Beetling down a dual carriageway at a good rate of knots behind the wheel of the new third generation Nissan Qashqai helped me put the new SUV neatly into perspective.
And here’s the rub. If, over a couple of decades, you’ve effectively transformed the car market by creating a whole new popular class of car – the compact family SUV – how do you improve on the ingredients you already have?
Evolution not revolution is clearly the Nissan strategy with the newest incarnation, which arrives at a critical time for the Japanese car company making the motor in post-Brexit Britain.
Should you consider Qashing in? Ray Massey was among the first in the country to get behind the wheel of the new third-generation Qashqai. Here are his first impressions
It certainly has a bold and appealing ‘face’ with those dramatic V-shaped vector lines.
Inside and out it’s sharper, bigger, roomier, with some important tweaks to the design, tech and general usability.
But it won’t scare the horses – and the horsepower won’t scare you either.
I was coasting along at a decent pace but it’s clear that Nissan has prioritiesed practicality and convenience over scintilating performance. But frankly, unless you’re a dyed-in-the wool petrolhead, who cares? This Qashqai’s not aimed at you anyway.
The new Qashqai is a smooth, practical and comfortable operator – but operating in a much tougher market now that rivals have copied, caught up and, in some cases, overtaken – with the likes of the Peugeot 3008, Hyundai Tuscon, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Renault Kadjar snapping at its heels.
On sale now with first deliveries to showrooms imminent, prices for the new Qashqai range from £23,535 for the entry level Visia trim up to £37,835 for the top of the range Tekna+ Xtronic automatic. However, a special launch Premier edition is priced from £29,270 and all but sold out will be the first delivered.
Japan’s Nissan has hailed the new Qashqai’s arrival as a huge vote of confidence in post-Brexit Britain and has invested £400million to produce it in Sunderland. Bosses said Nissan’s 35 years of car-building in Britain meant it had become part of the UK way of life and was proud to celebrate its ‘Britishness’.
With the light flooding in from the panoramic sun roof, which made for a ‘light and airy feel to the drive’, Ray Massey casts his verdict on the new model
Inside and out it’s sharper, bigger, roomier, with some important tweaks to the design, tech and general usability
Third-generation Nissan Qashqai: What’s it like out on the open road?
The new Qashqai is available both as a petrol-electric hybrid and mild-hybrid – but no diesel.
Initially, however, customers can choose only between a 1.3-litre four-cylinder mild-hybrid petrol version offered with two power outputs – 138hp and 156hp.
The full hybrid is expected to follow next year. The hybrid’s ‘e-POWER’ system uses a 1.5-litre 154 horsepower petrol engine to generate electricity – like an on-board mini power station – and can travel for up to just over a mile on electric power only. Motorists can chose to drive in ‘e-pedal’ mode – pressing down on the accelerator to proceed and taking their foot off the same pedal to slow down and brake.
I was driving the more powerful of the mild-hybrid variants, linked to a smooth six-speed manual transmission.
A new Xtronic continuously variable automatic gearbox is also an option but with the 156hp version only. The Xtronic models also offer intelligent all-wheel drive with five driving modes: Standard, ECO, Sport, Snow and Off-Road.
Riding on 20-inch wheels, I was driving the Qashqai 1.3-litre Tekna+, which is well stocked with kit and priced from £34,175.
As I positioned myself at the wheel, the first think I noticed was how much light flooded in from the panoramic sun roof, which made for a light and airy feel to the drive.
The Qashqai has been the UK’s most-bought SUV since it launched in 2006. It sparked the rise of the compact-SUV market
The new Qashqai is available both as a petrol-electric hybrid and mild-hybrid – but no diesel. Our first drive was in the former, with the higher of two power outputs
It’s got a decent amount of pace, accelerating from 0-to-62mph in 9.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 128mph.
But this is easy-listening music for pleasure territory for busy families, active singletons and lively empty-nesters, not head-banging rock.
Sitting in the drivers’ seat does feel both comfortable and spacious. The extra body room is certainly noticeable. There’s also a decent bit of space between yourself and your passenger – handy in these covid-compliant social distancing times.
I also like the fact that although there’s a fair sized touchscreen, Nissan isn’t frightened to put in real twiddly buttons for key things like turning up the volume on the infotainment system or adjusting the temperature control on the air conditioning.
At the same time, if you have an Apple iPhone you can take advantage of wireless Apple Car Play connection – as well as wireless induction charging. Android Auto phones still need to connect.
Access is also made much easier with rear doors opening wide by 85 degrees – almost at right angles – to make it much easier for passengers to get in, or for parents to fit child seats without too much struggle.
Even with the rear seats in place, the boot can swallow a lot of sports kit. And sub dividing it up with flexible ‘luggage-boards’ is great if you need to keep smaller shopping bags in place.
Push the rear seats down and the available load-lugging space expands to 1,379 litres – enough for those trips to IKEA for the DIY furniture.
Coasting along at a decent pace, it’s clear that Nissan has prioritised practicality and convenience over scintilating performance
Fuel economy is good for the family budget averaging 43.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 146g/km
Steering is precise with good feel and feedback and it’s pretty nimble around town. I didn’t feel at all ‘boaty’ on cornering, though is clearly not as sharp as a sports car.
And I did a fair bit of close-quarter manoeuvring, and it was all in order.
The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth – to the extent you really don’t have to think about it too much. It’s sufficiently intuitive.
