Qashqai goes premium
Nissan raises the crossover bar
Fugitive: The Curious Case of Carlos Ghosn is a must-see documentary for anyone with even a cursory interest in the business of the motor trade.
If you have not already, set aside time to watch the gripping tale about the rise and fall of the executive that led one of the biggest automotive alliances of the modern era.
While Ghosn boasted many triumphs, he will of course be remembered for his spectacular downfall, embroiled in allegations of serious financial wrongdoing, including underreporting his remuneration and misappropriating funds.
It is ironic that at one stage, he was known as “Le Cost Killer” for his aggressive approach to downsizing, in his pursuit to make the Renault-Nissan operation profitable.
Under his stewardship, Nissan enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, birthing contemporary icons like the 350Z, R35 GT-R, as well as a number of contenders in the burgeoning crossover and sport-utility vehicle spaces.
Among these was the Qashqai. It might have been an unfamiliar tongue-twister when it was launched locally in 2007, but South Africans are now quite comfortable with the the moniker. And they are also quite familiar with all the good that the Qashqai has to offer. Its recipe of hatchback versatility, blended with a dollop of additional ground clearance and zesty styling, has earned it a spot towards the top of shoppers’ lists when looking for a do-it-all family vehicle.
Now the latest model is here, taking the same recipe, but elevating the persona of the Qashqai in just about every single metric.
You will not find a glaring example of “cost killing” here, as the latest offering feels more premium than ever, quite ready to go toe-to-toe with the best of them.
Stylistically, Qashqai has always been an attractive steed, but the latest model has truly grown into its frame, with a distinctive identity that will help it stand out in the sea of rivals. From its sharpened front-end, down to the sculpted side profile and uncluttered rear, it receives looks of admiration. But the interior is where the most dramatic changes are to be found. After a few minutes behind the wheel, it is no longer possible to think of Qashqai in mainstream terms. Nissan has elevated the stock of the breed to premium levels of sophistication, now easily on par, if not superior, to the refinment benchmark Volkswagen Tiguan.
Just about every tactile interaction is of a soft-touch nature, from the smooth leather upholstery of the steering wheel, to the door panel padding. Truly, the grade of plastics in the Qashqai put those found in a new C-Class to shame.
We drove the top-of-the-range Acenta Plus Xtronic grade, which is equipped as standard with virtually every amenity a buyer in 2022 would want. Well, maybe a sunroof would have been nice.
But it compensates for that shortcoming with features such as a Bose sound system, front heated seats, front massaging seats, electric seat adjustment for driver and passenger, wireless charging and leather upholstery.
The 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use, boasting built-in navigation, supporting Apple Car Play and Android Auto. A 360-degree camera is useful in tight parking situations, while the Nissan Intelligent Mobility suite of features includes driver aids that you might find it difficult to live without, once accustomed to them.
This includes the semi-autonomous Pro Pilot system, with its steering assistance, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning and intervention, as well as moving object detection.
You might brace yourself for the continuously-variable transmission (CVT); knowing the ungainly characteristics associated with the setup. Surprisingly, the unit in the Nissan is about as excellent as you could hope, going about its business unobtrusively, always ensuring that the appropriate ratio is engaged. It manages a fine job of extracting what the four-cylinder, 1.3-litre, turbocharged-petrol engine has to offer.
A good portion of my regular drive consists of uphill stretches. The Xtronic CVT showed no propensity for straining and delivered its power to the front wheels in a measured, linear way, with sufficient lowdown grunt when tapped. It produces 110kW and 250Nm.
The only downside was fuel consumption. My average after a week was 11.4l/100km, over a mix of freeway and town conditions. Not terrible but not as frugal as one might expect from a small capacity motor.
Pricing starts at R568,200 for the entrylevel Visia, the Acenta Xtronic comes in at R639,300, while the Acenta Plus Xtronic tested here comes in at R670,600. The knee-jerk reaction would be to dismiss it as expensive, but consider what rivals in the segment go for these days. North of R500,000 is the going rate for a respectable family vehicle in 2022.
Competition in the category is fierce. Models like the earlier-mentioned Tiguan are hard to fault, while competent alternatives like the Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5 are also difficult to ignore.
It is safe to say that Nissan has put in the work to ensure their Qashqai is not merely an also-ran in the segment.