JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – Nissan South Africa recently introduced its facelifted Qashqai. Following senior associate editor Ian McLaren’s initial report on the 1,2T Acenta he drove at the local launch, we got our hands on another variant for a three-day test.

Design

The Qashqai now looks slightly more modern than the pre-facelift model, thanks chiefly to its sharper nose. Prominent updates include the V-shaped grille and the LED daytime running lights pointing towards this element. At the rear, the bumper has also been redesigned, while new 17- and 19-inch wheels have been added to the range. Although the width and height of this SUV remain unchanged, the length has increased by 17 mm.

Behind the wheel

The engine choices on offer include the familiar 1,2-litre turbo-petrol and 1,5-litre turbodiesel. Offering 81 kW and 260 N.m versus the petrol's 85 kW and 165 N.m, the turbodiesel derivative makes a strong case for itself.

As before, this small engine makes light work of moving the car through traffic as well as out on the open road. There's not much to write home about below 2 000 r/min, but the engine comes into its own after this mark. The redline arrives at only 5 000 r/min, but there is little point in passing 4 000 r/min, where peak power is delivered. This, of course, leaves you with a small rev range in which to work.

All turbodiesel models are equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. As smooth as this gearbox is to shift, as before (and as was also the case with the manual-equipped turbodiesel X-Trail) it takes a while to learn how much throttle input is needed to ensure you don’t stall the car when pulling away. Sometimes you spin the front wheels as you overeagerly depress the throttle in a bid to avoid stalling.

However, once the Qasqhai is moving, the 1,5-litre performs admirably. And the fuel consumption is even more impressive. With two adults on board and a mixture of city driving and highway driving, we achieved a figure in the low 7 litres per 100 km region, without much effort.

Even though this Qashqai comes equipped 19-inch alloy wheels, the ride quality is impressive, even over rough stretches of tarmac. Another remarkable features is just how quiet the cabin is, even at highway speeds.

Summary

The Qashqai remains an attractive proposition. It still offers a strong balance between performance, fuel economy and comfort, while also adding the necessary safety (it boasts a five-star Euro NCAP rating) and luxury features.

If you don’t mind shifting gears yourself, the 1,5 dCi Acenta Plus is the model most likely to meet the average buyer's needs in terms of standard specification. However, if you desire the ultimate level of safety, the Tekna derivative offers an intelligent around view monitor, intelligent blind-spot warning, cross traffic alert, forward emergency braking as well as collision warning. Needless to say, the Qashqai line-up still appeals to a broad range of buyers.