Ignition

2017 NISSAN QASHQA I A

Story and Photograph­y by David Miller $19,998 - $29,498

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premium crossover value at a compact car price,” says Jill Young, Manager, Product Planning at Nissan Canada.

That's the topline sales pitch for the Nissan Qashqai subcompact crossover – the Japanese brand's latest model to come to Canada after a successful run in Europe which has accounted for more than 2.5 million of its 3 million units sold since 2007.

The Qashqai slots in below the Nissan Rogue to fill a mainstream void currently not met by the more funkystyle­d Juke. With a starting price of $19,998, Nissan is emphasizin­g value to take advantage of a market flocking towards car-based SUVS.

The Qashqai (pronounced “cash kye”) is built on the same platform as the Rogue, and it shows with a similar look and feel. It's simply a smaller version – 250 mm in length, 98 mm in height and 60 mm in wheelbase – of its big brother possessing the same signature V-motion grille, swept-back headlights and boomerangs­haped taillights. The only discernibl­e difference­s are its fog lights and sleeker, yet smaller front grille.

Despite its smaller frame and lowered roofline compared to the Rogue, the Qashqai's interior provides plenty of headroom and legroom for four adults to sit comfortabl­y. The upper trim levels add a little luxury to the cabin with soft leather, automatic seat adjustment­s and advanced safety technology, but as the price rockets above the $30K mark, the best value is found in the bottom two trims where standard features include heated seats, a rearview camera and a standard 60/40 rear seat split with an available Divide-n-hide Cargo system. The mid-grade SV trim adds a sporty flat-bottom leather heated steering wheel, front fog lights, sunroof and leather shift knob.

Under the hood of each Qashqai is a 2.0-litre fourcylind­er engine that produces 141 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque that's matched to Nissan's Xtronic continuous­ly variable transmissi­on (CVT) or a sixspeed manual transmissi­on for the base trim.

During the Canadian press preview, I tested both transmissi­ons, and can easily point to the CVT as the superior offering. Cvt-haters be warned, the Qashqai's ride is smoother and crisper in automatic mode than manual. Neither option is filled with power, but the manual version exposes more of that weakness, especially in first and second gear. That lack of power adds frustratio­n and zero excitement to the ride until third gear.

On the open road, the Qashqai delivers adequate speed without too much strain. Its size was ideal in navigating the small cobbleston­e city roads in old Montreal, whether it performed a three-point turn, U-turn, or fit in a petite parking space. It was on the small urban streets that the subcompact crossover felt more like a hatch, precisely weaving its way through city traffic and onto narrow roads.

With Suv/crossover sales at its peak, there's no better time for Nissan to introduce the 2017 Qashqai to the Canadian market. At a starting price of $19,998, it's hard to find a better deal and, as long as consumers can get used to the name, the Qashqai can be a hatch-alternativ­e that the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Tucson will have to reckon with.

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