Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DIG-T, motoring review: Families will go wild for hatchback/SUV mix

Price: from £17,595
Engine: 1,197cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbo, 115bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 114mph, 0-62 in 11.3 seconds, 50.4mpg, CO2 129g/km

To describe a car as a "crossover" is to suggest it is some sort of mongrel, and neither one thing nor the other. Yet these amalgams of family hatchback and something looking like a 4x4 are extremely popular despite barely existing a couple of decades ago. It's as if buyers needed such a car all along, but neither they nor the car-makers realised it.

While some brands dipped toes, Nissan jumped right in. No one seemed to be buying the company's dull hatchbacks, so Nissan abandoned them and instead launched the Qashqai in 2007, reasoning that the family car was increasingly going to be a crossover.

So it proved. The Qashqai has been a roaring success, selling at twice the rate Nissan expected. This has been good news for the UK, because the Qashqai emerges not from Japan but Sunderland, and moreover is the UK's most-exported car. It was engineered in the UK, too, and mostly designed here. Last year was its most successful yet.

It's always good to leave on a high, so the arrival of a brand-new Qashqai range is timely. Again created and built in Britain, it has a bold, bulbous nose intended to impart extra assertiveness but which makes it look more like a generic 4x4. The lightness of design touch that marked out the old model, making it friendlier and less aggressive-looking than a proper SUV, seems to have gone. That is a shame, and it makes the Qashqai play the charlatan game more than ever because most of the cars sold have been, and will be, front-wheel drive only.

The new car is longer and wider than its predecessor, but also a little lower despite offering more headroom. Various driver aids are offered: automatic headlamp-dipping, moving-object detection and low-speed collision avoidance, this last usefully reducing insurance costs. There's a bird's-eye view of nearby objects for use when parking – handy, given the Qashqai's very high waistline – and the camera which creates the image of what lies behind gets cleaned automatically by the rear wiper's washer jet.

Nissan made much of the previous Qashqai's interior quality, likening it to that of coveted German brands; now it stresses how much better the new one is – and for all its complicated curves, the new car's cabin is indeed a welcoming place. My only gripe is the electric parking brake, so much less controllable than a conventional lever.

The 1.2-litre turbo engine with 115bhp is a smooth, quiet unit with enough urge to move the Qashqai briskly, although brisk driving will use rather more fuel than the official figures lead you to expect.

Where the Qashqai really excels is in the way it tackles curves and bumps. It steers accurately, keeps the driver in the picture as dynamic forces ebb and flow, and does an excellent job of filtering out poor road surfaces. Electronics help here by subtly tweaking the brakes in unexpected circumstances: a nip on an inside front wheel stops the nose from drifting wide, a nip across the rear axle helps stop the Qashqai – a world first, this – from pitching over wavy surfaces by helping to pull the body down when it wants to bounce up.

Could this be the ideal family car of 2014? The old one sold in zillions. And many people, unlike me, like the craggy look of today's cars. So that's probably a yes, then.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

    £100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

    Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee