Good points: attractive looking, spacious cabin, good quality, resale value.
Not so good: 1.5-litre diesel engine lacks performance.
The Nissan Qashqai is the only vehicle of its type (i.e. a crossover/SUV) to consistently reach the podium of new car sales here in Ireland. That's quite an achievement seven years after it was first introduced, arguably the genesis of the compact crossover. Competition is tougher than ever (as you'll read in our twin test of the new model with the latest Hyundai ix35), but Nissan isn't resting on its laurels. Here's the second generation version, and it's better than ever.
In terms of appearance, we accepted the original Qashqai rather than admired it. The facelifted car was more attractive for sure, and on larger wheels in the right colour it could look pretty good, but we'd stop short of using the word 'stylish'. That's not the case with the new car. Even the most basic versions are good-looking, and the top-spec variants (like our SVE test car pictured here) are seriously eye-catching.
That'll appeal to image-conscious buyers of course, but Nissan hasn't abandoned the Qashqai's original concept in the pursuit of good looks, and current owners will be happy to find that the new car retains the raised seating position. This makes it easier to both see the road ahead and get into the vehicle in the first place. The cabin is more spacious than before with generous headroom in particular. Somewhat surprisingly, the boot isn't as big as you might expect looking at the car. At 439 litres it's larger than the Volkswagen Golf's, but smaller than the rivals mentioned at the bottom of this article.
Nissan offers Irish buyers a lot of choice now. The entry-level model is powered by a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine, which may not be fastest in the world, but it comes with low running costs and is considerably cheaper to buy than the 1.5-litre dCi diesel. We'd urge buyers that rarely cruise on the motorway to consider the cheaper petrol model, especially if most of their mileage is in an urban setting. In town, the high gearing of the six-speed manual gearbox fitted to the diesel engine is all too obvious, making the Qashqai feel lacklustre in the performance department. It's absolutely fine out on the open road and on the motorway, though we'd stump up the extra for the 130hp 1.6-litre dCi engine if budget allowed. Nonetheless, the 1.5-litre engine is commendably quiet for a small diesel, which fits in with the overall sense of quality and refinement.
That's backed up by stable, mature driving manners. This Qashqai is better to drive than its predecessor, but it's still very much a functional experience. Nothing wrong with that of course, and it's a safe set-up that also remains comfortable. The same could be said for the car as a whole, and we don't mean to damn it with faint praise: it deserves its place in the sales charts more than ever.