Slots into daily life. Tech-heavy but not baffling. Refined, safe
A little dull to drive. Stiffish ride. Only one engine at launch
What is it?
Well, the Qashqai isn't so much a crossover as the crossover. Nissan can fairly claim its 2007 original invented the idea of a tall hatch – as opposed to a lowered SUV. Its proposition: 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 best seller 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's new?
Pretty much everything bar the engine. But they've been careful not to upset a winning formula. So it's bigger, but only slightly. Sharper to look at, but still recognisable. More sophisticated in its electronics and driver assist, but still straightforward and intuitive to operate.
Because Qashqais are everywhere, you can see who uses them. Families. So it's 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.
Diesel engines are history. At launch all the grunt-work is done by a 1.3 petrol, now with mild-hybrid assistance. It comes in 138 and 156bhp, the lower as manual FWD, the higher with manual or a new CVT auto. That auto can take FWD or 4WD.
Next year, for lovers of torque and economy, the effective diesel replacement comes along. It's a series hybrid. Petrol engine drives generator. Generator charges hybrid battery. Electric motor drives wheels. So it should feel like a pure EV, but doesn't need a plug. E-Power, they call it.
The new platform 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 all-new CVT is designed to feel oozy at town speeds but more like an autobox 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.
Nissan always loads its cars up with driver assist, and provided you have the autobox the Qashqai brings the next stage of ProPilot. 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 all help boost the tech count.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Into generation three, the Qq 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.