2018 Nissan Qashqai
Michael Westlake has all his questions answered about the new Nissan Qashqai in this latest review for Bartons.
MY guess is that if you are looking to buy a Nissan Qashqai, then you are someone looking for something a little more “outside the box” than the regular small SUV.
You can’t help but be intrigued by the name, can you?
Qashqai. Just saying it out loud makes it sound mysterious, almost mystical.
Normally car manufacturers like to use emotive words to name their cars, to give off the impression of how they want their cars to be perceived.
The names are designed to conjure images of adventure, strength, speed and durability.
For the uninitiated, it is hard to see where Qashqai fits in to this thinking.
But the story behind the name paints the perfect picture of what Nissan’s impressive small SUV brings to the table.
The Qashqai was named after a nomadic people living in the mountains of south-western Iran – with Nissan hoping the name would inspire drivers to get out and explore the great outdoors like its human namesakes.
But maybe the most telling story about the Qashqai’s unconventional name is that it wasn’t Nissan’s first choice for when the car first came to Australia.
The car was so popular – leading from the front of the tsunami-like trend of SUVs in this country – and sold so many units, legend has it that Nissan in Japan were worried that Aussie drivers (who love a good nickname) would end up calling their pride and joy the “Cash Cow” because of the money it was making for the company.
So, in response, for the first part of its life, the Qashqai was actually called the “Dualis” in this country.
You know things are going OK when the biggest problem you face is changing the name of the product you are selling because it is too popular.
The reason Nissan sold so many of the Dualis, and now the Qashqai, is nothing to do with the name and everything to do with just being very good.
Like I said, the Dualis was ahead of the curve, helping to open up the SUV market in an Australian motoring landscape that for many years had been the playground of large sedans, utes and full-size 4WDs.
Nissan were smart enough to smell the change in the air in regards to what modern Australian households were looking for from the family car.
Pretending to be Peter Brock gave way to the need for practicality, space, and the ability to jump across some rough terrain with a boot-load of gear in the hunt for some weekend adventure.
It was a philosophy that caught on quickly, to the stage where now the small-to-medium-sized SUV market has exploded – becoming easily the most popular for Aussie families, and the segment of the market that gives them the most choice and most options.
But once again, Nissan has been able to take a glimpse into the future, and given the Qashqai an overhaul and upgrade to keep it ahead of a crowded SUV pack.
My test car is the Qashqai N-TEC, a near top-of-the-range variant that is the perfect showcase for the model’s bells and whistles, in a fetching shade called Magnetic Red.
Before you even get close to a door handle, you can see why the Qashqai has appeal. It is a seriously good-looking car.
There is no pudginess with the Qashqai that you can find in some of its rivals in the SUV segment, as if they need to reinforce the idea of comfort by making the car look… well, look, I’m not trying to fat-shame them, but some of them just look doughy.
No problems there for the Qashqai. It looks like the business end of a barber’s razor. It is seriously sharp.
A reworked front-end and restyled grille is bookended by LED running lights, headlamps and fog lights that look more likely to cut through the night rather than merely illuminate it.
The fact that the Qashqai is hunkered down on top of 19-inch alloy wheels only adds to the menace.
It is a theme that continues down the length of the car, with the black plastic trims designed to protect the paint when you head off the bitumen also serving to accentuate the colour, and the aggressive styling lines of the bodywork.
The backend is set off with similarly aggressive tail-lights and a small spoiler above the rear windscreen.
A shark-fin antennae at the back of the car is a fitting cherry on top.
Jump into the driver’s seat though, and the Qashqai’s personality changes.
While it might look fierce on the outside, inside the Qashqai is welcoming and relaxing.
Smart-key entry and push-button start are just the entrees to a sophisticated menu of features that made the Qashqai a real joy to drive.
Yes, the Qashqai is a comfortable weekend machine, with plenty of room and practicality for passengers around the cabin.
But climb into the business seat, and it is clear that this car is one designed with the driver in mind.
A sportier, flat-bottomed steering wheel is the first obvious giveaway.
Tucked in behind it, between your regular dials is the Advanced Drive-Assist Display, which keeps the information and warnings you need to know about right under your nose.
That’s pretty smart, but the real brains of the operation are just to your left, where the seven-inch touchscreen monitor resides.
This one is much more than an entertainment console, or a way to check out what is behind you while reversing.
For a start, it is a crystal-clear display for Nissan’s excellent navigation system, which includes live updates and warnings, like reminders when there are red-light cameras or school zones ahead – a godsend on early morning commutes when the caffeine has not yet taken effect.
Thankfully, the Qashqai does a lot of thinking for you if you take longer than the engine to get warmed up in the morning.
Among the suite of safety features in the Qashqai N-Tec are forward crash warning alerts, and automatic emergency braking if you are really not paying attention.
Yes, they work. Yes, I was very awake straight afterwards.
There are also rear cross-traffic and blindspot warnings, and a lane departure warning to tell you if you are literally crossing the line, and not just metaphorically.
Even parking became a joy in the Qashqai, with the N-Tec boasting Intelligent Park Assist where the car will steer itself into those tight reverse-parking spots we all dread.
Another brilliant feature is the Intelligent Around-View Monitor, which uses a series of images taken from each corner of the car to give you a drone’s-eye view of your surroundings as you pull into a parking space.
I must give you a little warning here: I found myself becoming a little obsessive-compulsive with my parking with this 360-degree view available, taking three or four attempts until I was satisfied my park was perfectly square.
But it is not just the gadgets that make this such a safe car to drive, with six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control all working together to keep you in one piece and deliver the five-star ANCAP rating.
The feeling of security is reinforced by the Qashqai’s handling. It is sturdy and secure on the road, never wanting to step out of line or misbehave and always maintaining the comfortable ride you’re are looking for.
The two-litre, naturally-aspirated engine hits the right balance between the power you want, and the fuel economy your wallet is craving.
As I said before, the passengers are well-catered for as well, with a comfortable experience to be had in the rear seats accentuated by the fabulous panoramic sunroof that peels back so effortlessly to let the light pour in you feel like you’re inside a tin of baked beans being opened at breakfast time.
Storage is great, with cup-holders everywhere, and the amount of space that can be created to carry cargo by dropping the rear seats, it has to be said, is seriously impressive for a car this size.
Every question or query you can think of, the Qashqai has an answer for.
Questions, queries and Qashqai. There’s a couple of other important “Qs” you should be thinking of as well: Getting down to Queensland’s best motor dealers at Bartons and joining the queue for a Qashqai test drive.