Has Nissan finally fixed the Qashqai's biggest flaw?
If you’ve popped out a couple of kids and need a decent, affordable crossover to ferry your family around, the Nissan Qashqai has long been the go-to option. In fact, it’s been so successful over the years it’s earned the nickname “Cash Cow” and has been outselling rivals left, right and centre.
In an attempt to keep it fresh in the face of increasing competition, Nissan has given the Qashqai a little update in the form of a new engine, infotainment system, and perhaps most importantly, a new automatic gearbox – finally! Is it much ado about nothing, or has Nissan moved its game on? We took to the streets of Barcelona to find out.
The new engine is way more refined
Nissan is part of an alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi that sees the trio work together on building cars, and they roped in German giant Daimler to help with their new engine – a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol.
It makes its Nissan debut in the Qashqai, and is also used in the Mercedes A-Class hatchback. It replaces the old 1.2- and 1.6-litre petrols and is available in two power outputs:138bhp or 158bhp.
Both options are more powerful and more efficient than those older engines, but equally important is the fact they’re so much more refined. The increased performance makes it feel effortless around town, and the lower revs contribute to a quieter drive. Dare we say more Mercedes-like than before?
The slower one doesn’t feel like the lesser choice
It’s so often the case that when there are two power options available, the one with more boast-worthy numbers is the more satisfying to drive. While that’s still the case here, the difference is so negligible that if running costs are key to your purchase then plumping for the 138bhp option will not feel like a compromise – in fact, if you’re swapping out of the old entry-level engine, this one will feel positively sprightly.
When you consider that in the lowest trim the 1.3 Qashqai costs less than £20,000 and achieves more than 50mpg, it starts to look like a very enticing prospect indeed.
The Qashqai finally has a decent automatic gearbox!
There is one big reason, aside from power gains, to plump for the 158bhp version, though – the automatic gearbox. It used to be hard to recommend an auto Qashqai because it used a fun-sapping CVT, but now Nissan has fitted a far more modern dual-clutch system.
In everyday driving it fades into the background with imperceptible shifts, which combined with the smoother, quieter engine makes for a more relaxing drive. It’s easy to catch it out on hills where it can be a bit keen to drop a gear, but it’s otherwise excellent. It’s only available on the higher output engine, though.
The infotainment system is improved, but…
Infotainment systems are a toughie for car makers. We’re all so used to using our phones and tablets with incredibly intuitive, constantly updating operating systems, that the infotainment units in cars tend to feel out of date the day they hit the market.
The Qashqai gets the latest NissanConnect system, which is hit and miss. The graphics might be updated but they still look like they were borrowed from a five-year-old Android tablet in places, while the responsiveness of the touchscreen lags a long way behind the smartphone market.
However, a new app that lets you pre-programme the sat nav and remember where you’ve parked, among other things, is a nice touch, and works really well. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also available, while over-the-air updates mean the set-up should stay up to date.
These upgrades enhance a winning recipe
The Qashqai had a little facelift last year, and it’s continued the crossover’s success. The latest stats make it the fourth-best-selling car in the UK, ahead of the ubiquitous Ford Focus.
Having driven the latest model it’s easy to see why. It looks good, the interior’s well put together and you get decent equipment for the money. Throw this new engine, gearbox, and improved infotainment system into the mix and it seems the Nissan Qashqai’s run at the top could continue a while yet.