It’s long-legged on dual carriageways and three-lane motorways and didn’t show any signs of lacking pace.
I sat in the back and felt very at ease and not squashed. And it is comfortable. As well as increasing shoulder-room – the bit people really notice when it comes to space – up front, leg room has also been improved. Even I could spread out a little more than usual.
In terms of what it will do to you finances, fuel economy is good for the family budget averaging 43.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 146g/km.
I hear residual values are decent too – keeping over 50 per cent of value over three years, and there are some eye-catching finance deals to be done – but as ever, read the fine print. For those acquiring their vehicles through finance, this should translate to relatively low monthly outgoings.
And if you want to sit back and forget about your bank account being depleted by a new-car purchase, the front seats have massaging functions to knead those niggling knots out of your back.
Other premium kit on the Qashqai includes a powered hands-free tailgate, 11 body colours and five two-tone combinations, creating 16 variations for customers to choose.
In terms of a box-ticking exercise, this latest Qashqai delivers everything you’d need from a high-riding family hatchback. Making it more spacious, selling only ‘green’ powertrains and manufacturing it here in Britain should keep it at the top of the sales charts in the UK.
The third-generation Qashqai is packed with technology, including a head-up display and high-definition instrument cluster and large infotainment screen
Nissan has made changes to increase shoulder-room – the bit people really notice when it comes to space. Rear leg-room has also been extended for the comfort of back-seat passengers
The boot door has the option of power opening and a flexible floor. The maximum loading capacity with the back seats in the fixed position is 504 litres – though this will expand significantly with the backrests laid flat
The car we tested has a decent amount of pace, accelerating from 0-to-62mph in 9.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 128mph.
Qashqai production has just started in Sunderland – the perfect post-Brexit boost
Will it fit in my garage? New Nissan Qashqai
Model tested: Nissan Qashqai 1.3 litre Tekna+
Tested car price: £34,175
Range price: from £23,535
Kerb weight: 1422kg to 1466kg
Engine: 1.3 litre 156hp four-cylinder mild-hybrid petrol (other option is 138hp)
0-62mph: 9.5 secs
Top speed: 128 mph
Boot volume: 504-litres (+74 litres on previous generation)
Fuel economy: 43.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 146g/km
Production of Nissan’s new third generation Qashqai family crossover is now underway at the Sunderland plant ahead of their imminent arrival in showrooms and on UK roads.
Nissan says it is targeting ‘downsizers’ by offering business class comfort and tech at economy class prices – with up to a quarter of sales (25 per cent) expected to come from drivers switching from bigger cars into the more compact Qashqai.
The new Qashqai was conceived at Nissan’s European design centre in Paddington, West London, and engineered at its European technical centre at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, before being manufactured in the North East of England.
So far nearly 4 million Qashqais have been built at the North East factory since the first generation of the popular model – which Nissan claims created the flexible family ‘crossover’ segment – was launched 14 years ago at the beginning of 2007, with the second generation version following in 2014.
The compact SUV has equated for one in five new cars made in the UK in the 14 years since its launch, making it the highest-volume car made in Britain.
With around seven out of ten exported to mainland Europe, wags have dubbed it the Nissan ‘cash-cow’.
Nissan in its UK facilities, support more than 7,000 jobs in Paddington, Maple Cross, Cranfield, Lutterworth and Sunderland, as well as a further 24,000 with UK suppliers and about 5,000 in UK dealerships.
To celebrate the new generation model, Nissan is offering every schoolchild in North East England the opportunity to take part in a Nissan Skills Foundation event – the company’s programme of activities designed to excite youngsters about careers in manufacturing and engineering.
School children were invited to take a closer look at the new Qashqai this week to mark the beginning of assembly of the new model
The event was part of Nissan’s Skills Foundation – the company’s programme of activities designed to excite youngsters about careers in manufacturing and engineering
The Qashqai has been described as the automotive vote of confidence in Britain and the North East workforce making it
Speaking about the imminent arrival of the eagerly-anticipated third-generation SUV, Alan Johnson, Nissan vice president for manufacturing in the UK, said: ‘More than 3.5 million customers have chosen a Qashqai made in Sunderland since it went on sale in 2007, and the third generation model delivers the new levels of technology, design and performance that people have come to expect from the original crossover.’
Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which also builds the quirky Juke crossover and the all-electric Leaf, is also the largest car factory in UK history, with one in three of all cars made in Britain rolling off its production lines.
Andrew Humberstone, managing director of Nissan Motor (GB) said that in the wake of Brexit: ‘The Qashqai represents a great vote of confidence in Britain and in the British workforce here.
‘People want to buy British. And in terms of Britishness, the new Qashqai resonates. It was designed in London, engineered in Cranfield and built in Sunderland. It has credibility.’
Mr Humberstone said he had always been ‘quietly confident’ that a Brexit deal would be struck and is pleased that the ‘clarity’ means Nissan can now forge ahead in the UK: ‘I’m very optimistic about what’s ahead of us,’ he said.
‘We’re here for the future,’ he added.
Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which also builds the quirky Juke crossover and the all-electric LEAF, is also the largest car factory in UK history
Around one in three of all cars made in Britain are produced at the Sunderland car factory – and it’s the Qashqai that’s the biggest product
Nissan Motor (GB) director, Andrew Humberstone. said he had always been ‘quietly confident’ that a Brexit deal would be struck and is pleased that the ‘clarity’ means Nissan can now forge ahead in the UK
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