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We review the 2019 Nissan Qashqai

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The Car.co.uk verdict:

4.5

It’s been 12 years since the Qashqai was introduced to the UK. Back then, it was a car we didn’t know we wanted; now, you’d be hard pushed to drive a mile without seeing a handful. The Qashqai isn’t quite perfect, but it’s got plenty of room, a fantastic upright driving position, and a range of quiet and economical engines powering a car that’s predictable and easy to drive. 

If you’re hoping to find a spacious family car that’s cost-effective, good looking, safe, and as happy on the motorway as it is on the school run, then it’s going to be well worth your time getting acquainted with the Qashqai.

Pros

  • A selection of great engines – petrol and diesel options are smooth and quiet
  • Practical and comfortable cabin with plenty of room for passengers
  • Some high-spec driver assistance – even toward the bottom of the range

Cons

  • Infotainment system feels outdated and clunky compared to competitors
  • Larger alloy wheel options compromise otherwise excellent ride comfort
  • Highest spec versions can cost £30k+ pitting the Qashqai against superior premium SUVs

At a glance

  • Looks
  • Practicality
  • Engine & power
  • Reliability
  • Equipment & options
  • Interior
  • The drive
  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Why buy

Looks

4 out of 5

Sharper lines bring the Qashqai right up to date

While Nissan took the lead on creating the SUV as we now know it, they’ve definitely followed the lead that Audi set out a few years ago with the plunging grille on the Qashqai. Of course, emulating Audi styling is no bad thing – it definitely gives the newest incarnation of the Qashqai the ultra-modern feel that we see on similar cars in the DS, Honda and Mitsubishi ranges. 

As well as the crisp lines that tighten up the look of the Qashqai at the front, the addition of contrasting roof rails and mirrors slightly higher up the spec range really add that authentic rugged feel that’s become an important part of the SUV look.

The steel wheels and hubcaps that come as standard on the entry-level Qashqai really take the edge off an otherwise fantastic styling. That said, there’s a balance to be struck in the wheel department; the larger 18-19-inch wheels that come at the top of the range may result in admiring glances – but their impact on ride comfort is nothing short of catastrophic. A relatively conservative 17-inch alloy mixes style comfort perfectly. 

Practicality

4.5 out of 5

A practical SUV – but not the most practical in the class

If you’re coming to the Qashqai with hopes of the most practical vehicle you’ve ever driven, you might be a little disappointed. That’s not to say that Nissan hasn’t done a good job – but 430 litres of boot space isn’t going to change the world – in fact, it’s only just ahead of what you’ll find in a Civic or a Golf.

In reality, as long as you’re not 4 adults driving to the airport with hold luggage, the boot will be perfectly adequate. A good-sized buggy tucks into the back with a changing bag and a couple of shopping bags – as do two sets of golf clubs. Drop the static 60/40 split seats flat and you’re opening up 1598 litres – comfortably housing a bike without the need for removing wheels. It’s a bit of shame that Nissan hasn’t opted for the extra flexibility that 40/20/40 split seats offer – but it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker.

Size aside, there’s some serious thought gone into the boot. There’s a false floor on most models that allows you to do away with the boot lip if needed, and that also frees up space under the floor for you to stow your parcel shelf – infinitely better than propping it against the wall in the garage. The false floor is also ‘configurable’ – meaning you can use it to create an individual dropped section in the boot – ideal if you usually find your shopping has tipped over on the way back from the supermarket. Dog owners of the world can also rejoice – as the boot floor can be flipped over so reveal a wipe-clean side – perfect for muddy paws.

Of course, there’s more to an SUV than the boot. Up front, there’s plenty of steering wheel and front seat adjustment – along with plenty of places to store phones, drinks, wallets, chargers, and other essentials. There’s also a cavernous space in the armrest that’ll take water bottles when you get tired of bumping your elbow on them as you change gear.

The Nissan Qashqai’s dimensions accommodate 4 adults comfortably – but, interestingly, headspace is significantly compromised when you add a panoramic glass roof. If you like a sunroof and you’re much over 6-feet tall, you’ll definitely want to try the Qashqai before you place an order.

Engine & power

4.5 out of 5

A new fantastic 1.3 petrol engine

Until this most recent incarnation of the Qashqai, there were 2 petrol engines to choose from – a rather lacking 1.2-litre and a reasonable 1.6-litre. Now, Nissan has replaced these options with a single engine – albeit in 2 states of tune. The new 1.3 DiG-T is fantastic; it produces 138bph and an impressive 177lb of torque – so it actually feels like an SUV that can lug a bit of weight.

