“The Nissan Qashqai redefined family car expectations by blending a hatchback's practical dimensions with the looks and safety of a mid-sized 4x4.”
The Nissan Qashqai is the original hatchback/SUV crossover, combining the lower running costs and smaller dimensions of a family hatchback with the high driving position and flexibility of a SUV. Most of its rivals - the Kia Sportage, Skoda Yeti and Peugeot 3008, for example - launched after its debut in 2007. Facelifted in 2010, the Qashqai's popularity has continued and it's easy to see why. Its very comfortable to drive, is well built and comes at a reasonable price - it's slightly cheaper than the more upmarket Volkswagen Tiguan. There's a good range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, with a 4x4 option available for those who want extra grip, need to tow a caravan or horse box, or like to do some light off-roading. The 1.6-litre dCi is the most efficient, which emits only 119g/km. Nissan has a strong record for reliability, and mechanical and electrical problems on Qashqais are rare.
The suspension on the Qashqai is set up for a comfortable ride, with a soft ride on chunky tyres easily absorbing any bumps on rough roads. The steering isn't as accurate as it could be and certainly doesn't match many rival hatchbacks, such as the Ford Focus. However, it's easier to drive around town, with the light steering making manoeuvring into tight parking spots much simpler, and is good around corners with only a little body roll. Any light off-roading is handled easily by the four-wheel-drive option available on the 2.0-litre diesel and petrol models (costing an extra £1,500), even if it's not designed to tackle mountainous terrain - the Nissan Pathfinder is meant for those kind of jobs. The best engine is the 1.6-litre dCi diesel, while the 1.5-litre dCi feels a bit underpowered. All models come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but some models can be equipped with a six-speed automatic or a slightly noisy CVT.
The Qashaqi is one of the most comfortable family cars currently on the market. It has lots of room inside, with well-designed, supportive seats that provide a high driving position with great visibility. The tall suspension also makes the car very easy to get in and out of - you can literally slide behind the wheel with no stooping. Road and wind noise on the motorway are kept to a reasonably low level and you can get a panoramic glass roof as an option on Acenta models that lets lots of light inside to make the cabin a very pleasant environment for long trips. The sunroof also comes as standard on higher-spec Tekna and ntec models.
The build quality in the Qashqai is excellent and lives up to Nissan's strong reputation for reliability, so you can buy it with relative confidence. Nissan finished fourth in the 2012 Driver Power survery, with the Qashqai itself placing sixth in the top 100 cars. It also scored a maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, thanks in part to a healthy range of safety technology, including six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and brake assist. However, do bear in mind that there have been some recalls in the Qashqai's recent past to address problems with stalling engines, fuel leaks and steering problems.
The Qashqai's 410-litre boot is bigger than those on most family hatchbacks, including the Ford Focus' 385 litres. The Honda Civic hatchback and Hyundai ix35 crossover do beat it, however, with 485 litres and 591 litres, respectively. The Qashqai's boot has plenty of width and length to making loading very easy, though, and, like most conventional hatchbacks, the back seats split 60:40 when they fold down. With them folded, the capacity rises to 1,513 litres, which is a bit less than the Peugeot 3008 and a good 250 litres behind the Skoda Yeti. There are lots of storage cubbies in the clearly laid out cabin, including a big compartment in the centre console. There's great visibility thanks to the large body dimensions. Legroom is good in the back, but the sloping roof does reduce headroom for taller passengers. Parking sensors are included as standard - which is good, because the tiny rear windscreen is hard to see out of. Higher-spec models even come with a colour rear-view parking camera to compensate. And if you really don't have enough space but have your heart set on a Qashqai, you can pay an extra £1,400 to get the Qashqai+2, with its two extra seats.
Value for money
With lots of equipment as standard, the Qashqai is great value for money - while it's not a cheap car, but list prices are still competitive enough to make it a genuine alternative to its family hatchback rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. It is worth considering that the Qashqai's huge popularity makes it very common on UK roads, which may have a negative impact on resale prices when you come to sell it on.
All the diesel engines are fairly frugal The most efficient and cleanest engine is the 1.6-litre dCi, which is equipped with the stop-start and returns 63mpg and emits 119g/km. It's closely followed by the Pure Drive version of the 1.5-litre dCi diesel, which returns 57.6mpg, but you have to pay quite a lot more for this model. The standard car still returns 55.3mpg, however, and the least-efficient 2.0-litre petrol still manages to return mpg in the high 30s. But be aware of the short 12,500-mile service gaps and the three-year/60,000-mile warranty, both of which may increase costs.