The ever-popular Qashqai has been given a timely facelift and range update..
Whether for the fun-loving marketing campaigns that have traced its evolution, the middle ground it occupies between the audaciousness of a Juke and practicality of an X-Trail, or its raised-hatchback driving dynamics, the popularity of Nissan’s plucky midsize crossover has shown no sign of waning. In the 11 years since its introduction (it is currently in its second generation), more than 30 000 examples have found homes in South Africa.
Aiming to build on this success, Nissan South Africa has used a midlife facelift to consolidate its Qashqai range with a focus on fewer drivetrain options, yet improved levels of standard specification.
The first generation was considered a pioneer in the urban crossover field but this second-generation (launched in 2014) Qashqai eschewed that previously quirky “urban warrior” styling in favour of sharing design cues with the larger, third-generation X-Trail. It’s refreshing, then, to note the introduction of Nissan’s current V-motion grille onto the Qashqai’s nose, bringing back a welcome level of distinction and character to the vehicle. Other notable changes include revised head- and taillamps, as well as new alloy wheel designs as featured on this Acenta Plus model.
True to form, a high level of perceived build quality and clever use of premium materials complete the cabin of the updated Qashqai. It may be more conservative in its design, layout and functionality than the fun-loving exterior styling would suggest, but it’s here where the Nissan feels suitably accomplished.
A welcome inclusion in all but entry-level Visia specification is a leather-covered, flat-bottom, multifunction steering wheel. Not only does it look the part (and wouldn’t appear out of place in a Nismo-tuned offering), it also offers a high-quality point of contact with the vehicle.
While a top-of-the-range Tekna model includes an upgraded sound system and modern touchscreen infotainment screen, this second-tier Acenta Plus boasts comfortable, partial-leather upholstery on the front seats (they’re heated, too, and the driver’s chair is electrically adjustable) to complement the climate control and auto headlamps and wipers included throughout the new range.
With its overall dimensions unchanged, it’s worth remembering, especially when considering rear passenger leg-/headroom and luggage capacity, that the Qashqai is one of the more compact SUVs in this segment. Comfort levels for second-row occupants are adequate, although dedicated air vents would’ve been welcome for kids seated there.
Supplementing a range of four 1,2-litre turbopetrol-powered models in the revised Qashqai line-up is a choice of three 1,5-litre turbodiesel variants, each mated exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission. The engine offers a class-competitive 81 kW and 260 N.m of torque but the arrival of this healthy measure of twist at a relatively tall 1 750 r/min calls for concentration on pull-away in order to keep the drivetrain operating within its optimal performance range. Far from being a chore to drive, this particular engine/gearbox combination merely asks its driver to be slightly more involved in the process than one with either an automatic ‘box or perhaps a broader torque band. The reward here is a fuel-consumption figure that should regularly read below 6,0 L/100 km.
As striking as they look, the trade-off for this Acenta Plus model’s intricate 19-inch alloy wheels is a notable penalty in ride quality. While far from jarring, they do require all the skill of the Qashqai’s well-sorted suspension setup to keep things running smoothly. That said, this remains one of the best-handling midsize crossovers in the market today and the 17-inch rubber offered on the lower-spec Acenta model would take nothing away from this fact, while adding a welcome layer of compliance for everyday use.
Enhancing the peace of mind of the Qashqai package is strong braking performance, as well as the standard fitment of stability control, a full bouquet of airbags and a five-star EuroNCAP crash-safety rating.
It's easy to understand why the Qashqai continues to sell so well globally for Nissan. While other manufacturers toil to fill as many crossover-shaped niches as possible, you get the distinct sense — from the outset and through its 11-year evolution — the Qashqai has confidently ticked a lot of boxes for a lot of buyers thanks to a combination of neat and practical packaging, solid build quality and just the right amount of quirky charm.
Nissan's refreshed Qashqai range offers a spread of derivatives among its 1,5-litre turbo-diesel and the 1,2-litre turbopetrol engine options. While there's nothing wrong with the value proposition of this Acenta Plus oil-burner, if your budget doesn't stretch that far, have a look at the 1,2T Acenta. At R367 000, you'll get both generous spec and the impressively refined qualities of its turbopetrol engine.
*From the May 2018 issue of CAR magazine
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