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.

Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Teaching Assistant

    £12024: Randstad Education Leeds: Teaching Assistant September 2014 start - te...

    Physics Teacher

    £130 - £162 per day + UPS: Randstad Education Hull: Physics Teacher Long Term ...

    IT Technician (1st/2nd line support) - Leatherhead, Surrey

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Technician (1st/2nd line support)...

    Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

    £85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn