On the surface, the 2019 Nissan Qashqai looks almost exactly the same as its 2018 equivalent. To find the worthwhile changes, therefore, you must go under the skin – or to be more precise, the bonnet – where Nissan has installed its new 1.3-litre petrol engine.
To understand the reasoning for this investment look no further than the new car market’s ongoing shift away from diesel, where registrations were down almost 30% in 2018. That takes diesel’s share of the market to 31.7% versus 42% the year before – and Nissan doesn’t see it ending there.
TAKING UP THE SLACK
In the long term it is hybrid and electric cars that are expected to take up the slack. But none of the big car-makers are willing to put all their eggs in that particular basket just yet. Instead, they are working to even out the mix of fuel types across their ranges, and in the short term in particular for petrol to step up. Which, of course, is why we are seeing significant investment across the industry directed at revising or renewing such engines.
The Qashqai is an obvious candidate. It is, after all, a car that rose to being a top 10 seller off the back of the public’s insatiable appetite for diesel-powered cars, its fuel efficient and tax-friendly 1.5-litre dCi unit in particular offering a sound combination of strong performance and low running costs. So good is the diesel (which remains in the line-up, incidentally) in fact, that Nissan’s pair of petrol engines (both 1.2 and 1.6-litre versions were offered) were largely overlooked. It didn’t help that they were either too slow or too expensive to compete with rival petrol crossovers.
Not so with the new 1.3, which is one of 13 units being co-developed with Daimler (it is also used in the new Mercedes A-class). This four-cylinder, turbocharged engine comes complete with a petrol particulate filter to cut NOx emissions, and is available with either 139bhp or 158bhp. This allows it to replace both the 1.2- and 1.6-litre petrol engines of old, in both instances offering improved performance and lower running costs (Nissan claims fuel economy has improved by 10%, while servicing intervals have been extended from 12,000 to 18,000 miles).
Opt for the lower output version and you’re restricted to a six-speed manual gearbox, whereas its gutsier alternative can also be had with a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that replaces the old Xtronix CVT. The aim of all this is simple: to make the Qashqai more relevant for buyers who are looking to switch back out of diesel and might have had their attention diverted by the Seat Ateca, Peugeot 3008, Ford Kuga et al.
Also new for the latest version of the Qashqai is a much-improved infotainment system that comes complete with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the live traffic updates via TomTom. While still not class leading in terms of graphics, ease of use or screen size, it has at least brought Nissan’s offering much more in line with the competition.
Our drive starts off in the lower-powered version of the new engine, which is a smooth and quiet performer. Being turbocharged there’s enough low down and mid-range urge to mean you aren’t forever changing gear, and although not outright fast (0-62mph takes 10.5 seconds) nor is the Qashqai ponderous. That it has almost 40lb ft more torque than the old 1.2 is certainly noticeable when driving up and over the hilly terrain of the Peak District. Admittedly our car had only two people on board (and no luggage), but at no point did it give off the impression that it wouldn’t cope if fully laden.
A later drive in a car with the 158bhp engine and the automatic gearbox was notable not so much for the extra power as the vast improvement in refinement this new automatic setup gives compared with Nissan’s old CVT. The difference is night and day, not to mention very welcome.
As for the rest of the driving experience, the Qashqai remains impressively hushed in terms of road, wind and engine noise. Along with the comfort-oriented suspension this makes it a fine vehicle in which to cover big distances. And it still handles as neatly as ever, responding faithfully and quickly when asked to change direction, and offering decent levels of grip. OK, you’d still be best to describe it as pleasant rather than exciting, but pleasant has got the Qashqai a very long way to date, both in terms of new and used sales.
Take a quick glance at the overall package and you might be tricked into thinking this latest iteration of the Qashqai isn’t terribly newsworthy. However, the 1.3-litre engine is a vast improvement on what came before and, combined with the upgraded infotainment, results in this already hugely popular car taking another meaningful stride forward. Put simply, if you’re in the market for a family friendly crossover, the Qashqai continues to deserve a place on your shortlist.
Price: Nissan Qashqai from £19,595. As tested Tekna 1.3 DIG-T 140PS £25,895
Power: 138bhp @ 5,000rpm
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Top speed: 120mph
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg (WLTP Combined)
Search for a 1.3-litre Nissan Qashqai on CarGurus
NISSAN QASHQAI MODEL HISTORY
Nissan Qashqai Mk1
The original Qashqai of 2006 was a true pioneer, combining SUV-like styling with the purchase price and low running costs of a family hatchback. It was also good to drive and usefully roomy (particularly if you opted for the seven-seat Qashqai+2 version), making it a hit with families. It went on to serve as the catalyst for an explosion in the crossover market, where the latest Qashwai now competes with more than 30 rivals.
Search for a Mk1 Nissan Qashqai on CarGurus
Nissan Qashqai Mk2
When the second Qashqai arrived in 2013 there would be no seven-seat version (that role instead taken by the X-Trail), but in every other regard it represented a leap forward over its predecessor. The engines were more efficient, the design more substantial and the quality of the interior was getting close to what you’d normally expect to see in a car from one of the German premium marques. With so many sold there’s a plentiful supply of used models to choose from at a wide range of price points.
Search for a Mk2 Nissan Qashqai on CarGurus
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