2018 NISSAN Qashqai : Offering versatility
MSRP(as tested): $19,998
Motor: 2.0-litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 141 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 147 @ 4,700 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Layout: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 9.5 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)
The Nissan Qashqai was introduced last year to fill in a gap on the smaller side of the utility vehicle line-up, and adds to a robust selection that continues to grow as the company recently announced the impending arrival of the subcompact Kicks. This crossover with an interesting moniker – pronounced cash-kai – is named after a group of settlers in modern day Iran, and according to the automaker, is aimed at city dwellers seeking something that is both practical and fun to drive.
“The combination of the new Qashqai and the popular redesigned 2017 Rogue will appeal to a broad audience and offers a wide spectrum of features and price points for SUV buyers,” says Bert Brooks, product planning senior manager at Nissan Canada. “While we expect Rogue to continue to appeal to owners with young families, Qashqai fills a need for singles and couples who want more space and versatility than the average sedan for everyday urban use and social activities.”
As an urbanite myself, I do appreciate a smaller form factor for navigating narrow parking spots and streets. Compared to bigger brother Rogue, the compact crossover is 307 millimetres shorter in length and 142 millimetres in height resulting in a highly manoeuvrable and tight-turning package.
It’s not a bad looker either, wearing the signature V-Motion grille and boomerang taillights and possessing sharp styling lines and body creases dubbed “emotional geometry.” Black fender arches, underbody accents and roof rails finish off the exterior. If the available foglights aren’t equipped, some tacky black covers are slapped over the recesses – functional vents would have been preferred, like the ones used on the Micra. Mid-level SV models receive 17-inch alloy wheels and the grade-topping SL gets 19-inch rollers – our base S tester had 16-inch steelies and hubcaps.
The interior isn’t exactly premium, especially in the lowest trim (upgrade to SL for leather, navigation seven-inch display and Around View Monitor 360-degree camera), but there are a few interesting items to note. The plastic steering wheel has a sporty flat-bottom shape, which is the first time I’ve seen that in an SUV. Standard audio is output via a decent-sounding four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo and a Bluetooth handsfree phone system is included, although programming in a device takes quite a few cumbersome steps involving speech. There’s loads of interior room, and when the second row is folded down 1,730.2 litres of cargo space appears, or 648.5 litres upright.
The sole powertrain consists of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine pushing 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. An Xtronic CVT is optional, the regular tranny being a six-speed manual. Shifting definitely makes the drive more engaging, although the crossover feels pretty sluggish in first gear. Front/rear independent suspension is nice, and I found the handling felt sharp for its size. Love it or hate it, hill start assist is built-in so starting on sharp inclines are a breeze. Fuel consumption is above average, as I was in the low 9s for liters per hundred during most of my largely in-town travels.
“From Qashqai to Rogue, Murano, Pathfinder and all the way up to the full-size eight-passenger Armada, Nissan has the perfect SUV for any buyer,” says Brooks. “Qashqai holds its own with all of its portfolio mates, just as expected of any vehicle that wears the Nissan badge.”