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.

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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

    Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

    £26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms