Nissan Qashqai SUV - Engines, drive & performance
The new Nissan Qashqai offers a slightly improved driving experience
Family SUVs aren’t designed to be the best-handling cars on the road and the Qashqai’s popularity shows that handling is quite a way down the list of priorities for many buyers. The new model is a little better to drive, but keen drivers may still be happier in a Ford Kuga or Mazda CX-5.
Nissan has favoured smoothness and stability over driver involvement, which isn’t surprising. There’s little steering feel and the manual gearbox could be more precise, but refinement is good and the 1.3-litre petrol engine rarely gets noisy. A 60kg weight reduction helps the new Qashqai to feel a little more agile than before.
Most cars get a standard rear suspension setup and, for the majority of the time, the car rides well. It’s never uncomfortable and most buyers won’t care that it’s not quite the most poised car in its class. Top-spec Tekna+ cars get large 20-inch wheels and more advanced multi-link rear suspension but the two all but cancel each other out. We’d keep to the smaller wheels so that the car isn’t as fidgety – plus smaller wheels tend to make replacement tyres cheaper.
Nissan Qashqai petrol engines
A carried-over 1.3-litre petrol engine is available with either 138bhp or 156bhp and now features fuel-saving mild-hybrid tech. Our test car came with the more powerful engine and performance was adequate, with 0-62mph taking 9.5 seconds. In the last car, there was only half a second between the two engines, so the 138bhp engine is unlikely to feel too much slower. You’ll still easily be able to get up to speed relatively quickly.
So if you want a manual gearbox and two-wheel drive, you can save yourself a bit of money and stick with the 138bhp engine. The automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive are limited to the more powerful version, and four-wheel drive is only offered on N-Connecta, Tekna and Tekna+ trims.
Nissan Qashqai hybrid engine
The Qashqai e-Power offers a more impressive driving experience than the mild-hybrid petrol. Its acceleration is quicker and, more importantly, smoother, with no gear changes at lower speeds. The 1.5-litre petrol engine charges the battery or powers the electric motor, rather than powering the wheels directly, which helps it to have the characteristics of an electric car.
It’s far more refined than the mild-hybrid petrol engine, and you often can’t tell when the engine has kicked in. Nissan says that, in official emissions tests, it spent nearly two-thirds of the time on electric power alone. That contributes to its improved fuel consumption figure.
Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds, which is reasonably brisk for a family SUV, thanks to its output of 187bhp. It builds pace smoothly and can get up to motorway speeds without much fuss. Because the wheels are always powered with electricity, there’s none of the jerkiness of an automatic gearbox or some other hybrids which constantly shuffle power from different sources.
The engine revs more noticeably in stop-and-start traffic, but Nissan’s engineers have done a good job of keeping engine vibrations out of the cabin. At higher speeds, the engine has been programmed to match the speed of the car, so the revs don’t rise and fall in a jarring fashion. Like an EV, the Qashqai also has an ‘I-Pedal’ feature, where the car feeds energy into the battery when you lift off the accelerator and the car slows to a crawling speed – however, it doesn’t come to a halt like the Nissan Leaf or Ariya. It’s easy to get used to though, and reinforces the e-Power as Nissan’s stepping-stone to EV ownership.