Query the name, get the quality
Nissan’s former Dualis adopts a new badge and fresh ambitions
A MORE car-like Nissan is bringing a new name — Qashqai — to the Australian SUV scene.
The car formerly called the Dualis comes without the stuff that buyers don’t want, that is, all-wheel-drive and seven seats, and more they do want, including a bigger cabin and more safety equipment, at a price that provides better value and a starting sticker of $25,850.
The Qashqai is new from the road up but the basics are the same as the outgoing Dualis, which means it slides in on size above the Juke and below the XTrail in the Nissan SUV family.
It was designed and developed for European tastes and that means it drives well, has a classy cabin, and sits well against a range of rivals led by the Mazda CX-5 and Subaru XV.
It’s not as edgy-sporty as the Juke, or as family first as the XTrail, which means it should tap a fertile SUV following with a choice of petrol and diesel engines in a price spread that only goes up to $37,990.
The sole manual model is the starting-price Qashqai ST with a six-speeder and 106kW/200Nm of petrol power.
In the past the Dualis has done well as a new-age station wagon for Aussie families and everything points to a similar result for the Qashqai, as people who really need more seats or off-road ability can easily graduate to the X-Trail.
The Qashqai line-up has been trimmed to five models, as part of a general slimming of the Nissan range. Dumped from the Dualis range are the mid-level choices and Nissan Australia does not expect them to be missed.
On the name game, Nissan admits it’s been bullied by headquarters into switching from Dualis to Qashqai, the name of a Middle Eastern tribe.
“This time it was more a discussion about making the change and the right time,” says marketing boss, Peter Clissold.
But he is not expecting too much resistance. “Once you hear the name, you get it.”
The Qashqai comes well equipped from the ST up, with alloy wheels and aircon, LED daytime lights, rear camera and cruise control. The safety suite includes the usual six airbags and electronic aids and Isofix child seat fittings. But the spare is a space-saver.
Nissan has been criticised by ANCAP, which still awarded the car its maximum five-star rating, for not including the auto safety braking available in Europe.
The Qashqai also gets a diesel option (96kW/320Nm) and a constantly variable transmission — not a Carsguide favourite — with six preset ratios and a system that provides engine braking and downshifts on deceleration.
The diesel costs about $45,000, but comes with extra equipment, and the CVT adds $2650 on base grades or $2500 further up the line.
There is also multi-mode steering and cornering assistance that uses engine and braking balance.
Moving up to the Ti brings navigation, “around view” monitor, keyless start and extra safety kit including blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, moving object detection at the rear and high-beam assistance.
There is nothing, beyond the name, that’s particularly challenging about the Qashqai. The size is familiar despite a little extra room in the cabin, the shape and packaging is the same, and it has what I expect from Nissan on the value and equipment front.
Driving this week, in and around Brisbane, the Qashqai is a tad better than the Dualis as I remember it, quieter and more enjoyable. I’m not a fan of such silliness as switchable steering feel.
The Q-car feels a bit overfirm, but only at first, after recent time with an X-Trail. When I realise it has European suspension settings and actually copes commendably well with big bumps I settle in for an enjoyable drive.
I like the storage and seat choices, it seems light on fuel
and the diesel adds only a little weight over the nose. The petrol car is the choice for drivers but the diesel will find plenty of friends.
In a world overpopulated by hulking SUVs, anything that’s more like a car than a truck deserves praise.
The new Qashqai is a pleasant car, more practical than a Subaru SV although not as plush as a CX-5. It’s one to like, and also to recommend.