Qashqai: crossover with cachet
Qashqai: now that’s a word you’d love to use in Scrabble. It gets around the pesky “q” and “u” problem and if a malfunction at the Mattel factory ever gave you two Q tiles in a bag, it would be worth at least 80 points on a triple- word score.
Nissan’s Qashqai as a car is pretty impressive and is perhaps the only crossover vehicle in South Africa worthy of this title. It’s a go-anywhere, do-anything and tackle-everything machine. It leaves you glancing at other road users thinking: “Just what are you playing at?”
The Nissan Qashqai hails from sunny Sunderland in the United Kingdom and the Brits awarded it the 2007 Top Gear award for best SUV.
Of course South Africa is some way behind British levels of enlightenment (except on the world’s sports fields, that is). We are not moving away from large SUV’s for environmental reasons as much as we are for Tito Mboweni’s reasons.
In the minds of South Africans biggest is still best. I mean our wings are as big as Pierre Spies. Which is why, to us, the Qashqai is still a crossover. The irony is that although we need to define the Qashqai with a crossover label because it does the job of several vehicles simultaneously, it is really a car that deserves no label.
The latest in the Qashqai model roll-out is the 2.0-litre dci diesel derivative with Nissan’s All Mode 4x4 system, although a simpler and cheaper 4x2 model is still available.
The All Mode 4x4 control on the centre console is driver operated and allows you to switch between front-wheel and all-wheel drive modes at speed. Handy in maintaining fuel economy on the straight bits and fun for switching into he-man mode in the rain and twisty stuff or if you choose to go off-road.
I say he-man because you’ll be surprised at how rewarding the Qashqai’s handling is. You will find yourself throwing it around sedate suburban corners and relishing in the crisp response it gives out at the other end. In front-wheel mode the steering is light and balanced like a perfect town car, but in all-wheel drive it tightens up and feels safer with the added 50/50 front/rear torque split.
The Qashqai rides on a solid layer of grip, even on those fatter-than- normal tyres. There is very little pitch or roll to speak of, certainly not to the point of actual roll-over (always a lurking concern for SUV owners), so it’s perfect for the safety conscious motorist.
The taller ride height is fast becoming a feature the urban motorist cannot do without, in a driving environment full of speed humps, potholes and nasty curbs. The Qashqai just zips over anything set in its path.
Power in the 2.0-litre dci is 110kW at 4 000rpm, with a healthy torque figure of 320Nm at 2 000rpm. So the power is good fun to play with as well, although the same must also be said for the 2.0-litre petrol model that accelerates a bit more smooth and revs more freely, but doesn’t offer you optional all-wheel drive. Although it gives you that nice surge of torque, the dci does suffer from noticeable turbo lag and gets bogged down anywhere below 1 000rpm, not good when you only have leeway of 4 500rpm.
Good fuel consumption is always a draw card with diesel, with Nissan claiming a combined figure of 6.6l/100km, but we got it down to as low as 5.4l/100km at times on our “hypermile” tests. The dci did get a bit tedious after a while, with the engine note resonating rather roughly and stirring the gears also gets tiresome.
Although not laden with gizmos, everything in the Qashqai is fit for purpose. The conical instrument panel and air vents stretch out of the dash á la Nissan 350Z and are fetching to behold in an otherwise restrained package.
The cloth seats, if you can believe this, are more comfortable than the optional leather ones because they have the highest “cushion rating” of any cloth seat on the market today, so save yourself nearly R10 000 and go for those instead. You are going to want to put the seats down and take advantage of the 60/40 rear seat split, with easy operation and plenty of space to swallow up your lifestyle goodies.
All in all the Nissan Qashqai is a joy to have parked in your driveway. Having driven the entire range now, I’d go for the All Mode 4x4 model because it turns your Qashqai into something more than a hopped-up hatchback, giving it the confidence and cachet that comes with greater ability.
More than that I wish I could use the Qashqai in Scrabble—it’s just that versatile.
Model: Nissan Qashqai dci - ‘Teckna’
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo-diesel
Price: R284 590 (cloth seats)
R293 590 (leather seats)
Tech: 110kW @ 4 000rpm and 320Nm @ 2 000rpm
Top Speed: 191kph, 0-100kph in 9,5s
Service Intervals: 15 000km