- Car Reviews
Slots into daily life. Tech-heavy but not baffling. Refined, safe
A little dull to drive. Stiffish ride. Has been overtaken in some areas
What is it?
This is the third generation of the seminal crossover – the Qashqai basically invented the idea of a tall family hatchback back in 2007 (as opposed to a lowered SUV). Its proposition was more room and image than a hatchback, for little sacrifice in economy and dynamics. But no one knew if it would succeed, least of all Nissan.
History shows the idea simply caught fire. Rivals sprouted. Nowadays about half of cars sold this size are crossovers. And despite all the competition the Nissan is still the bestseller among them.
Even if you think the Qashqai is a bit of a boring car, it's an amazing social phenomenon. Hugely influential. Responsible for thousands of jobs in the UK – where it's designed, engineered and built. And it has accounted for one in five of all the cars made in this country since 2007.
So what is the third-gen Qashqai like?
Nissan upgraded pretty much everything bar the base petrol engine, but was careful not to upset a winning formula. So the third-gen Qashqai is slightly bigger, sharper to look at but still recognisable. It’s also more sophisticated in its electronics and driver assist, but still straightforward and intuitive to operate.
Nissan also knows who is driving its Qashqais, but the car has been obsessively developed to slot into urban family life. It's not too bulky and has comprehensive parking assist. The boot is big, versatile, wipe-clean and buggy friendly. The back doors open uncommonly wide for wrestling toddlers into child seats, too. These things help…
What are the engine options?
Diesel engines are now history, but for people who would have gone for the slightly more economical option there’s now a hybrid version of the Qashqai, the e-Power, which uses slick technology to try and save on petrol. There’s a 190bhp 1.3-litre 3cyl engine exclusively generating electricity that gets sent to the 188bhp e-motor or the battery.
The petrol range is covered by a 1.3-litre 4cyl motor that comes in 138bhp and 156bhp flavours. The lower powered motor as manual FWD, the higher with manual or a new CVT auto. That auto can take FWD or 4WD.
The newly developed platform for the MkIII Qashqai has a slightly longer wheelbase than before and a bit more room in the cabin, plus space for those hybrid batteries. But the body is 60kg lighter: bonnet, doors and front wings are aluminium and the tailgate is plastic.
How does it drive?
The little engine is just about plucky enough in 156bhp form. The 0-62 is 9.5 seconds. Low down, the mild-hybrid kick masks the lag. Higher up it'll joust in the motorway overtaking lane provided you hold your nerve. The hybrid e-Power car offers a much spicier 7.9secs run to 62mph, but you’ll want to hold back to save on fuel, probably.
The CVT option for the IC engine is designed to feel oozy at town speeds but more like an auto when you push hard on the open road, and it pretty much does.
The suspension is taut, the ride busy but not harsh. There's some lateral shuffling over uneven roads, too. Maybe it settles when you've loaded it with kids, pets and all that goes with.
Anyway, the FWD version doesn't feel embarrassed in corners, resisting roll and squeal well enough. Not that it actually vouchsafes its driver much recreation. But for a crossover, it's more than OK.
Best bit is the solidity. The suspension doesn't shudder, the body doesn't quiver, the seats and steering wheel are mounted together with wobble-free integrity. Road noise is low on most surfaces. All of which gives it a premium quality that even some of the 'premium' crossovers can't actually match.
What tech does the Qashqai come with?
Nissan always loads its cars up with driver assist, and provided you have the auto box the Qashqai brings the next stage of Nissan’s ProPilot set-up. As before it's an active cruise and lanekeeping system. New this time is a link to the navigation, so it'll slow you up on approach to roundabouts and bends. It's easy to use, with a self-explanatory interface. But it's good at giving you a nudge if you rely on it too much.
A big head-up display, matrix headlamps and wireless CarPlay/Android all help boost the tech count in higher-spec cars.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Into its third generation the Qashqai remains, like even its best rivals, a car for owners rather than drivers. If you want fun, spend the same money on a hatch or estate.
Meanwhile, rivals have marshalled their forces to chip away at it: the Peugeot 3008 on cabin quality, Skoda Kamiq on practicality, Citroen C5 on family friendly seats, the Mini Countryman on driver appeal.
The Qashqai is the establishment and no longer a clear leader. But it's also hard to argue against. More than ever this new generation is conceived with thoroughness, and executed with laser focus. Besides, a vast number of existing Qashqai owners are ready for a trade in. It doesn't let them down.