TOP-SPEC TRADE-OFF

At $40K-plus in Ti grade, the Qashqai SUV re­quires some com­pro­mises

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - IAIN CURRY & JULES LUCHT

Nis­san is more or less an SUV brand these days, its range flush with high riders of dif­fer­ent sizes. The Juke mini-SUV is aimed at sin­gles keen on some­thing funky, while its mid­size X-Trail tar­gets fam­i­lies with a few kids. In the mid­dle sits the Qashqai, ideal, Nis­san says, for “cou­ples with an ac­tive and busy life­style”. Can it en­dear it­self in top spec — and pricey — Ti guise to our fam­ily of four testers?

FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

JULES: Colour­ful, sharp and with just the right amount of bling, I can see why cool cou­ples would pick a Qashqai.

IAIN: It’s cer­tainly a looker but to me this is the poster boy for mod­ern faux-wheel drives.

JULES: Just be­cause it’s only two-wheel drive and won’t go off-road?

IAIN: That’s one rea­son but it’s also too small for fam­i­lies, ex­pen­sive when dressed up like this, the en­gine’s good for only 106kW and has a drive-dulling, fun-rob­bing con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion. I’ll be hon­est, it’s not the fam­ily car of my dreams.

JULES: That’s why it’s aimed at life­style cou­ples.

IAIN: They should get a small hatch­back that drives bet­ter, goes faster and costs less.

JULES: But you get to sit high in an SUV and look more on trend de­sign-wise.

IAIN: At some cost though. This

Ti grade is more than $40,000 to drive-away. That’s $10K more than a base Qashqai ST and prac­ti­cally the same money as a well-equipped X-Trail ST-L — that’s a seven-seat mid-size SUV.

JULES: So I ex­pect our Qashqai is full of lux­u­ries to jus­tify the price?

IAIN: It is a bit fancy, yes.

THE LIV­ING SPACE

JULES: Nappa leather ac­cents for the seats — nicely pre­mium. IAIN: They’re well de­signed but not sink-in comfy. And they’ve been given a strange kind of leather ex­oskele­ton. JULES: They’re heated and power ad­justable. We’ve been in far pricier SUVs with­out this.

IAIN: It is heavy on good­ies. Auto head­lights and wipers, dual zone cli­mate con­trol, sat­nav, lots of driver as­sist and a full-length glass roof. It makes for a light-bathed cabin.

JULES: In­fo­tain­ment feels a few gen­er­a­tions old. There’s no Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto, not great if you’re tar­get­ing younger cou­ples.

IAIN: True. I also had real trou­ble con­sis­tently pair­ing my phone with the Nis­san Con­nect. It didn’t mat­ter whether I used Blue­tooth or plugged in, the phone and au­dio let me down.

JULES: Plus a seven-inch screen feels small these days. You’d ex­pect the top-spec model to have some­thing spe­cial.

IAIN: The dash has a nice curved de­sign and plenty of soft-touch plas­tics.

THE COM­MUTE

JULES: You have to say it’s a pleas­ing thing to drive in town and the high­way.

IAIN: If you can stay awake through lack of any driver en­joy­ment. JULES: Again, it’s meant to trans­port you qui­etly and com­fort­ably and it does the job there.

IAIN: Once up to speed, it’s fine. It’s well in­su­lated on the high­way, the en­gine is un­stressed — we re­turned 8.1L/100km over­all — and it’s an easy cruiser. Tyre noise is no­tice­able and it can crash over harsher bumps on its 19-inch wheels.

JULES: The radar cruise con­trol, where the car brakes and ac­cel­er­ates to fol­low the car in front, is bril­liant for the com­mute.

THE SHOP­PING

IAIN: A 430L boot isn’t huge for the class but, if it’s a car for two, you can just drop the rear seats. The weekly shop may fit in but my push­bike couldn’t with­out tak­ing the front wheel off. JULES: It’s not a big car so it’s easy to park. Plus you get a rear cam­era with pre­dic­tive lines, front and rear park sen­sors and ex­cel­lent 360park­ing cam­era. It’s got your back at the su­per­mar­ket.

SUN­DAY RUN

IAIN: This is where I get grumpy. A car has to be fun in some ca­pac­ity. The Qashqai nei­ther brings back-road joy nor can take me off-road for a camp­ing trip.

JULES: The en­gine is a bit soft. Plus the CVT whines when you floor it.

IAIN: It ac­tu­ally han­dles quite well and Nis­san’s shod it with grippy low-pro­file tyres. But there’s no point. It’s so hard to get the car up to speed. There aren’t even pad­dle-shifters to play be­ing Lewis Hamil­ton for a few min­utes.

JULES: It’s an un­apolo­getic sub­ur­ban SUV. It won’t be used on moun­tain passes and is as likely to go off-road as an F1 car.

THE FAM­ILY

IAIN: Pos­i­tively, it’s very safe with to­tal airbag cov­er­age, AEB, lane de­par­ture warn­ing and in­ter­ven­tion, blind spot warn­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert.

JULES: There’s enough space in the sec­ond row for the two kid­die seats but not enough boot space for their bikes.

IAIN: Cer­tainly the huge glass roof makes rear seat travel more en­joy­able but no rear air vents for the kids is poor form.

THE VER­DICT

IAIN: The Qashqai makes sense but not in ex­pen­sive Ti grade. Favour a cheaper vari­ant, or for the same money buy a proper mid-size SUV that’s more fam­ily-friendly and could go of­froad.

JULES: If most of our jour­neys are dull school drop-offs and cart­ing kids to ac­tiv­i­ties, the trade-off is get­ting good spec to re­ward busy par­ents. The Qashqai Ti looks sharp and the leather cabin has a pre­mium feel. It needs more cut­ting-edge in­fo­tain­ment.

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