In reality, if you’re planning on actually pulling some weight – whether that’s caravans, trailers or horseboxes, you might want to step up into the 158bhp version of the engine. While that extra 20bhp doesn’t make a huge difference to everyday driving, the engine does offer an additional 15lbs of torque (and another 7lbs if twinned with the 7-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox) – which makes for a more comfortable and confident drive under load.

With the 138bhp engine onboard, 0-62mph arrives in 10.5 seconds – which puts the Qashqai in the same performance bracket at similarly spec’d Seat Atecas and Skoda Karoqs. The Qashqai isn’t a contender for the land-speed record – but with a combined fuel economy of 41.5mpg and 121g/km CO2 emissions, it offers very respectable economy while still being nippy and responsive around town.

As well as the DiG-T powerplant, Nissan is also offering a 1.5-litre and 1.7-litre diesel option for higher-mileage drivers. While the 1.7 option’s got the guts you’ll need if you want the single 4WD variant of the Qashqai, the smooth, powerful and economical 1.5-litre is going to be more than adequate for most longer journeys.

Reliability

5 out of 5

Could reliability be looking up for the Qashqai?

Reliability reports relating to the Qashqai are something of a mixed bag. Some studies report generally happy customers – whereas others have the Qashqai pegged just above the Range Rover Evoque (with its wide-range of gearbox issues). This range of driver experience is likely to put the popular Nissan SUV’s previous reliability into the ‘average’ category.

While Nissan doesn’t have a reputation for producing the most reliable cars on UK roads, they have extended the oil change and service interval on the Qashqai from 12,500 miles to 18,000 – so improving reliability appears to be something that’s worked its way to the top of the to-do list. A recently face-lifted model and selection of new engines means only time will tell if Nissan is starting to get reliability exactly right. In terms of dealing with any issues, you’ll get a 3-years/60,000 miles warranty – and, just in case - breakdown cover’s also included throughout that time.

Equipment & options

3.5 out of 5

A reasonable balance of equipment and cost – although only at mid-range

If you’re hoping for a reasonable Nissan Qashqai spec at entry level, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The Visia misses out on virtually every desirable piece of equipment (including alloy wheels) – making it well worth the additional £3,000 to step up into the Acenta Premium spec level. Here, you’ll add to the minimal Visia spec with an uprated NissanConnect infotainment system, 17-inch alloys, climate control, rear parking camera, and a Smart Vision pack that includes high-beam assist, road sign recognition, intelligent braking, pedestrian recognition, lane departure warnings, and parking sensors.

On N-Connecta cars, safety equipment starts to get really impressive; with rear cross-traffic alerts, blind spot warnings, an intelligent driver alertness system and parking assist. At this level, you’ll also get the roof bars that give this new Qashqai the true SUV look. Teckna and Teckna+ levels get Bose speakers, a nice looking (if a little restrictive) panoramic roof, and quilted leather electric seats at the very top end.

The trouble with some of the Qashqai’s options is that some just aren’t very good. Sure, N-Connecta and Tekna get you 18-inch and 19-inch alloys respectively – but they produce such a harsh ride quality that the sensible option seems to be to downgrade them (which you can thankfully do at no extra cost).

Unfortunately, there’s no swapping the NissanConnect entertainment system – so you’re going to be stuck with a slightly laggy touchscreen that feels a bit dated. Don’t misunderstand, everything works - and it’s Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto enabled – but in a world of ultra-high-quality and immediately responsive mobile phone screens, you’ll probably find yourself jabbing at the 7’ touchscreen, wondering if it’s going to react. Thankfully, there are physical buttons alongside the screen – allowing for safer operation when in motion.

Interior

4.5 out of 5

A solid-feeling comfortable interior

The inside of the Qashqai is a nice place to be. Compared to the pre-facelift model, this overhauled interior boasts some nice heavy soft-touch materials making up most of the dash you see before you. A chunky new flat-bottomed steering wheel gives the impression you’re in a sporty saloon rather than an SUV – and the buttons that adorn the cockpit all feel solid and well put-together.

The front seats are firm where they need to be and give a comfortable yet supported feel when you’re driving. Adjustable lumbar support is standard, although they lack the sporty bolsters that would match the steering wheel. At the top end of the range, the seats come upholstered in a plush Nappa leather that really gives the passenger cabin a premium feel.

