As the newest member of the team, I recently had the opportunity to sample Nissan’s star sales performer for a few days, to find out why more than 250 units are leaving showroom floors with each passing month.
Whereas the previous Qashqai broke new grounds by ushering in the crossover concept, the second generation took a major step forward in the styling department. Although the choice of colour left me somewhat cold; the aptly named Night Shade option resonates much better, the Qashqai is a handsome and stylish looking thing with its sweeping lines, pronounced V-shape grille, smart 17-inch alloy wheels and menacing looking headlights.
It is much the same story inside with a neat dashboard incorporating piano key black inserts on the facia, and soft touch plastics. The cloth seats also proved comfortable and supportive, while my 1.84-metre frame managed to fit in the back with enough head and knee room when seated “behind myself”.
Our tester also features Nissan’s optional Techno Pack that adds around view camera system, seven-inch touchscreen display with satellite navigation, NissanConnect smartphone app integration, and heated door mirrors.
Very much a worthwhile option to select, the list of standard kit is also impressive with items such as cruise control, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and USB, electric windows all around, LED daytime running lights, auto lock / unlock doors, rain sense wipers, six airbags, ABS with EBS and BAS, VDC and Hill Start Assist.
There is one area where things became a little less rosy though. Simply put, although Nissan must be commended for embracing the downsizing trend, the Qashqai’s 1.2-litre turbo engine is weighed down by too much lag even here on the Highveld.
Although the 85 kW and 190 Nm of torque it puts out is amicable, the little four pot, on pull away, only gets going when passing 2 000 rpm at which point is almost time to change up (if you’re after meaningful fuel returns that is). Keep it above this though, the engine pulls well and makes hauling the 1.4-ton Qashqai along easy.
Similarly, the six-speed manual gearbox offers a slick and precise shifting action, but the unnecessarily high clutch bite point requires careful modulating to prevent stalling.
Speaking of moving, the Qashqai’s soft ride and high stance made light work of the numerous badly patched road surfaces around Johannesburg, while body roll is kept to a minimum thanks to Nissan’s Chassis Control system. Some careful driving meanwhile has seen the average fuel consumption improve from 8.2 litres/100 km to 7.8 litres/100 km.
My short stint behind the wheel of the Nissan Qashqai threw me into a bit of a quandary as the fundamentally excellent package that is the 1.2T Acenta, is let down by a somewhat disappointing drivetrain that on paper appears to have all the boxes ticked. If you can ignore this though, the Qashqai makes for a solid choice in a market where price ultimately has the final say.