MONTREAL, PQ: On sale in Europe for a decade, Nissan is finally bringing the Qashqai to duke it out in Canada’s red-hot sub-compact crossover arena.
With more than three million already sold globally, Nissan Canada figured it was the right time to bring in the Qashqai to flesh out its fleet of SUVs and crossovers.
Qashqai slots in between the sub-compact Juke and compact Rogue crossovers, the latter being the best seller in the Nissan Canada stable. The others are the mid-size Murano CUV and the large-size Pathfinder and Armada SUVs.
So Nissan now has a full SUV/CUV house, but it is also up against some stiff competition, with Nissan naming the Mazda3
and WW Golf hatchbacks and the Honda HR-V
and Mazda CX-3
in the sub-compact segment.
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You’d think Nissan would want to avoid cannibalism sales on the showroom floor against the Rogue, which compares favourable with the Quashqai, being 98 mm lower and 250 shorter than Rogue but built on the same platform.
But Nissan believes Qashqai appeals to a different demographic which it sees as city oriented, in their mid 20s-30s, without kids and looking for slightly more space than a sedan or hatch.
And they could be right, as in Europe; the Qashqai was recently named the top urban car.
When it comes to the Canadian market, Nissan has kept it simple with one engine being a 2.0-litre direct injection inline four-cylinder with a choice of a six-speed manual or available CVT transmission.
What makes it interesting is availability of all-wheel-drive in addition to front-wheel-drive because Nissan knows how Canadians love the idea of AWD.
And the CVT with AWD is actually more fuel-efficient than the manual/FWD combination at 9.1/7.5/8.4L/100 km city/highway/combined compared to 10.1/8.12/9.2L/100 km for the manual/FWD. For the record, the CVT with FWD comes in at 8.8/7.3/8.1L/100 km, making it the most frugal of the three drivetrains offerings.
Pricing is also crucial in this segment as is content, and Qashqai opens at $19,998 for the manual/FWD, and you get signature daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors, heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, five-inch color touchscreen display, Siri Eyes Free and backup camera, to name just some of the standard equipment.
There are seven trim models, the toptrim SL Platinum ($32,198) is loaded with features such as SiriusXM NissanConnect, blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure, lane intervention, high beam assist, intelligent cruise and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection — all of which are the essentials needed for autonomous driving, should it ever come.
Nissan may want to call this a sub-compact but, in the flesh, it’s a compact with all the right crossover styling cues.
My mount for the national press launch in Montreal was a SV with CVT and AWD ($26,798) which is probably going to be the “volume” model.
The doors to the cabin struck me as being big for this class and the seating was just right, with a cushion long enough for full thigh support, a failing in many sub-compact CUVs.
The engine was peppy but no rocket, showing how I’ve become spoiled by small bore twin turbos. The lack of such doesn’t hurt, but it would help for those seeking more performance.
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The drive through the towns and villages outside of Montreal was very pleasant, thanks to a good co-driver who decided to put the pedal to the metal at one point and the Qashqai and CVT/AWD responded well.
I noticed how seamless the CVT was in going up or down through the rev range without a lot of noise and rubber banding — which used to the bane of early CVTs.
Beginning the day, we had a manual/FWD which was a lot of car for the money in light of the standard equipment.
This car was also very quiet with not of lot of wet pavement “sizzle” from the tires crossing over the roughly surfaced Champlain Bridge.
The manual box was light and slotted in where it was supposed to go during up or downshifts.
Rear suspension is a multi-link system, which tracks better than the twist torsion beam units used in many small vehicles.
Coupled to the front MacPherson struts with coil springs, it helped the ride and handling response in both cars tested.
The Qushqai is an attractive newcomer to the crossover market and looks well placed to prove Nissan’s decision to bring it here was the right one.
2017 Nissan Qashqai
Front engine, front-/all-wheel-drive
2.0-litre, DOHC direct injection inline four-cylinder (141 hp, 147 lb/ft) with six-speed manual or optional CVT
FWD manual, 10.1/8.1/9.2L/100 km city/highway/combined; FWD CVT, 8.8/7.3/8.1L/100 km; AWD CVT, 9.1/188.8.131.52L/100 km
563.5 litres behind second row, 1,509.3 litres folded
S, $19,998-$24,198; SV, $42,598-$26,798; SL, $29,498-$32,198