It’s fair to say that Nissan has almost got it exactly right with the Qashqai interior. The solid feeling materials give way to some cheap plastic that makes up the storage at the bottom of the doors - but it’s reasonable to expect a little compromise when everything else is put together so well.

The drive

5 out of 5

Comfy, agile, and responsive around town

Of the mark, the Qashqai feels good. Both 1.3 DiG-T engines feel responsive and perfectly capable of hauling this reasonably chunky car around town or along the motorway. On country roads the Qashqai feels endlessly safe – it’s easy to drive, smooth, predictable, and elevated ride-height allows for suspension that smooths things out admirably.

Now, that claim of smooth ride quality has to come with a side-note. Nissan forces you to make a decision when you’re buying the Qashqai: Do you want big diamond cut alloys that look fantastic? Or would you prefer less eye-catching 17-inch wheels - with the added bonus of not rattling any fillings you might have out of your teeth? If you want posh wheels, the option’s there – but impressive ride quality definitely hinges around wheel choice.

Neither the Qashqai’s steering or manual gear-change feels particularly tight and responsive – especially not when compared to the Skoda Karoq – but brakes do feel sharp, so you can expect to jolt yourself to a halt the first few times you approach the lights.

There’s nothing exciting about the way the Qashqai drives – but that’s a good thing. Is it ‘a driver’s car’? Not really – but it’s definitely safe, stable, and offers plenty of confidence owing to impressive all-round visibility.

Cost

4.5 out of 5

Can the Qashqai compare to an Audi Q3? Because the price can…

There’s an incredible variation in Nissan Qashqai price tags. At entry-level, you can expect to pay £19,995 for the Visia with the excellent 138bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine (although not much else). At the top end, around £35,500 will get you a 4WD Tekna+ with the 1.7-litre diesel engine. 

In reality, neither of these cars represent great value. The Visia is under spec’d – and the 4WD Tekna+ is virtually the same price as an Audi Q3 clad in very attractive S-Line finery. It’s fair to assume we won’t see a huge number of these on UK roads.

Fortunately, Nissan has struck a sensible compromise with the Acenta and N-Connecta spec levels. At £22,900 and £24,600 respectively, both cars get great safety features and a nice level of creature comforts – and weigh in as less-costly than their Skoda or Seat counterparts. 

Safety

4.5 out of 5

Excellent safety equipment from Acenta Premium and upwards

Any talk of safety equipment on the Qashqai needs to be prefaced by an acknowledgement that you won’t get a great deal if you opt for the Visia spec’d car. It’s not completely devoid of safety equipment of course – you’ll still get 6 airbags in a vehicle that a few years ago got 5 Euro NCAP stars – but that’s about it.  

Again, move toward the middle of the range and you get some fantastic safety features. On Acenta Premium cars you’ll get the Smart Vision pack – with adaptive lights, traffic sign recognition and an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror. You’ll also get the extremely effective Intelligent Emergency Braking system that’s clever enough to identify pedestrians and stop you promptly if one appears in front of you. Inside the car, you’re kept safe and sound with audio and visual lane departure warnings along with front and rear parking sensors. 

When you spec your Qashqai to N-Connecta level, you’ll get rear cross traffic alerts (hopefully stopping bumps as you reverse out of parking bays), blind spot warnings if you’re planning on changing lanes and miss an awkwardly placed vehicle, intelligent driver alertness if the car thinks you’re getting tired, and parking assist that helps if reversing into a space isn’t your strong point.

Why buy

4.5 out of 5

The original SUV is still going strong – but it’s got impressive competition

The new Qashqai is a lot like the original that we all fell in love with back in 2007. The only problem is, back then, the Qashqai was (for a while at least) the only option – so it won the market share quickly, and held it. Now though, there are pretenders to the affordable-SUV throne; the Seat Ateca, the Skoda Karoq, and the Kia Sportage – to name but a few.

Just because you’ve got a lot to choose from doesn’t mean you should neglect the Qashqai though, it’s a lovely car to drive and inspires bundles of confidence owing to its predictable nature. It doesn’t have the biggest boot – but it’s enough to take you on holiday. The infotainment system isn’t great – but it’ll play your music and get you where you need to go. If you’re one of the 500,000 people who currently have a Qashqai, the 2019 range is a great place to look if it’s time to upgrade.

If you like the way the facelifted Qashqai looks then it should definitely be on your shortlist – but pay close attention when you compare it to the Karoq – as the two are both great cars; but there’s definitely an argument that says Skoda pack a bit more value into their SUV offering.