Query the name, get the qual­ity

Nis­san’s for­mer Dualis adopts a new badge and fresh am­bi­tions

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@news.com.au

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.

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