell of a well specified car for your money with whistles and bells including heated leather seats, dual zone climate, cruise, DAB, Sat Nav, parking assist and a whole smorgasbord of other notable goodies. But not only is it well furnished, it seems very well put together too – like I said, there’s a definite premium feel if not in brand name.
The driving position is very sensible and comfy once aboard. You should find near perfect positioning of most of the controls while the wheel to pedal interface is just about right. The large chrome ringed dials are clarity personified and illuminate well at night, though you do have to fiddle with the dimmer switch to avoid excess glare in the windows. Its heater and info-tainment is easy to fathom and I found it simple enough to hook up the Bluetooth to my smartphone. Incidental switches for items like the front or heated rear screen are well placed and nicely damped in action while the swooping dashboard feels rock solid and rattle free in construction.
If there are any gripes with the interior, its the seemingly current fashionable colour scheme of black, more black and varying shades of dark grey. Also noticeable, especially in the dark, are the lack of illuminated symbols on the door window switch pack – the drivers one glows but the other three and the switches on the passengers doors don’t… a bit penny pinching and a bit of a faff during night time driving. There should be no complaints about space as there is heaps of headroom up front and ample space for a full complement of back seat drivers. A glass panoramic sunroof floods some extra light and happiness into the cabin and features an electric blind.
For your odds and ends there is a decent sized illuminated glovebox (non locking though)acceptably useful door pockets, a centre armrest with cubby box, a small coin / sweetie tray just ahead of the gear lever and a generous sprinkling of the usual cup holders – including two in the rear seat armrest. The boot also caters for clutter laden people. It’s quite generous, features lashing hooks, has a split rear seat and a false floor to protect sensitive or valuable items. With the aforementioned removable floor deck in place, the cargo bay is flush to the bumper; the load height is just right avoiding back straining reaches with the weekly groceries – a well thought out car.
Jabbing the start button fires up the 1197cc turbocharged engine with no fuss or undue racket. What a creamy smooth little engine this is too, offering more power and torque than the 1600cc unit its replaced. The figures show 115Ps and a useful 190Nm of torque that’s fully available from 2000rpm. Despite it being cubically challenged in the engine room, the Qashqai squirts away from a standing start with a smile inducing zip and I was really impressed with just how smooth and quiet the power unit is once on the move. The six speed gearbox has a very light and definite shift action with a chunky leather and chrome finished knob that feels just right to use.
Regardless of lumbering around town or winging along the motorway, the power unit feels relaxed and on top of the job – you soon forget it’s just a little 1.2 turbo. Send the rev counter pointer over to the right and the engine still feels un-fussed and sweet. I think it’s a gem of a power unit so long as you keep the revs over 1200rpm, otherwise the strength tails off very quickly. The brakes bite well and operate with precision and progression with a hill hold function and automatic electronic handbrake. Qashqai features electric power steering which I found to be a bit too light and lifeless in action, not quite arcade game in sensation but could be much better at the fingertips.
Ride and handling is very good which goes some way to making up for the dead steering. Despite the handicap of very low “45” profile tyres, the Qashqai rides very well almost to large saloon car quality, only the deepest of ruts or potholes disturbs what is in all honesty, a very relaxing car. Motorway refinement is equally good and a blind spot detection system warns of incoming bandits by flashing an orange light on the panel next to the door mirrors. The Tekna model also features a system that reads speed warning signs which publishes the national limit for whatever road you driving along on the display between the dashboard dials.
So what we have here is a well made and practical family car – built in Britain too that’s refined, stylish and very well equipped. After spending a week I noticed it also has one character that has often lacked from previous Nissan product – soul. It really has a dash of flair that makes you bond with the car after a little time. Of course, there are things that could be better. If you look close enough there is a little penny pinching here and there such as the glovebox with no lining inside and the rather cheep feeling door switches. The horn sounds feeble and light weight and the test car had a slight rattle when you slammed the driver’s door shut.
I’ve mentioned about the lifeless steering already but the wheel itself has also got too many buttons for my liking, the silver finish also looks a little cheap. But none of the aforementioned detracts too much from what is a well made and enjoyable car, though the price tag of £23.145 excluding metallic paint may make you consider the next model down – the whole range is well equipped. The promise of good reliability, sensible four square dealers and decent warranty makes the Nissan a very safe bet in a crowded market place. Qashqai has been a smash hit proving to be the most the most popular Nissan to date… I can see why!
AUTOBRITANNIA RATING – 8/10
THE HUMBLE OPINION:
A runaway success which is proven by the way it drives and performs. Generally well made and the Nissan brand should almost guarantee a decent level of reliability in the real world. The talented UK based designers and engineers who have developed this recently face-lifted model ought to be very proud of their toils.
Its stylish, practical and has decent fuel economy with lively performance too. I was impressed with the way the car is so simple to operate straight from the box if you like and it has a little bit of soul – something that often lacks with Anglo/Japanese cars.
A very enjoyable car to drive in almost every sense!
Model Tested: Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DIG-T Tekna
Produced By: Nissan UK Sunderland
Price OTR: £23.670 as tested
Equipment Highlights: Around view monitor – Panoramic roof – All round power windows – Climate (dual zone) – Leather trim – DAB / Sat Nav / MP3 / Bluetooth – Heated windscreen – Bi LED headlamps – Power folding mirrors – ABS / EBD / ESP – Hill start assist – Lane departure warning – Traffic sign recognition
Engine: 1197cc 4 cyl 16v turbocharged petrol
Power: 115Ps with 190Nm of torque
Gearbox: 6 speed
Brakes: All round discs with electronic park brake
Suspension: Coils all round
Luggage Capacity: 430 up to 1585 litres
Fuel Economy: 50.4mpg combined (claimed) 44.6mpg on test
Performance: 0 – 60 in 10.9 seconds*
Top Speed: 115 mph*
* =Manufacturers Data
THE HIGHS: Nice build quality overall – Very refined – Good handling / ride balance – Well equipped – Smart looking – Easy to use on board technology – Refined driveline – Good economy – Generous space for passengers and cargo – Simple to drive.
The Lows: Under bonnet view looks messy – Slight penny pinching here and there – Not cheap in Tekna trim – Over light and lifeless steering feel – Confusing array of switches and buttons on steering wheel – Interior colour scheme a little gloomy.
For more information CLICK HERE