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Constantly variable transmissions are horrid to drive. But they’re also incredibly efficient, which is why Nissan persevered with the technology for the new Xtronic Nissan Qashqai – the only automatic transmission available. And it’s the best CVT we’ve driven. Ordinarily, they’re fantastically annoying – you accelerate, the engine screams, then road speed slowly creeps up to match the revs. But what Nissan’s done is simulate gearchanges by adding in artificial steps, which makes it feel like you’re driving a proper car. You can even change ‘gear’ manually.
And the improvements haven’t compromised efficiency. The 1.6-litre diesel engine (the only one to have unless you enjoy ageing) achieves a massive 61.4mpg and emits just 119g/km of CO2. Thing is, it’s still a CVT. And while it’s a giant leap forward for this technology, it’s only one small step closer to traditional transmissions. When you accelerate, there’s a pretty immediate power take-up, but each shift is rubbery around the edges, like an Eighties auto ’box that’s full of jam. Unless your licence doesn’t allow it, or changing gears makes you physically sick, get a manual 2WD 1.6dCi version instead. It does 2.8mpg more and emits 4g/km of CO2 less.