Nissans popular C-segment crossover has been given a full redesign

Nissan's popular C-segment crossover has been given a full redesign

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The one thing Nissan really needed to fix is apparent immediately you climb aboard the redesigned Qashqai compact crossover. The rather bland interior, especially the characterless dashboard, has been transformed. It's amazing what a few creases, contrasting colours, splashes of chrome, a bit of ambient lighting, new digital displays and better quality materials overall can achieve.

It's the same on the outside. Not a panel carries over. There's a new clamshell bonnet, the new signature Nissan 'V' nose made from creases in the bonnet that carry forward into the grille, a new kink in the waistline at the rear side door, extra creases and style lines in the doors, new everything. Yet the revamped style is sufficiently evolutionary, rather than radical, so the new car doesn't make its predecessor look suddenly jurassic.

The design objectives were to improve perceived quality, especially the interior 'touch points', technology, performance and cost of ownership. All boxes appear to have been ticked.

It may have a Japanese brand on the badges but Nissan Europe insists the new Qashqai is English - designed at the design centre in Paddington, London with "much of the engineering" done at the tech centre in Cranfield and it's made at the plant at Sunderland in north east England.

Which has had a bit of practice at knocking out Qashqais by now. The C-segment crossover in 2007 effectively replaced the C-segment Almera hatch/sedan, the spin-off Tino MPV/minivan and the D-segment Primera and was an instant smash hit with buyers wanting C-seg hatch practicality combined with the looks, higher ride height and, with optional four wheel drive, a degree of bad road/off road ability without the higher running costs of the larger 4WD models. Result: nearly 2m sales of generation one with almost 250,000 of those sold in the UK with a record 49,654 leaving showrooms in the swansong year of 2013. Of those 2m, 1,752,232 were built at Sunderland; the rest were assembled either in Japan or China.

For Take Two, Nissan has made the Qashqai 47mm longer, 20mm wider and 15mm lower and increased boot space 20 litres to 430 litres. It sits on a Renault Nissan Alliance Common Module Family platform and is, on average, 40kg lighter though, if you discount the extra equipment now fitted, the saving is around 90kg.

In the UK range, priced from GBP17,595, engines have been downsized with the 1.6-litre petrol replaced by a turbocharged, 115PS 1.2 DIG-T emitting 129g CO2 with manual transmission and the two-litre diesel downsized to a 130PS 1.6 (115g/km manual; 119g CVT). A 150PS 1.6 litre petrol turbo (132g CO2 and shared with the B-segment Juke) due out in September replaces the two litre petrol. There's a new Xtronic CVT automatic option for the 1.6 diesel claimed to mimic traditional autos with stepped changes under hard acceleration (it works quite well) and a CVT will also become optional with the 1.2 petrol from around September. Cleanest engine in the line is the 110PS 1.5dCi with CO2 emissions of 99g (another engine shared with the Juke).

Also notable in the new UK lineup is the near absence of 4WD - available only with 1.6 diesel power and manual transmission and the two top trim levels (of four), reflecting demand. Other markets, such as Australia where the minium 99g CO2 output has less effect on tax based purchase price and running costs, will still be offered a two-litre petrol and markets like Russia will get a two-litre diesel and more 4WD availability to deal with treacherous roads and snow.

The seven seat Qashqai +2 has been axed and its place in the range taken by the recently redesigned, now seven seat X-Trail. Nissan is forecasting UK sales levels at much the same as the outgoing five passenger line - 40,000-50,000 a year with a retail/fleet sales split of 40%/60%; 55% diesel/45% petrol with the new 1.2 manual 2WD accounting for 42%, the manual 2WD 1.5 dCi diesel 35%, the 1.6 diesel manual 2WD 12%, the 1.6 diesel auto 2WD 6% and the 1.6 diesel manual 4WD just 5%. The transmission forecast is 90% manual and 10% auto. Most popular models with retail buyers are expected to be the 1.2 petrol turbo and 1.5 turbodiesel with the second from top Acenta Premium trim.

Most new models have a relatively modest launch year as the plant(s) ramp up output and marketing activity gets under way. In 2007, when it had what Nissan regarded as just one competitor, the Qashqai sold 156,000 units worldwide, ramping up steadily year by year to 256,000 in 2011 by which time the opposition count was up to 14.

Some catching up was required hence the appearance of numerous standard or optional technology items on the Generation Two model. In the UK, all from base Visia up get automatic a/c, hill start assist, a much larger five-inch colour HD infotainment screen, chassis control, tyre pressure monitor and speed limiter/cruise control.

Acenta gets dual zone climate, automatic headlights and rain sensor wipers along with trim enhancements such as leather steering wheel and a multi level boot floor with parcel shelf stowage.

Both entry level models are also offered with an optional GBP450 'smart vision pack' that adds various safety gizmos such as automatic emergency brake (we tried it; it works) and traffic sign recognition which has both its own display in a selectable info panel but also a tiny repeater always on view at the top of the display to avoid those 'what was the speed limit on this road?' moments just as you spy the speed camera.

Next comes Acenta Premium with digital radio in a new Nissan Connect (satnav and apps) system with bigger screen but still as easy to use as before, rear view camera, keyless start, park sensors and panoramic roof. This gets the safety pack as standard which includes high beam assist and lane departure warning.

The top Tekna trim adds such goodies as roof rails, part leather trim, power adjusted, heated seats, front park sensors, heated windscreen and around view monitor with park assist (which also works well).

Sales here in the UK start in a few days and Nissan is banking on plenty of repeat business from satisfied owners of the earlier versions (there was one mid life facelift) and strong interest from fleet buyers due to forecast class leading residual values and the tax friendly official combined fuel consumption of 74.3mpg and low 99g/CO2 emissions of the 1.5dCi diesel. The new safety kit is claimed to pay for its GBP450 option price on the lower levels because it drops the model about four insurance categories for a roughly 20% saving on the annual premium. Maintenance costs have also been reduced 3%-5%.

When Nissan launched the Qashqai back in 2007, it expected global sales (excluding North America which gets a similar model on the same platform called the Rogue) in the range of 60,000 to 100,000 in a full year. As we noted earlier, it was more like 256,000 at the peak. The redesign moves the car on, giving a much higher quality appearance inside and out while engine and equipment move forward a full generation to match or beat the latest competition. Nissan made no public forecast at the launch, but ensuring a quarter million of the new model is available each year from Sunderland would seem a sound move for the product planners.

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