The Nissan Qashqai invented the concept of the crossover, combining the looks of an SUV with the running costs of a hatchback.
It has been so successful that it’s known in the trade as the Cash Cow. As a result, just about everyone is now offering their own interpretation of the original.
The appeal is obvious. Rufty-tufty looks and a lofty driving position combined with ease of use would seem to offer the best of all worlds.
The truth is rather less positive. Increased fuel consumption and compromised driving dynamics are just two of the drawbacks. There’s also a higher price tag than if you were to choose a hatchback or estate from the same manufacturer.
Nissan offers two petrol engines in the Qashqai: a 1.2-litre DiG-T 115PS and a 1.6-litre DiG-T 163PS. Both are available with a six-speed manual gearbox but if you want an automatic you’re stuck with the lower-powered engine.
The opposite is true for the diesel-engined models. The lower-powered 1.5-litre dCi 110PS is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox. The 1.6-litre dCi 130PS can be had as a manual or CVT automatic.
If you want four-wheel-drive then you’re going to have to splash out on the top-of-the-range manual dCi 130 turbo-diesel model.
The petrol engines, like so many others, struggle to fulfil their EU testing cycle-promise. Owners are unlikely to see much more than 35mpg from the 1.2-litre and 40mpg from the 1.6-litre.
The 1.5-litre diesel engine can be disappointing too. Owners have reported fuel consumption figures as low as 75% of the theoretical figure. That still equates to over 50 mpg in everyday use, though.
The larger, 1.6-litre engine costs more to buy initially but is much nicer to drive. It might also match the smaller engine’s fuel consumption if you buy a two-wheel-drive manual car.
However, if you choose the automatic or four-wheel drive you’re unlikely to see more than 45 mpg unless you drive like a saint.
Ride and handling
The Qashqai is the market leader for a number of reasons, and one of those is that it’s very good to drive.
The steering is light and accurate and body roll, sometimes a problem with a crossover, is well-controlled. And if you like the way it drives, you are going to love the way it rides. The Qashqai is unrivalled in its ability to soak up potholes and bumps that are an everyday occurrence on British roads.
You could never call the Qashqai fun. But it offers a balanced, all-round competence that makes it a very easy car to live with.
Interior and space
The Nissan Qashqai comes in six different trim levels. While the top-spec cars can get expensive very quickly, even the cheapest cars come with a lot of kit for the money. You get hill start assist, cruise control, 5-inch colour screen, Bluetooth and a range of chassis safety measures.
The Acenta, adds climate control, automatic wipers and lights, ambient lighting, alloy wheels and Luggage Board System for few thousand pounds. The N-Connecta costs a similar amount more and adds a 7-inch touchscreen, 360° camera, alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and keyless entry.
More importantly, the N-Connecta adds the Smart Vision Pack. This gives you traffic sign recognition, high beam assist, lane departure warning, forward emergency braking and parking sensors. If you can afford it then this is the sweet spot in the Qashqai range. There’s probably no need to go any higher.
The Nissan’s quirky looks come at a cost. The rearward vision isn’t great and that sloping roofline means that headroom is at a premium in the back seats.
What to know before you buy
Nissan recalled the Qashqai nine times:
Five were because of a possible loss of steering control on some cars made up to June 2009.
Another worry was the failure of power-steering on Qashqais produced from August 2010.
Further recalls related to the chance of the engine seizing if the air-conditioning compressor malfunctioned.
Possible fuel leaks were also a cause for concern.
Don’t automatically dismiss a new one as being out of your price range, either. Dealers are keen to sell you a brand-new model and the monthly cost via PCP might be a pleasant surprise.
Reliability is at least average and better than a lot, even if you only get a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. Some owners report problems with their car’s suspension as the cars get older. With cars up to five years old, almost 9% of cars fail an MOT test in this area.
What are the alternatives?
The SEAT Ateca is a more conventional design, which some people might find a more attractive proposition than the idiosyncratic Qashqai. It’s also a thoroughly modern car that features a very high-end interior and a lot of interior space.
It’s good to drive, although it has a greater level of wind noise at high speed than many of its rivals.
The Renault Kadjar is an oddly-named car that’s surprisingly good to drive, partly because it shares many components with the Qashqai. While its smaller sibling, the Captur, could be seen as disappointing the Kadjar offers fun and practicality in equal measure.
It’s practical, easy to use and no one can quibble at the Renault’s keen price.
If you like the way it looks, then the Nissan Qashqai is a safe buy. It drives well and should be a safe and reliable car to own.
It should also be cheap to run and repair. While it isn’t terribly exciting, its practicality and affable nature are highly attractive traits in a family car.
However, if you need a lot of rear headroom then that sloping roofline might just be a deal breaker.