Nissan Qashqai 1.3 petrol (2021) review
Nissan has launched the third generation of its Qashqai, but is it as still a pioneer?
Mark Smyth
Mark Smyth

Published on June 18, 2021

Nissan first introduced the Qashqai in 2007. While the idea of a crossover vehicle was not actually new, the Japanese marque tried to claim it was the pioneer of the segment and went on to sell over five million of the things worldwide. It has been so popular that many even refer to it as the "Qashcow," although probably not Nissan executives. Not officially anyway. Now it has introduced the third generation on a new platform with new tech for a new era and it's already on sale in Ireland in time for the July registration plate change.

In the metal

If you are going to introduce a whole new model, then why not give it a whole new platform. That's exactly what Nissan has done by putting the new Qashqai on the Renault-Nissan Alliance platform called CMF-C. Most people probably don't need to know this, but what you really need to know is that it's 35mm longer, 32mm wider and 10mm higher, which translates into even more space inside than before. You feel it as soon as you get in too, plus it has a more premium feel than many Qashqai owners will be used to.

There are some touches that come straight from the book of Japanese quality in design, such as the wood trim inserts and feel of many of the materials. You can even have quilted Nappa leather upholstery to complete the poshness. The interior design all feels harmonious, as though penned by those who wanted to feel proud of their work rather than having someone from finance leaning over their shoulder. That's not to say there aren't a few signs of compromise though, such as the slimmest of padding in the soft-touch materials on the dashboard.

Nonetheless, in the goal for more practicality, the rear passenger doors now open almost 90 degrees, and there's more versatility in the load space in the boot. Practicality also means the connectivity that keeps the kids quiet, and the Qashqai can be equipped with plenty, from rear USB ports to Google Assistant and Alexa. Alternatively they can relax and enjoy the view out of the panoramic roof, but we know that's not going to happen.

The exterior design has also gone a bit upmarket, at least that's what Nissan would like you to think. The Qashqai name is embossed into the front bumpers and it gets diamond-cut alloy wheels for the first time.

Driving it

The driving position is excellent with great visibility, even between the A-pillar and the door mirrors, often a bit of a blind spot. It's easy to keep your eyes on the road too with the largest head-up display in the segment at 10.8 inches. You can have plenty of useful info in the digital instrument cluster as well, although it only has two design themes, which is a bit disappointing these days. Then there's a decent infotainment system and Nissan has shown welcome restraint and avoided putting too much in the touchscreen, choosing instead to have buttons for essential stuff. It all feels like a massive improvement over the previous version.

It's lighter, too, with the switch to a new platform as well as the use of lighter materials meaning the new Qashqai sheds around 60kg compared to its predecessor. However, here's a thing, the top-of the line version with the new Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission feels much better on the road, thanks in part to having a multi-link rear suspension, but also because it weighs 82kg more than the manual. Yes, we really are saying the auto is the better choice - my how times have changed. Plus the CVT is not dreadful; in fact it's rather pleasant and while using the paddles to change gear is a bit pointless, the paddles themselves are made of metal - again, posh.

The Qashqai is also now electrified, although it's really a bit of a stretch to describe it as such. It has a 12-volt mild-hybrid system that can generate an extra 6Nm of torque, but is really just for powering ancillaries. You'll have to wait until 2022 for the Qashqai to get the new e-Power hybrid system that will provide electric power to the wheels generated by a petrol engine.

The 1.3-litre petrol engine does feel as though it lacks sufficient power at times, something that is more noticeable in the manual of course as you have to put the effort in to change gear when overtaking or going up a hill. However, it's not going to be an issue for most daily driving tasks.

Both the petrol and the manual models are comfortable with noticeable improvements in terms of ride comfort and noise reduction. It's not quite Volkswagen Tiguan serenity, but the Qashqai doesn't cost the same as its German rival either.

What you get for your money

Most versions of the new Qashqai are quite well equipped, from the digital dash to the dual floor boot. There are plenty of USB and USB-C ports for plugging stuff in, a wireless charging pad in the centre console and loads of cup holders and storage places. Then there's the tech stuff, like the ability to use Alexa or Google Assistant on some models, the ProPilot driver assistance systems and that crystal clear head-up display.


Nissan says its new Qashqai is a "super revolution," offering enhanced design, quality and driving dynamics. Normally we ignore these claims as just marketing speak, but what do you know, they're true, and definitely more convincing than any talk of electrification. It's a far more premium package than before and while it is not going to beat the Tiguan in terms pf dynamics, the RAV4 for efficiency or the Tucson for design, the new Qashqai scores well in every aspect and sometimes that can prove to be the winning combination.


Tech Specs

Model testedNissan Qashqai 1.3 SV Premium
Irish pricingQashqai from €30,500; €37,395 as tested
Engine1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol with mild-hybrid assistance
Transmissionsix-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat compact SUV
CO2 emissions143g/km
Irish motor tax€270 per year
Combined economy44.8mpg (6.3 litres/100km)
Top speed206km/h
0-100km/h 9.5 seconds
Power156hp at 5,500rpm
Torque260Nm at 1,800-4,000rpm
Boot space504-1,593 litres
Rivals to the Qashqai 1.3 petrol (2021)