- What’s Best: Blurring the lines between compact and subcompact size, the 2018 Nissan Qashqai offers nimble crossover qualities.
- What’s Worst: Well-tailored but monotonous interior, limited power choices.
- What’s Interesting: Qashqai will venture into semi-autonomous driving next year with the new ProPILOT Assist (PPA) technology in 2019 models.
Can car companies have too many sport utility models in their lineups?
Not these days, with the continuous flight from cars to crossovers.
Nissan, for example, now has six versions of sport utility covering every variation of size and price packaging, from the Kicks to Qashqai, Rogue, Murano, Pathfinder and Armada.
The Nissan Rogue has proved the most popular, leading Nissan Canada’s sales with its blend of compact affordability and car-like civility stroked with SUV styling cues. But it made sense for Nissan to milk the segment further with the new Qashqai (or “cash cow”, as some wags quickly nicknamed it).
The Qashqai was quickly relabeled as a Rogue Sport in the U.S., lest its seemingly unpronounceable two “q”s and the name’s Iranian roots cause tiny American heads to explode. But the Qashqai name proved no problem here in Canada, where it quickly climbed to a close second in sales behind the Rogue.
Although the Qashqai builds on the same CMF (Common Module Family) platform as the Rogue, it is slightly smaller with a 58 mm (2.3-in) shorter wheelbase, a 142 mm (5.6-in) lower height and a 307 mm (12.1-in) shorter length.
With those nimble dimensions, the Qashqai is aimed squarely at singles, young couples and empty nesters yet, with almost the same width measurement as the Rogue, it still offers do-able five passenger accommodation and up to up to 1,730 litres (61.1 cu ft) of cargo space.
Nissan Canada elected to start the Qashqai lineup with a simple steel-wheeled, front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual model to keep the starting price just under $20K. But the Qashqai menu offers a wealth of choices, starting with three trim levels that include the S ($19,998), SV ($22,648) and SL ($30,298).
All models harness a 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine rated at 141 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque.
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Power is translated via the six-speed manual that comes standard on lower trims or through an available Xtronic CVT transmission, optional ($2,500-$2,700) or standard in higher trim applications.
The Xtronic provides programmed stepped-shifting that simulates the more pleasing sensation of upshifting gear changes under acceleration. It also answers driver desires for either thrust or thrift with a Sport Mode Shifter and Eco Mode switch.
The Qashqai lineup includes standard front-wheel-drive with Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive ($4,700-$4,900) optional or standard in top SL trim.
The 2.0-litre power mill may not exactly set your pulse rate racing or earn any kind of official towing potential, but its adequate performance will get you where you’re going with a 9.0/7.5L/100km fuel economy rating in this SL AWD model with the Xtronic CVT.
The overall performance benefits from ABS, EPS, a fully independent suspension and long list of standard or available driver assists including vehicle dynamic control, active ride control, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and more.
Our top-of-the-lineup SL tester maxes out those technologies with an optional Platinum Package ($1,900) adding Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention, LED headlamps with High Beam Assist, along with NissanConnect navigation and infotainment.
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This is all wrapped up in an “emotional geometry” exterior design with sharp lines and creases, an aggressive stance on the SL’s biggish 19-inch wheels, along with a little front end bling and Nissan’s Z-heritage trademark boomerang taillights.
The Qashqai’s youthful styling statement is further emphasized with a punchy palette of catchy colours, capped by quirky shades of Monarch Orange and our as-tested Nitro Lime.
Inside, this Qashqai SL is leather-appointed, well put together and, frankly, a little boring. A few splashes of body-coloured trim, surrounds, bright embroidery or whatever, a la Hyundai Kona, would do better to reflect the exterior exuberance.
But there’s not a lot else to complain about. The SL trim offers plenty of bells and whistles controlled through a battery of buttons on the leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel and dash.
The NissanConnect system with navigation, mobile apps and services is accessed via a 7.0-inch colour touch-screen display and an Intelligent Around View Monitor camera system is also available.
The seats are firm and comfortable. And the rear cargo area, accessed through a wide liftgate, offers Nissan’s innovative Divide-N-Hide cargo system. The 648 litres (22.9 cu ft) of luggage room expands to 1,730 litre (61.1 cu ft) with the second row folded flat and all models include a cargo area cover and six luggage hooks.
Nissan Canada told me they will also be adding the ProPILOT lane-centering and intelligent cruise control system to the upcoming 2019 Qashqai models and we can expect more innovations in future as the company strives to make even more inroads in the steadily increasing and competitive crossover market.