Nissan Qashqai SUV review
"The Nissan Qashqai is a practical SUV with the running costs of a hatchback, and a facelift has only increased its appeal"
- Versatile family car
- Comfortable ride
- Very practical
- Poor rear visibility
- Tight rear legroom
- Concerns over reliability
It's hard to imagine it now, but when the Nissan Qashqai first arrived in UK showrooms in 2006, the crossover SUV craze was in its infancy. In fact, together with the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson, it beat many of today's most compact soft-roaders to the market by several years.
Back then, the Ford Kuga, Renault Kadjar, Mazda CX-5 and MINI Countryman hadn't even been imagined and the fact that the Qashqai struck a chord with so many buyers confirmed that Nissan was definitely onto something. Since then, it has been refined and improved over the years, so today it's better than ever.
Built in Britain, the Qashqai still offers adventurous all-terrain looks, yet costs little more than a family hatchback to run. Its angular style is more distinctive than the earlier, more curvaceous version and its material quality has improved, too. In fact, it's not far off the high standards set by the Skoda Kodiaq and SEAT Ateca – two cars conceived specifically to fight the Qashqai. It's also handsome enough to tempt BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA buyers, both of which cars are considerably more expensive.
The engine line–up comprises a range of compact yet powerful petrols and diesels. Just one petrol engine, a compact 1.3-litre turbo, is offered, but it can be chosen in 138 or 158bhp outputs and even the lower powered version is quick enough for most drivers. Petrol fuel consumption is claimed to run from 39.2 to 41.5mpg, depending on the size of wheels fitted. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but the 158bhp engine is also available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Those who prefer a diesel, or who expect to cover more than around 12,000 miles a year, can pick a 113bhp 1.5-litre or 148bhp 1.7-litre dCi engine, the former of which can return up to 53.3mpg. All the Qashqai engines are pleasant in use – the petrols being slightly quieter, but the diesels having a more muscular feel. None are dreadfully sluggish, either, making the Qashqai a pretty enjoyable car to drive.
It's relaxing, too – particularly if you add the ProPilot semi-autonomous technology that debuted on the Nissan Leaf electric car. Now offered on N-Tec trims and above, the technology can take care of steering, braking and acceleration in motorway traffic. ProPilot works with the automatic gearbox, while manual cars get a similar tech pack. You'll need to keep your hands on the wheel, though – this is a driver assistance package, not a fully autonomous driving mode.
Choose a twistier route to your destination, and the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga still have the edge when it comes to outright driver appeal. However, the Qashqai can still entertain; it has loads of cornering grip and doesn't lean badly, even when driven with vigour on country roads. It's only let down by slightly numb steering that doesn't place you at the centre of the action like some rivals do.
Those adventurous looks aren't just a red herring and a four-wheel-drive version is available, but it's intended more for greater security on loose or slippery surfaces and wintry weather. It's also useful when towing, or perhaps when recovering a small boat on a greasy slipway. You can only team it with the 1.7-litre diesel engine, however, from N-Connecta trim and above. Most drivers will be satisfied by front-wheel drive – particularly with winter tyres fitted in the colder months.
The Qashqai offers a high driving position for a commanding view in city traffic. It feels spacious, too, with a modern, versatile interior – although rear legroom is a little tight. The boot is easy to access through a wide-opening tailgate, with a usefully square shape and decent 430-litre capacity, but it’s not class-leading. The first-generation Qashqai came in a seven-seat Qashqai+2 version, but this isn’t offered in the current model, so if you want seven seats, you’ll either need to step up to a Nissan X-Trail or look at rivals with seven seats as an option, such as the Skoda Kodiaq.
Of the six trim levels, our favourites are the mid-level Acenta Premium and N-Connecta, which come with desirable kit like front fog lights and alloy wheels. The entry-level Visia model is a little spartan, while the range-topping Tekna and Tekna+ trims get luxuries like leather upholstery, but are rather more expensive.
The N-Tec trim level was added to the Qashqai range for 2020, adding black detailing to the exterior with matching Alcantara-trimmed seats inside. It also gets more standard tech, including the NissanConnect infotainment system and a semi-autonomous driving safety suite.
The Nissan Qashqai scored the full five stars in independent Euro NCAP crash-testing, which is good news for the families that make up the bulk of Qashqai buyers. It finished a respectable 56th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK.