Nissan Qashqai SUV review (2013-2021)
"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.
A late 2020 range update trimmed the Qashqai engine range down to a single petrol turbocharged 1.3-litre unit, available in two power outputs. It can be chosen with 138 or 158bhp and even the lower powered version is quick enough for most drivers. Fuel economy is claimed to run from 42 to 44.9mpg, depending on the size of wheels fitted. Both versions are only available with front-wheel drive, and the entry-level 138bhp version gets a six-speed manual gearbox. Opt for the more powerful 158bhp engine, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is standard. Nissan discontinued the diesel versions of the Qashqai for 2021.
It's relaxing, too – particularly if you add the ProPilot semi-autonomous technology that debuted on the Nissan Leaf electric car. This 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.
While the Qashqai’s adventurous looks suggest it has off-road ability, from late 2020 onwards it's only available with front-wheel drive. This drivetrain will satisfy most drivers though, with a decent amount of grip in the summer months that can be augmented by fitting winter tyres in colder weather. With the diesel engine now discontinued, the 138 and 158bhp petrol engines can still tow a respectable 1,300-1,500kg - enough for a mid-sized caravan or trailer.
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 three trim levels, our favourites are the entry-level Acenta Premium and mid-range N-Connecta, which come with desirable kit like front fog lights and alloy wheels. The range-topping N-Motion trim gets luxuries including Nappa leather upholstery, but it's rather more expensive to buy.
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.