Nissan Qashqai Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Wednesday 29th March


What is it like to drive?

The Qashqai is definitely the sensible choice among small family SUVs – it is rarely going to goad you into forgetting that the kids are in the back as you graze the apex on a country road. Maybe just as well if they're prone to car sickness.

If not playful, it is utterly predictable and easy to steer smoothly and accuracy. The steering is progressive and as the efforts build the front tyres don't just lamely wash away. Body roll and float are well contained, and it manages to avoid the sogginess or weighty plod that afflict some rivals.

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The brakes too are smooth and confident, even in the hybrid version of the car, although that comes with the e-pedal feature we’re used to from the Leaf electric vehicle and works just as well here once you learn to judge the distance it needs to come to a halt. 

What are the engines like?

Nissan has done away with diesel options for this generation of Qashqai, but it has at least recently started offering an electrified option for people who want to save on fuel. 

The entry motor is a 1.3-litre petrol in two states of tune - a measly 138bhp and a more reasonable 155bhp option. It’s reasonably refined, and all options come with a 12V mildest-of-mild-hybrid system. It kills the engine and gets it going again efficiently, good for modest gains – we saw around 40mpg in the more powerful petrol version. 

The manual gearbox is easy to manipulate and has a sensible gear spread. The alternative CVT doesn't feel like a CVT unless you're listening out for it. Take that as a compliment.

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What about the hybrid version?

You might be wondering why there isn’t a decent plug-in hybrid option yet from the company that jumped in so early on electric – Nissan actually claims that its hybrid set-up is the best bridging technology between full combustion and full electric power. A bold claim. But backed up in practice.

The e-Power Qashqai gets a 188bhp electric motor that’s more than beefy enough to handle things, while the petrol motor (190bhp) is relegated to a supporting role generating electricity for the e-motor to use. In fact the 1.3-litre 3cyl motor never powers the wheels directly, so you’re effectively driving an EV with its own petrol generator plumbed in up front. Take that, range anxiety. Still, with a 2.1kWh battery you’re going to need the generator. 

It all seems like it should be overkill, but it works – you’ve got a range of regen options, the engine comes on when it needs to (it’s not too loud, but sounds like the neighbours are putting up some shelves upstairs) and it’s decently economical. You should be able to get 55/60mpg out of sensible driving, which probably isn’t the sort of magical number you’d hope for a bridging technology, but it all adds up. 

And the ride?

It's firmly sprung – too much so perhaps, although lots of kids would prefer it because it banishes any nauseous float. Anyway it manages to avoid too much sharp high-frequency harshness.

Wheel sizes go to 20 inches, but the versions with those maxed hoops do get multi-link suspension at the rear, so they're no harsher than on the smaller wheels, and the steering is a little more precise. The 4WD one also gets that rear suspension.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T MH 158 Acenta Premium [Pan Roof] 5dr
  • 0-629.5s
  • CO2
  • BHP158
  • MPG
  • Price£29,350

the cheapest

Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T 160 [157] Acenta Premium 5dr DCT
  • 0-629.9s
  • CO2
  • BHP157
  • MPG
  • Price£25,880

Variants We Have Tested

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