When Nissan produced a new SUV for the market it had no idea how vital it was going to be to the company's fortunes.
Credit crunch and global recession were not even on the horizon when the Qashqai took to the drawing boards but it single-handedly saved the firm from the worst economic downturn could throw in its direction.
Its exalted status among the company’s thousands of employees is well deserved. Right from launch the SUV was class-leading in the way it was built, performed and charmed. Where others were just okay Qashqai was exceptional. And if there was a downside, it could have done with being just a bit bigger.
As recession bites and all manufacturers need every bullet in the armoury to survive Nissan has reloaded by resolving this issue nicely with the introduction of the +2.
This shares all the attributes of the original with the benefits of seven seats and a bit more room.
You have to be sharp-eyed to see its different grille and stretched body and you really need to see both models side by side to tell the difference.
Inside, the rear set of seats folds neatly out of the boot floor to provide accommodation for two adults that will provide reasonable comfort over a reasonable distance. If and when you don’t need them they remain hidden offering a flat floor and an even larger load space.
Qashqai has always been excellent to drive and +2 is no exception. Where many SUVs feel compromised in the ride and comfort stakes, Qashqai acts just like a big car. The extra length and weight of the +2 do nothing to spoil the party while the 2.0 litre diesel isn’t perturbed by the job at hand.
The turbo diesel is exceptionally strong offering fine and splendid acceleration, overtaking and cruising ability. In all conditions it is refined and capable and, most importantly of all, enjoyable to drive. It will achieve 40+ miles per gallon too; just what you need when times are hard.
It does seem strange though that the Qashqai isn’t necessarily a 4x4 when its looks and lines scream off-roader.
The original Qashqai felt SUV enough but the +2, with its increased girth, feels even more like an off-roader.
But in truth you have to specify all wheel drive as an option and when you do it is worth the money, kicking in automatically at the first hint of trouble and resuming traction to normal. When you don’t accessorize it can’t help you and it is vital you remember this important fact.
More than once I found its front wheels flailing through the dirt because I’d forgotten I wasn’t behind the wheel of a mud-plugger. The huge reserves of power that appear from virtually tickover can break the contact of the front wheels, particularly when it is wet and greasy so be warned.
In providing a stretched version of this successful model Nissan has pulled another blinder at minimal cost.
Offering that bit extra on top of an already capable car was just what it needed to keep Qashqai ahead of the game and the rigors of recession at bay a bit longer.
Model: Nissan Qashqai+2
Engine: 2.0 litre diesel
Drivetrain: Six speed manual
Top speed: 110mph
0-62mph: 10.5 secs
Insurance group: 9
Miles per gallon (combined): 40.4
CO2 (g/km): 199
Price: from £18,345.00