The Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi 4WD is one of the most economical 4x4s, returning 55.4mpg, and due to its looks and practicality it’s also a hit with families, as well as being capable off-road.
Nissan had a background in rather mundane but reliable family cars, along with capable 4x4s. The company decided to combine these two strengths, by producing a cross between a family car and a 4×4 – a crossover. The Qashqai was one of the first mainstream crossovers and its success even seems to have surprised Nissan. The compact and medium-sized crossover market is now booming, as people want a family car that is more interesting than a boring hatchback, as well as being more capable in poor weather, and the Qashqai really has turned into a Cash Cow for Nissan. Although the Qashqai is available in front-wheel drive form, we tested the four-wheel drive version because it is one of the most economical cars in the 4×4 class . The Qashqai is built in the UK at Nissan’s Sunderland plant.
The Qashqai was launched in the UK in March 2007, with its innovative concept and weird name. It’s already enjoyed sales of over a million worldwide. It benefited from what, in our view, was one of the most successful mid-life design refreshes. A quite subtle styling change was introduced which reduced the height of the large headlights and tweaked other items such as the grille, and in our view it resulted in a massive improvement to the styling of the car, making it look much sleeker. Combined with its raised ride height and large 18-inch alloy wheels, it looks like a chunky off-road Tonka Toy, which is obviously what people like.
Although it looks well designed from the outside, the interior doesn’t have a huge amount of flair . It’s functional but dark and we’d bet that the replacement is more adventurous in the styling department, inspired by the Nissan Juke .
The Qashqai has decent levels of space, including in the boot, but one warning is to beware of the tailgate. It doesn’t rise high enough and so you’re likely to hit it with your head when accessing the boot. Also the rear seats don’t fold fully flat.
The Qashqai is based on capable 4×4 underpinnings, although it’s designed mainly for the school run , for which role the two-wheel drive versions will be the models of choice. Despite being popular as family transport, the Qashqai doesn’t have many of the clever packaging or equipment features that some MPVs offer.
The Qashqai feels tight to drive. This applies to many areas ranging from the steering and the manual six-speed gearbox – which is tight to the extent of being rather obstructive on occasions – to the body control, resulting in the car having much less roll when cornering compared to traditional 4x4s, despite having a high centre of gravity. This is basically a good thing, however the chassis lacks the suppleness and agility of some rivals. It does have a comfortable ride and it copes well with urban terrain challenges such as pot holes and speed bumps.
Despite offering impressive economy, the performance from the 128bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine is good . However the Qashqai suffers from some engine and road noise; more sound insulation and refinement as a whole are areas where the car could benefit from improvement.
Our test car had satnav which has a small screen and you have to look down, away from the road, to view it – but it passed its main test – it’s easy to enter a postcode into the system.
In the engineering department the Qashqai does feel as though it has inherited some 4×4 genes from its more hardcore family members. As with all 4x4s that we review, we tested it off-road and feels like it has the strength of a ‘proper’ 4×4 and together with its decent 200mm ground clearance it instills confidence, limited only by its on-road biased tyres.
The Qashqai has an ‘ALL-MODE 4×4’ system. The system has three modes, selected via a switch on the centre console.
In 2WD, the system is permanently set in front-wheel drive, ideal for fine weather on-road use.
In Auto, the Qashqai operates mainly in front-wheel drive which reduces energy losses and saves on fuel. However when wheel slippage is detected, a clutch is electronically activated and drive is apportioned between front and rear axles. In Auto, the system will automatically compensate for unexpected slippery conditions on-road, such as loose gravel, wet leaves in autumn, or early morning winter ice.
When the Lock setting is selected, the system switches to permanent four-wheel drive mode, with drive split 50:50 front to rear.
This version of the Qashqai is class-leading for such a 4×4 in terms of economy and emissions. With 55.4mpg, and emissions of just 135g/km CO2, it’s way ahead of 4x4s from just a few years ago.
The 130PS 1.6dCi engine has been jointly developed with Alliance partner Renault. In addition to Stop/Start it has lots of clever new technology with the aim that the direct injection diesel engine gives the fuel economy and emissions expected from an engine of its size, but with power and torque figures from a 2.0-litre engine.
In terms of real-life mpg on test, although the car could manage 60mpg when driven carefully on motorways, overall it returned 42.8mpg – quite a way short of the official mpg figure, but not as far off as some cars we test. The real-life economy figure isn’t helped by the car’s weight of 1630 Kg.
You can buy the Qashqai with petrol or diesel power, and two or four-wheel drive.
There are two petrol engines, a 1.6-litre and 2-litre. There are three diesels, a 1.5, a 1.6 and a 2.0-litre. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is only available with an automatic gearbox.
With the 1.5-litre diesel engine in 2WD form the Qashqai manages 54.3mpg, or 57.6mpg in ‘Pure Drive’ form. With the new 1.6-litre diesel engine the 2WD version manages 62.8mpg, along with 119g/km – ideal for low Benefit in Kind rates for company car drivers. The 4WD version still manages 55.4mpg.
The Qashqai has four trim levels: Visia, Acenta, n-tec+, and Tekna – not the most universally-understood names for trim levels, but a ll have good levels of equipment.
Entry-level Visia cars have air conditioning, alloy wheels, CD player, electric windows and Bluetooth. Acenta trim has climate control, a CD changer, parking sensors, cruise control, and automatic headlamps and wipers. The n-tec trim gets sat nav and a panoramic sunroof. Range-topping Tekna models have full leather upholstery and xenon headlights.
Qashqai n-tec+ and Tekna models are now fitted with Nissan’s Around View Monitor; combining the feeds from small cameras mounted on the front grille, tailgate and both door mirrors, the system projects an overhead 360 degree ‘helicopter view’ of the area around the vehicle onto the Nissan Connect satellite navigation and infotainment screen.
The Qashqai range as a whole is competitively priced, starting from £16,495 for the Visia 1.6-litre 117PS petrol with a five-speed manual ‘box.
Highly unusually, the only option fitted to our test car was carpet mats, costing just £42.96. This is in sharp contrast to cars from some manufacturers where the fitted options are often worth in excess of £10,000. Most of the Qashqai range will have low running costs, and build quality and reliability is good. There’s also the Qashqai+2, which has seven seats, making it the ultimate family-friendly crossover.
People like the Qashqai as a means of family transport. Its tough looks give the impression that it should protect its occupants, and it’s roomy. However it’s much more than that. It’s also very efficient, and in 4WD form as tested, it’s capable off-road, should you need such ability. Most people will probably want such a car for all-year-round traction on the road in the event of extreme weather such as ice and snow, and the Qashqai provides an efficient, family-friendly solution to such a requirement. For combining all these talents, with few areas of weakness, it scores a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.