Park­way Nis­san adds to its CUV of­fer­ings with the QASHQAI

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS - The in­te­rior of the 2017 Qashqai is typ­i­cally Nis­san with large main in­stru­ments and a log­i­cal lay­out of sec­ondary con­trols.

MON­TREAL, PQ: On sale in Europe for a decade, Nis­san is fi­nally bring­ing the Qashqai to duke it out in Canada’s red-hot sub-com­pact cross­over arena.

With more than three mil­lion al­ready sold glob­ally, Nis­san Canada fig­ured it was the right time to bring in the Qashqai to flesh out its fleet of SUVs and crossovers.

Qashqai slots in be­tween the sub-com­pact Juke and com­pact Rogue crossovers, the lat­ter be­ing the best seller in the Nis­san Canada sta­ble. The others are the mid-size Mu­rano CUV and the large-size Pathfinder and Ar­mada SUVs.

So Nis­san now has a full SUV/ CUV house, but it is also up against some stiff com­pe­ti­tion, with Nis­san nam­ing the Mazda3 and WW Golf hatch­backs and the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 in the sub-com­pact seg­ment.

You’d think Nis­san would want to avoid can­ni­bal­ism sales on the show­room floor against the Rogue, which com­pares favourable with the Quashqai, be­ing 98 mm lower and 250 shorter than Rogue but built on the same plat­form.

But Nis­san be­lieves Qashqai ap­peals to a dif­fer­ent de­mo­graphic which it sees as city ori­ented, in their mid 20s-30s, with­out kids and look­ing for slightly more space than a sedan or hatch.

And they could be right, as in Europe; the Qashqai was re­cently named the top ur­ban car.

When it comes to the Cana­dian mar­ket, Nis­san has kept it sim­ple with one en­gine be­ing a 2.0-litre di­rect in­jec­tion in­line four-cylin­der with a choice of a sixspeed manual or avail­able CVT trans­mis­sion.

What makes it in­ter­est­ing is avail­abil­ity of all-wheel-drive in ad­di­tion to front-wheel-drive be­cause Nis­san knows how Cana­di­ans love the idea of AWD.

And the CVT with AWD is ac­tu­ally more fuel-ef­fi­cient than the manual/FWD com­bi­na­tion at 9.1/7.5/8.4L/100 km city/ high­way/com­bined com­pared to 10.1/8.12/9.2L/100 km for the manual/FWD. For the record, the CVT with FWD comes in at 8.8/7.3/8.1L/100 km, mak­ing it the most fru­gal of the three driv­e­trains of­fer­ings.

Pric­ing is also cru­cial in this seg­ment as is con­tent, and Qashqai opens at $19,998 for the manual/FWD, and you get sig­na­ture day­time run­ning lights, heated out­side mir­rors, heated front seats, Blue­tooth hands­free con­nec­tiv­ity, five-inch color touch­screen dis­play, Siri Eyes Free and backup cam­era, to name just some of the stan­dard equip­ment.

There are seven trim mod­els, the toptrim SL Plat­inum ($32,198) is loaded with fea­tures such as Sir­iusXM Nis­sanCon­nect, blind spot alert, rear cross traf­fic alert, lane de­par­ture, lane in­ter­ven­tion, high beam as­sist, in­tel­li­gent cruise and au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing with pedes­trian de­tec­tion — all of which are the es­sen­tials needed for au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, should it ever come.

Nis­san may want to call this a sub-com­pact but, in the flesh, it’s a com­pact with all the right cross­over styling cues.

My mount for the na­tional press launch in Mon­treal was a SV with CVT and AWD ($26,798) which is prob­a­bly go­ing to be the “vol­ume” model.

The doors to the cabin struck me as be­ing big for this class and the seat­ing was just right, with a cush­ion long enough for full thigh sup­port, a fail­ing in many sub-com­pact CUVs.

The en­gine was peppy but no rocket, show­ing how I’ve be­come spoiled by small bore twin tur­bos. The lack of such doesn’t hurt, but it would help for those seek­ing more per­for­mance.

The drive through the towns and vil­lages out­side of Mon­treal was very pleas­ant, thanks to a good co-driver who de­cided to put the pedal to the metal at one point and the Qashqai and CVT/AWD re­sponded well.

I no­ticed how seam­less the CVT was in go­ing up or down through the rev range with­out a lot of noise and rub­ber band­ing — which used to the bane of early CVTs.

Be­gin­ning the day, we had a manual/FWD which was a lot of car for the money in light of the stan­dard equip­ment.

This car was also very quiet with not of lot of wet pave­ment “siz­zle” from the tires cross­ing over the roughly sur­faced Cham­plain Bridge.

The manual box was light and slot­ted in where it was sup­posed to go dur­ing up or down­shifts.

Rear sus­pen­sion is a multi-link sys­tem, which tracks bet­ter than the twist tor­sion beam units used in many small ve­hi­cles.

Cou­pled to the front MacPher­son struts with coil springs, it helped the ride and han­dling re­sponse in both cars tested.

The Qushqai is an at­trac­tive new­comer to the cross­over mar­ket and looks well placed to prove Nis­san’s de­ci­sion to bring it here was the right one.

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