Overall rating: 5/5
Back in 2007 the Qashqai sparked off the creation of a whole new market segment, that of the crossover, which in a relatively short space of time has become one of the most important and now Nissan is set to raise the game again with its all-new Qashqai.
In the metal 5/5
Given the fairy-tale success that Nissan has enjoyed with the original Qashqai many could forgive its designers for not wanting to stray too far from what was clearly a winning formula. Yet the all-new model demonstrates their careful consideration in creating this next chapter. When viewed next to a first, pre-facelift generation Qashqai, the new model appears sleek and adopts a far more athletic stance. Every body panel appears to be stretched taut over the new crossover's underpinnings with the rear-quarter view showing the most noticeable changes. Dimensionally the new model is longer and wider, but also slightly lower.
Face-on the Nissan has styling cues that reflect the latest version of the Japanese firm's design language. The sleeker headlight units are a big step forward from the plainer units of old, while the bold, confident grille design is carried back across the sculpted bonnet. Both the front and rear bumpers have also been slightly bulked up to further enhance its 'SUV-ness'.
One of the first things that any existing Qashqai owners will notice is the increase in interior space. There is some clever packaging at work resulting in an improvement in headroom to the tune of 10mm. That's thanks to some repositioning of the front seats - even though the new model is lower - while storage capacity between the seats has grown due to the introduction of an electronic handbrake, and there's now a USB socket and a useful tray on which to leave your phone as it charges. The quality of materials used on the inside is better than before while there are noticeable improvements in fit and finish. The panoramic glass roof is a nice feature, though it is limited to the highest SVE trim level. At the rear the boot gains a clever storage partition device, first seen in the new Nissan Note, which enables the boot floor to be split up, meaning that the weekly grocery shopping remains in place on the trip home.
Driving it 4/5
Potential buyers could be understandably confused as to why Nissan is offering 1.5- and 1.6-litre diesel engines. The former, which Nissan expects to be its more popular seller, is a familiar unit, although a relatively thorough work-over sees its efficiency improve and emissions drop to 99g/km, making it an appealing choice to motorists who are keen to minimise road tax bills. With 110hp it doesn't feel sluggish by any means and from inside there is less din than before thanks to improvements in noise insulation. Power delivery is smooth and is well suited to the six-speed manual gearbox that is well geared for both town and motorway driving.
One factor that has helped define a successful crossover model is just how car-like it is to drive. The previous Qashqai rode well on the road, although had been criticised for lacking feel in the steering department. With the new model both of these areas have been addressed and improved upon. Nissan's engineers have worked hard in an effort to reduce body roll and their work has paid off. In town driving, particularly over speed bumps, it feels less SUV and more car. Of course, tip into a bend at higher speed and there will be a degree of body roll, but on the whole the new Qashqai does hold the road very well. One aiding factor in this is a new system called Active Ride Control, which can apply a minute amount of braking in order to reduce pitch thus further reducing unwanted body movements.
Safety-conscious drivers will like the optional Safety Shield system that combines a number of devices in order to make the daily commute that bit safer. A camera system monitors the road ahead and can apply the brakes autonomously should it detect a potential collision at lower speeds - handy for stop-start traffic conditions. This, along with other features such as a lane departure warning system, can be configured via the multifunction steering wheel and five-inch TFT colour screen located between the rev counter and speedometer. Generous door mirrors and an adequate rear view make parking an easy enough task and is helped further by the option of an overhead view parking camera system.
What you get for your money 4/5
Overall the improvements in the new Qashqai are significant but Nissan hasn't added this at a premium. The mid-level SV trim in 1.5-litre diesel guise, expected to be the most popular choice, comes in at a quite reasonable €27,695 and features equipment that includes Bluetooth, dual-zone air conditioning and 17-inch alloy wheels. Given the level of improvements both dynamically and practically this will make it a difficult choice for buyers to ignore.
As with the four-wheel drive option Nissan will only offer an automatic gearbox option in conjunction with the larger 1.6-litre diesel engine, and this will come in the form of a new CVT (continuously variable transmission). Meanwhile, those who need more than the five seats on offer in the Qashqai won't be able to opt for the +2 option as per the previous model. The all-new X-Trail model will offer five- and seven-seat options, meaning the Qashqai will remain just a five seater.
Nissan has done a very good job in creating its new Qashqai, and when you consider just how much more competition it now has, it was no easy feat. Existing buyers will find the changes significant enough while those looking at it for the first time will find it hard not to be impressed.