The Success Story Comes To North America
There is no doubt that compact crossover sales are high in North America. This is one of the most important reasons why Nissan decided to bring the new Qashqai here. It has been on the market for several years in Europe with proven success. We drove the latest Nissan Qashqai for a week to see where it stands against the competition.
the Qashqai is a smaller version of the “good-old” Rogue, which itself is one of the most successful alternatives in the mid-size crossover market. It is named Rogue Sport in the USA, but somehow Nissan decided to use its original name in Canada, unlike the States. First-generation Qashqai was first released in 2006. It was offered all around the world, except North America. It was a major sales success especially in Europe and Middle Eastern markets. It was one of the fastest times for a vehicle built in the UK which reached a half million units in a very short time period.
Engine and Powertrain
Nissan introduced the second and current generation in 2013 and made it available in the North American market in 2017. Qashqai fills the small gap between the discontinued Juke and Rogue. Unlike in Europe with several engine options, here, unfortunately, the only engine option is the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine, which produces 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. We wish there would be a turbocharged option at least with the top trim, as our tester feels slightly underpowered for North American highways. During our test drive, we reached an average of less than 7.8L/100 km on the highway, and around 10.0L / 100 km in the city. If you mainly commute or drive in the city, the powerband is fine and more than enough for daily driving.
The 2.0L inline 4 engine is matched with the typical Nissan CVT transmission. It mimics like a torque converter automatic when you drive it hard, however, you can still feel CVT, especially in the low rpm range. Although many brands are switching to regular torque converter automatic, Nissan is one of the first brands which has been using CVT and seems like they have invested in the CVT platform for a long period of time. The engine and CVT transmission are matched well, and people shouldn’t expect the Qashqai to be the fastest one in this segment, but it offers one of the smoothest and most comfortable operations in its class. The All-Wheel-Drive system comes standard with the top trim. It is not going to be the off-road king, but well enough to handle wet/snowy situations on the pavement. We should mention, that it is front biased like the rest of the small crossover models, so it will continuously understeer if you lose traction in the middle of a corner. You can lock the All-Wheel Drive system manually, but it will automatically switch it off over 40 km/h. Most of the time, it is a front-wheel-drive car to save fuel, until it loses traction, then rear wheels get involved, like a regular on-demand All-Wheel Drive System.
If you don’t mind its slow pace, which is not slower than the average small crossover anyway, Nissan offers a content-rich overall package with the Qashqai. It is one of the most comfortable alternatives in its class. We like the overall comfort level and the suspension is tuned extremely well for harsh Canadian roads, despite having 19” rims and 225/45 tires with the SL trim. Another good thing is, cabin noise is significantly lower than the competition and we are impressed with that. It is easy to live with this crossover, means it is extremely easy to drive – to maneuver and it also offers great steering feeling. Speaking of the steering wheel, Nissan product development decided to use the same steering wheel with the other bigger models. A flat bottom part feels great, as you are less likely to hit your knee when you get in or get out.
Exterior and Interior
The exterior and overall design features look like the rest of the Nissan crossover lineup, especially from the front side. It is noticeably shorter than the Rogue. The second-generation Qashqai has been on the market for several years, but despite its age, it still looks fresh and aged gracefully as it is refreshed in 2017. Surprisingly, the Qashqai has wider and bigger dimensions than the average subcompact crossover, thus offering a wider cabin inside.
The interior looks like its bigger sister – the Rogue, except it, has less cargo space and less rear legroom. It still has more than enough for a family of four. The legroom in the rear is better than most of the competition. Also, the cargo space is above average in the small crossover segment, which is 22.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 61.1 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded. You can easily fit a road bike when you fold down the rear seats, and that is impressive for a small crossover, as usually, you must move the front passenger seat forward to get more cargo room to fit a bike. As we see in Nissan’s larger crossovers, it also comes with additional cargo storage area under the load floor, so you can divide and utilize the cargo area to keep the items sliding forward and backward.
As we take a look around the interior, there are some soft-touch, hard touch plastics, as well as piano black trims. Our opinion is they are all balanced out extremely well, they didn’t overuse the piano black trims all around the console, like some of its rivals. The overall dashboard design is very similar to other Nissan products, especially the Rogue, and there are some soft-touch plastics in the upper part, and hard touch plastics lower on the dashboard. We wouldn’t expect S-Class interior quality in a small crossover segment, and we would rate the Qashqai slightly above average when it comes to overall interior quality as they used soft-touch plastics in many areas. Our tester has leather seats and rear passengers get air vents which is rare in this class.
As mentioned previously, our tester is the top “SL” trim, which offers pretty much anything available in a Qashqai. We are really impressed with the Nissan’s ProPilot Assist and we wish it was available in all trims as it is an important safety feature. The ProPilot Assist system is capable to fully stop and go, and it works smoothly. Also, you don’t have to tap the gas pedal every time the car in front of you moves forward, you just need to press the “+” button to start moving. The SL trim also comes with LED headlights, a built-in Navigation system, 7.0” touch-screen display, Voice Recognition, SiriusXM, Push-button start along with Intelligent Key System, Remote Engine Start, Blind Spot Monitoring, 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, optional Bose Premium Audio system, and so on. We think if you are interested in Qashqai, but not sure about which trim you should pick, you should definitely go with minimum SV, preferably SL. Some extras like Bose Premium Audio System is really worth getting it and makes the driving experience more enjoyable. We think that the infotainment system could be better, as it looks old, but we are glad that they offer both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Overall, we like driving the Qashqai a.k.a. Rogue Sport. It is a great alternative if you are looking for a daily driver, or want to get from A to B. Many reviewers all around the internet will complain about how underpowered the Qashqai is, but we, unfortunately, have few to no faster alternatives in the small crossover segment. Most of the competitors still use naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engines such as Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and they are not any different than the Qashqai in terms of acceleration. We wouldn’t complain about the CVT in this segment, as most of the potential buyers simply don’t care, so it is a great way to cut the costs and totally understandable to keep the price down. Nissan Qashqai starts at just above $20.000 mark, $20.198 Canadian to be exact. It can go all the way up to $35.500 Canadian if you choose the top trim as well as All-Wheel-Drive option. We think many people should go with higher trims as it offers advanced safety systems included. We would recommend the Qashqai if you are looking for great comfort, smooth driving, All Wheel Drive (optional), excellent practicality as well as some modern features and above-average interior quality.
Some of our takeaways are
+ Great comfort and overall drivetrain smoothness
+ Easy to live with – drivability
+ Overall features (especially the SL trim) and above-average interior quality
+ Large legroom – headroom and cargo capacity despite its size
+ Exterior design looks fresh, despite its age
Things can be improved
– Old looking infotainment system
– The dashboard is aging well but looks older than the competition
– More engine options, preferably forced induction alternatives
– ProPilot Assist system should be available in all trims
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay