Nissan family favourite revamped

Nissan Qashqai II: You can tell the new model is now more closely-linked to its X-Trail sibling.
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Nissan Qashqai II: You can tell the new model is now more closely-linked to its X-Trail sibling.
Classy Inside: Material choices and assembly quality are excellent.
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Classy Inside: Material choices and assembly quality are excellent.
Sharp look: From this angle it could be mistaken for an X-trail.
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Sharp look: From this angle it could be mistaken for an X-trail.
No seven-seater: But loads of luggage space and good load security.
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No seven-seater: But loads of luggage space and good load security.

Qashqai is the name of an Iranian Nomadic tribe and the monicker also used for one of New Zealand's most popular family cars in recent years, with 4600 sold so far, not counting the Dualis-badged used Japanese imports that also came here.

The original Nissan Qashqai was something of a groundbreaking car in New Zealand by supplying all the things Kiwi SUV owners really wanted and leaving behind the complications they didn't. Thus it came here with room and a view, but no all-wheel-drive, decent space for five and later seven and a single 2.0-litre petrol CVT drivetrain.

Great seats added to its appeal and with car-like driving characteristics and attractive styling, it sold well in every market it entered.

For version two, Nissan has linked the Qashqai a little more closely to its swoopy series three X-trail, charging the revamped SUV with taking care of all-wheel-drive duties and occasional seven-seater requirements, while the Qashqai fulfils the needs of slightly less intrepid owners. The Qashqai two adopts Nissan's new corporate crossover style, already adopted by the Pathfinder and X-trail and sticks with five-seats only, while adding a new 1.6-litre turbo diesel courtesy of partners Renault - again with a CVT transmission - and being slightly longer and wider than before, it gains interior space and a larger load area with a new "Divide n Hide" stowage set-up on all models above base spec.

While the British-built Qashqai also offers petrol engines of 1.2 and 1.6 litres in Europe, Kiwi models stick with the two-litre 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre unit in ST, ST-L and Ti grades, with a combined fuel use rating of 6.9L/100km. The turbodiesel used in the Qashqai's new TS model is a 96kW/320Nm 1.6-litre four capable of 4.9L/100km.

Underneath the sleek all-new Qashqai body is a new Renault-Nissan developed modular platform known as the CMF-C/D, which is also used by the new X-trail. The CMF-C/D platform is one of the most adaptable systems in the automotive business, giving designers and engineers at both Nissan and Renault, not to mention Infiniti - Nissan's luxury brand - the opportunity to better tailor product to customer needs and taking advantage of production amortisation and other efficiencies inherent in modular construction design.

In New Zealand, the Qashqai, which starts at $35,990 and tops out at $43,990, is designed to compete with Kia Sportage, Hyundai iX35, the Skoda Yeti and the lower-specced versions of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV four. But lower spec doesn't really come into it with the new Qashqai, which loads up even its base ST model, which fronts up with: sharp 17 inch alloy wheels, daytime LED running lights, cruise control, air-conditioning, a 13-centimetre display screen with rear-view camera and a sound system with full MP3 and USB compatibility, as well as CD and AM/FM, along with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. You also get the luxury of a leather-clad steering wheel rim and transmission lever.

On the safety front, the base, or ST Qashqai, also has front, side and curtain airbags, an electronic parking brake, and a slew of electronic driver safety aids, like VDC, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, and Hill Start Assist.

Plump up with an additional $39,990, and the ST-L version of the new Qashqai adds: 19-inch rims, better cloth trim than the ST's, folding mirrors, push-button start, automatic headlights and wipers, climate control, an extra two speakers, bringing the total to six and a rear centre armrest and console and lumbar support adjustment for the driver.

The top-spec Qashqai is the Ti model which costs $43,990 and comes standard with leather trim, a 19cm info screen with satnav, heated mirrors and LED headlamps.

But it's the safety and driver support package that really impresses in the Ti, with an around-view monitor, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, moving object detection when reversing, driver attention support and front and rear parking sensors. On top of that, the Ti also has and glass and shade power sunroof and an intelligent park assist that can parallel or bay park your car for you.

For $42,990, the Qashqai's all-new single diesel model - the TS - can be ordered. Nissan New Zealand expects no more than 15 to 16 per cent take-up of this model, which has its own specification level, which can be described as a ST-L with a diesel engine and idle start/stop, which conspires with the 1.6-litre unit's inherent frugality to create the model's sub 5-litres per 100km economy level.

On the road, the new Qashqai is even more quiet and refined than the original car, with performance enhanced by a broader spread of "ratio steps" in the CVT. The result of this a longer-legged cruise for the model (1850rpm at 100kmh) and a lower step-off ratio, allowing brisker starts from rest.

Crisp, well organised handling is a feature and while we didn't sample the entry-point petrol car on 17-inch rims, the larger 19-inch diameter rims on the TS and Ti we did try coped well with coarse and broken surfaces.

The new 1.6-litre turbodiesel drivetrain was big surprise with its broad, accessible torque curve suiting the car's demeanour perfectly: the car is always an unhurried and relaxed drive, and the turbodiesel power unit is even less hurried than the petrol one, out-torquing it by a massive 100Nm (which shows) and only giving away 10kW.

The one area where I personally was concerned was the car's front seating. The first Qashqais had two of the best front seats in the business and it's good to note that the only changes to their design is extra side bolstering to suit the new wider- tracked car's increased cornering power.

Negatives? Well we had one car with an inordinately buzzy idle. It was a diesel version, but another one on the drive fleet didn't show this tendency according to its driver, so we can hope that it was a rogue car rather than the norm.

The Qashqai range is strong from end-to-end, no one will feel short-changed by the base ST car or its slightly posher ST-L partner, both below the $40,000 market tipping-point, as they offer great value.

The hardest decision for many to make will be whether to go for the loaded-to-the- gunwales Ti, or to opt for the best powertrain offered in the new Qashqai lineup, the TS diesel, for it's a pity you cannot get the Ti trim with the diesel engine.

That would be the perfect Qashqai. The reality is that the rest of the range is merely terrific!

AT A GLANCE

Drivetrain: Transverse-mounted front drive naturally-aspirated petrol and turbodiesel 16-valve DOHC fours, with seven-step CVT.

Outputs:
Petrol -
1997cc, 106kW at 6000rpm, 220Nm at 4400rpm, 6.9L/100km, 159g/km CO2.
Diesel - 1598cc, 96kW at 4000rpm, 320Nm at 1750rpm, 4.9L/100km, 129g/km CO2.

Chassis: Front McPherson strut, rear multi-link suspension; electri c power steering; 17 and 19-inch alloy wheel choices.

Safety: Front, side and curtain airbags. Rear-view camera, around-view monitor on some models. ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution Brake Assist, Active Trace Control.

Connectivity: Bluetooth- streaming audio, Satnav and Traffic Monitoring on Ti.

Dimensions: L 4377mm, W 1806mm, H 1595mm, W/base 2646mm, F/track 1560mm, R/track 1560mm; Weight 1408 to 1605kg; Fuel 65L.

Pricing:
Qashqai: ST 2.0L $35,990, ST-L 2.0L $39,990, Ti 2.0L $43,990, TS 1.6L diesel $42,990.

Hot: Crisp styling; flexible, frugal diesel engine; massive safety specification, particularly on Ti; good equipment list; great family package.

Not: Potential punters could turn to the seven-seat X-Trail, which is no problem.

Verdict: Stunningly effective family car with modern look and complete comfort, connectivity and safety specification is a compelling buy and the diesel is brilliant.

The Press