Ask anyone to name the most popular Nissan model around today and more than half the time, the answer will be “Qashqai”.
Yes, everyone remembers the Sunny and the Note, too. But no other Nissan model in recent years comes close to the Qashqai.
The crossover first hit the market in 2006. It may have had offbeat styling, but its combination of space, practicality and hatchback-like manoeuvrability made it a big success.
The second-generation Qashqai further solidified the model’s foothold in the compact crossover segment. It had nicer styling, more space and more importantly, better refinement.
In Singapore, this iteration is the one you still see running around. Many of them are powered by the turbocharged 1.2-litre drivetrain, which made this generation even more attractive to buyers.
Given these precedents, the latest Qashqai has a bit of a mountain to climb. That shouldn’t be a problem for the all-new crossover, though. Notwithstanding current COE prices, it has more than enough talent to make buyers consider it.
The new Qashqai’s styling is an evolution of the previous one. It looks sleeker than before, with the larger V-shaped grille flanked by slimmer LED headlights.
Giving it a more upmarket vibe are the optional two-tone roof and rear badging, which is emblazoned across the tailgate. Though no longer a novel design element at this point, it is still seen on brands such as Lexus and Porsche.
The good news continues inside. Get behind the wheel and you’ll discover an interior filled with soft-touch surfaces, with Nappa leather even adorning the seats for an added touch of cushiness.
The Qashqai’s dashboard meets the expectations of today’s buyers who expect digitalisation. The 12.3-inch instrument panel has sharp graphics and intuitive menu navigation, but I wished it had different layouts to choose from.
To be fair, Nissan highlighted that drivers can choose to display Navigation, Driving Aids and Home information in the centre of the screen. But to me, “different layouts” means the entire design of the instrument panel is different, like what the Mercedes-Benz User Experience offers.
Drivers will be pleased with the 10.8-inch Head-Up Display, though. It is large enough to be read at-a-glance and helps keep your eyes on the road.
Infotainment is accessed through a 9-inch touchscreen. Again, the menu system is fairly shallow, which helps prevent users from getting lost. Conveniently, it comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a wireless charging pad.
The Prestige variant is equipped with a 10-speaker Bose audio system that includes a subwoofer in the boot. This hi-fi setup definitely complements the quiet interior (more on this later).
A ROOMIER LOUNGE
Apart from these cool amenities, the Qashqai also offers more occupant space. The wheelbase has grown by 19mm to 2665mm, translating into 20mm more knee room for rear passengers. There might be less shoulder-rubbing, too, with the extra 28mm increase in shoulder room.
Getting in and out is made easier now that the rear doors open to almost 90 degrees. This also helps parents securing their kids in child seats.
Open the powered tailgate (another upgrade) and you’ll find the Qashqai’s boot capacity has grown considerably from 430 to 504 litres. Fold down the rear seats and this expands to 1593 litres, enough to stow a full-size bicycle without removing the front wheel.
The new Qashqai is powered by a turbocharged 1.3-litre 4-cylinder equipped with a 12-volt mild hybrid system. The latter provides smoother stop-starts and also gives a small boost, which helps smoothen low-speed take-offs.
Developed by the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler, the 1.3-litre unit also does duty in other cars such as the Renault Captur, along with Mercedes-Benz “200” models such as the A200, CLA200 and GLA200.
In the Qashqai, this powerplant delivers 156hp (157PS) and 270Nm, and at full tilt, lets the SUV hit the century mark in 9.2 seconds. That’s 0.9 of a second quicker than the previous Qashqai with a naturally aspirated 2-litre engine.
More significantly, the 1.3-litre motor is a lot more refined in this application compared to the aforementioned Mercedes models, for it does not have a workmanlike soundtrack when revved.
Helping it in this regard is the continuously variable transmission, which is probably the smoothest one I’ve sampled in 2022. It is quiet and unobtrusive, and pressing on does not lead to the dreaded “rubber band” effect.
The proceedings only become intrusive when you utilise the manual override function (there are seven forward ratios) and redline the engine. Then again, this is something few consumers will bother doing.
The refinement of the Qashqai’s powertrain is matched by its cabin and ride quality. Indeed, this mass-market SUV (it still is, in spite of its COE-inflated price) is the quietest one I’ve driven this year.
The silence of the cabin is especially noticeable when you’re going through tunnels, or when a noisy motorcycle is next to you at a junction. Even at triple-digit speeds, a bit of wind and road noise is all you hear.
That means two things: One, you don’t have to raise your voice to continue your conversation and two, you can really enjoy the clarity of the Bose audio system.
What impressed me is that Nissan didn’t bother hyping-up its sound insulation efforts. Instead, the Qashqai’s silence speaks for itself.
Complementing the interior refinement is the supple ride, which is clearly aimed at drivers who prioritise comfort above all. Naturally, this means the Qashqai is not for the keen driver, who will find that pushing hard only results in undesirable lean and understeer.
The new Qashqai is clearly a cut above the older one in every way. It’s bigger and roomier. With features such as Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Intelligent Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning, and Intelligent Cruise Control, it’s relatively safe, too.
Plus, with soft-touch surfaces and quiet performance, it’s easily two notches more refined than its predecessor.
By getting so many things right, the Qashqai makes a very convincing proposition. Notwithstanding current COE prices, it certainly has more than enough talent to make buyers consider it.
Nissan Qashqai Prestige 1.3 (A)
ENGINE 1332cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged, 12-volt mild hybrid
MAX POWER 156hp (157PS, 116kW) at 5500rpm
MAX TORQUE 270Nm at 1800-3750rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 113hp per tonne
GEARBOX CVT with 7-speed override
0-100KM/H 9.2 seconds
TOP SPEED 199km/h
CONSUMPTION 18.2km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $183,800 (after $15k VES rebate)
AGENT Tan Chong Motor Sales