|NISSAN QASHQAI 1.3 158 TEKNA+|
|The story: The third generation of the car that kicked off the crossover genre, Nissan’s Qashqai returns with mild hybridisation and a weight of expectation that comes with being the dominant sector player|
|Key rival:||Volkswagen Tiguan|
This is one of the biggest new car launches of the year, because the new third-generation Qashqai is the latest evolution of a car that invented the popular crossover sector in 2007, and also accounts for 40% of Nissan’s UK volume.
The new car’s big styling difference is at the front, where it takes on the slender lighting and grille design of the new Juke. There have also been big changes underneath, with more to follow next year when a hybrid model joins the 138hp and 158hp petrol engines with which the new Qashqai launches (see panel).
Nissan has also worked on the new car’s driving experience, and to good effect. The bodyshell is 60kg lighter and significantly stiffer, which helps both efficiency and driving dynamics, as well as reducing vibrations.
While the Qashqai has always been one of the handier crossovers from behind the wheel, the upgrades are noticeable, and combine with a perfect weight of steering. Nissan has worked on improving the sensitivity and responsiveness, and has managed to set the steering up to both be light enough to be good at low speed, yet still responsive when on twistier or faster roads. Overall, it’s a big improvement on what was already not exactly a weakness.
On the inside, the manual car gets a huge and chunky gearlever in what is a sensible dash layout that uses angled lines to give a sense of space. The materials used on the top-spec Tekna+ are high quality across the cabin, and equipment levels are good, with the entry-level Visia getting a raft of safety kit, as well as rear parking camera, dual-zone climate control and folding mirrors. The mid-spec N-Connecta is where the 12.3-inch digital dash and 9.0-inch touchscreen sat-nav system appear, so is the logical trim level for drivers to aim for.
Rear space is adequate rather than expansive, although there are bonus points for quite how wide the rear doors open, and the boot has a useful split-floor arrangement and appears larger than its on-paper 436 litres would lead to believe. Rivals such as the Peugeot 3008, Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen Tiguan all have more than 500 litres, but the Qashqai doesn’t look that far adrift in the metal.
This top-spec Tekna+ looks expensive, but there is better value further down the line-up, with the N-Connecta, which is expected to be the most popular trim level, being a good balance of spec and price.