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.

  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living