We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK ahead of its Australian launch.
It’s not every manufacturer that can claim it coined the crossover sector, let alone popularising the model niche like Nissan’s first and second generation Qashqais did.
The original car captured the imagination of millions, while the second built on that with even more style to back up the substance, winning countless awards in the process.
However, the pace of development moves quickly, and with the second iteration of the Qashqai having been on sale for seven years – and showing it in some areas – it’s now time for a new replacement, and it will launch in Australia early 2022.
Nissan has ticked the first box as this family SUV is a striking-looking machine, and style counts in this sector. Designed in the UK where we can drive it for the first time in right-hand drive, new interpretations of the Japanese brand’s V-Motion grille, cool LED running lights and strong surfacing with nice design touches mean it will certainly turn heads.
The second box is checked too, because the Qashqai boasts an all-hybrid powertrain line-up. Key to that will be what Nissan calls its e-Power tech. This basically uses a 1.5-litre engine as a generator to charge a battery. This then feeds an electric motor, which is the only power source to physically drive the wheels, giving the feeling of an EV from behind the wheel and the potential for strong efficiency. Given the significance of this development for Nissan’s popular model, it’s a shame it won’t be on sale from launch.
The incorporation of its hybrid tech across all of the planned powertrains has been made possible thanks to a new CMF-C platform, which Nissan claims has brought big benefits when it comes to packaging.
Take the rear doors, which now open up to 85 degrees. Compared with the previous-generation Qashqai, whose rear doors swept through a 70-degree arc, it means loading child seats and strapping in kids should be much easier.
There’s more usable storage inside as well. In fact, the new Qashqai is simply a more usable car, and it shows clearly that Nissan understands what customers in this segment want.
However, every element of a family SUV is put under the microscope, including here the revised infotainment (an area where the previous Qashqai was really showing its age), comfort and refinement, so this new car has nowhere to hide.
While the big 19-inch and 20-inch alloys look very sharp, the style does compromise the ride slightly. Top-spec cars on 20-inch wheels use a multi-link rear suspension set-up, which is a little jittery over smaller bumps due to the size of those rims, albeit with better body control at higher speed thanks to the more sophisticated layout.
All other models use a more conventional (and more affordable) torsion beam set-up. This tech doesn’t quite offer the same composure when you’re travelling faster, but it’s marginal and most owners won’t drive their cars in a way where they’ll find out, so it’d be our pick.
Slightly smaller wheels also help reduce the fidgetiness slightly, although it’s still not the smoothest or best-riding car in the class, albeit it’s far from uncomfortable.
Nissan has redesigned the power steering set-up as well to help improve feel and response, but while the Qashqai offers plenty of stability and secure handling that means this SUV acquits itself well enough, it’s not involving.
Thanks to up to a 60kg weight saving for the body due to extensive use of aluminium for the bonnet, doors and front wings, plus a composite tailgate, the Qashqai feels more agile than its predecessor, but SUV rivals easily match it.
Performance is adequate, with a 9.5-second 0-100km/h time, but it’s best to lean on the torque, keep the revs relatively low and cruise around gently to maximise refinement.
The manual makes more sense than the Xtronic automatic we tested previously, not least because it’s cheaper. It’s not the sweetest shift, but is still easy enough to use.
Talking of ease of use, we arrive at a key feature. Updated infotainment aims to address issues with the second-generation Qashqai, and while the nine-inch touchscreen is an improvement, with faster responses, the graphics could still be crisper. Wired Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are included, and most owners might prefer to use one of these two systems.
The 12.3-inch digital dash offers a degree of configurability, but like its counterpart, the resolution could be higher. Still, wireless phone charging is included, and is the quickest we’ve used in any car.
All this tech is integrated into a cabin that does feel a step up when it comes to quality. There’s soft-touch double-stitched material on the dash and a fresher, more premium look. It’s still a mainstream car though.
There’s all the kit you’d realistically need in a family SUV, including plenty of safety and driver assistance systems. These include autonomous emergency braking (including for when you’re reversing) with pedestrian, cyclist and junction assist, collision warning, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention, blind spot warning, cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with Drive Assist semi-autonomous tech to keep you in your lane, and seven airbags.
On top of this, there is also a head-up display, Nissan’s Around View Monitor with moving object detection, all-round parking sensors, LED lights with high beam assist, dual-zone climate control, heated seats and a heated steering wheel.
The new Nissan Qashqai is an eminently usable and usefully practical family SUV. It might only be so-so to drive, and while there’s more tech much of it could still be better, but it nails the basics that some family SUVs don’t, making it an affordable and relatively successful evolution of the Qashqai formula for this third generation. However, we can’t help but feel it needs more in the way of electrification, so we’ll look forward to driving the e-Power model in the future.