7

10

Model

Qashqai

Price

$32,480

The Numbers

Qashqai Ti - 2.0-litre, 4cyl petrol, 106kW, 200Nm, 6sp manual, 0-100km/h n/a, 7.7L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

A distinct improvement on the out-going Dualis. Impressive fit and finish (it’s built in the UK), with loads of standard kit, and above average dynamics. With more shove-in-the-back it would jump up to an eight.

2014 Nissan Qashqai

So, what is it?

The Nissan formally known as Dualis (with apologies to readers of the Jeep Cherokee First Drive in our July issue which claimed Qashqai was an X-Trail replacement. Doh!).

Named after the nomadic Qashqai people of the Middle East (pronounced cash-kye), the latest generation of Nissan’s compact soft-roader, is offered in four spec levels across two engine and transmission options.

And after perusing its recent Dualis sales data, Nissan his bitten the bullet, offering Qashqai as a front-wheel drive (FWD), five seater only (just five per cent of Dualis sales were AWD in 2013). Those after all-wheel drive and seven seats, will now be encouraged to step up to X-Trail.

The line-up starts with the ST, powered by the106kW/200Nm naturally aspirated, direct-injection 2.0-litre, petrol four, mated to a six-speed manual ‘box, with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) optional. The Ti runs the same drivetrain, but boasts a more premium fit-out.

On the diesel side of the equation, the TS is powered by a Renault-sourced, single-turbo 1.6-litre four, producing 96kW/320Nm, available with CVT only. Then the up-spec TL runs the same drivetrain.

Why should I care?

With over 50,000 sold since its local launch in 2008, the Dualis has been the closest competitor to Hyundai’s class-leading ix35 in the ferociously competitive small SUV segment. With close to 20 models ready to rip each other’s throats out for a fraction of market share, Nissan is determined to convert this bridesmaid into marriage material on the back of its Qashqai transformation.

What's new about it?

Qashqai sits on the new Renault-Nissan Common Modular Family (CMF) platform, which also underpins the X-Trail and Renault’s upcoming Espace, Scénic and Laguna replacements.

It brings with it a strut front and multi-link rear suspension set-up, incorporating active ride control, as well as switchable electric steering, and a host of advanced driver assistance systems.

The new car is longer (+47mm), lower, and fractionally wider than its predecessor, and in the premium Ti/TL variants, its tricky electronic architecture enables features like the ‘Around View’ parking monitor, ‘Moving Object Detection’, ‘Intelligent Park Assist’, ‘Driver Attention Support’, ‘Blind Spot Warning’ and ‘Hill Start Assist.’

That's all fine. What's it like to drive fast?

Thanks to dual piston shock absorbers, ‘Active Trace Control’ (which other makers might call torque vectoring by braking), and ‘Active Ride Control’ which also uses the brakes and manages engine torque to smooth out bumps, the Qashqai is a satisfying, rather than exhilarating car to punt quickly.

The ST manual only shifts the scales to 1,372kg, but 106kW isn’t a lot or power, and 200Nm doesn’t set the world on fire either. However, once up and running, the steering (switchable from normal to sport) delivers good feel without any serious feedback penalty over second rate surfaces.

The diesel’s extra low-down grunt delivers a more substantial shove in the back, although the ‘Xtronic’ CVT, new and high-tech as it might be, still suffers from the droneiness common to this kind of transmission. But body control is excellent and grip is well above average for the class.

And driving from home to the office in the city?

Comfortable, quiet, and relaxed, with masses of storage space inside the cabin. Cargo space is up 20 litres to 430 litres, and upper-spec models feature a nifty, reversible, two-piece floor system which allows the boot to be segmented in multiple configurations.

Is there anything bad about it?

More power (in petrol and diesel variants) and a conventional auto would be most welcome.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?

As you might expect in such a cut-throat segment, pricing is competitive.

Entry point is $25,850 for the petrol ST (CVT +$2,640), the more premium Ti stepping up to $32,480. The diesel TS weighs in at $33,200, then the TL more or less mirrors the TI’s spec at $37,990.

The standard equipment list includes a five inch colour infotainment screen, rear-view camera, 17 inch alloys (plus space-saver spare), multi-connectable four-speaker audio, cruise control, air-con, six airbags, and LED daytime running lights.

The Ti/TL twins also pick up 19 inch alloy rims, seven inch colour screen, sat-nav, six-speaker audio, dual-zone climate control air, keyless remote entry, ‘leather accented’ seat trim, electircxally-adjustable driver’s seat, all the assist tech, rain-sensing wipers, and LED headlights with auto level.

Would you take the Qashqai or Hyundai ix35i?

Tough one. The Nissan’s lower entry price is significant, but we’ll have to sit on the fence until we drive them back-to-back.

Reviewed by: James Cleary, TopGear Australia road test editor

Driven: July 18, 2014