When you’ve created and almost entirely owned a new market segment for a decade, you don’t want to mess with the formula too much. Hence Nissan’s approach with the once redesigned, now twice updated Qashqai where the 2017 revisit is largely confined to boosting quality, refinement and technology and leaving the successful basics alone.
It seem hard to believe it’s a whole 10 years since Nissan Europe, after dreary me-too stuff like the C-segment Almera and D-segment Primera, hurled a new class of vehicle on to the market in the form of the C-segment crossover Qashqai, intended to tick a whole lot of boxes at once.
They also launched a similar, but slightly bigger version called the Rogue in the US, which we now get as the larger X-Trail, also just revamped (we’ve seen and tried it, but can’t tell you about that until August), and that’s now the globe’s top selling SUV.
The UK built Qashqai’s sales in 2016 doubled and it’s sold 2.3m across Europe in 10 years. Last year it was the UK’s fifth best selling model outright and it’s third YTD 2017. Its 10.3% market share in 2016 made it the segment’s top model and it’s attracted a host of me-too competitors, about 20 now, including Alliance partner Renault’s Kadjar, the latest Peugeot 3008, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and VW Tiguan.
The 2017 changes are fairly typical of today’s mid-life updates – revamped exterior styling with new bonnet, bumper and Nissan’s new signature ‘V-Motion’ grille at the front and a new rear bumper with satin silver finisher at the back along with new lights. A new Tekna + trim level has, among other items, soft nappa leather trim with 3D quilting upholstery pattern and satin silver door mirror casings.
The steering wheel has been completely redesigned with a flat bottom, a wider top opening to improve instrument view and new redundant switchgear now in black instead of silver. Interior materials and finish are better, there are new satin and chrome finishers, one-touch power windows on all doors, reshaped seat foam, a new eight-speaker Bose stereo system and improvements to the Nissan Connect infotainment with a more app-like interface and digital radio on all variants.
Handling, ride and NVH have also come in for mid-life scrutiny so there are better door seals and insulation, thicker rear side glass, retuned dampers and springs, improved active ride control, a stiffer antiroll bar, thicker steering shaft and the electric power steering (EPS) now incorporates active return control)to boost return-to-centre and a new dynamic damper. New vortex generators at the rear underneath improve airflow and Nissan claims Cd of 0.32 as “best in class”.
Nissan has also improved its intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian recognition (including small children) and added rear cross traffic alert and a variation of hill holder called stand still assist on manual transmission models which applies the brakes for three minutes after you lift off the pedal or until you pull away from a stop. Activated by a small hold button adjacent the electric park brake switch, this works very well indeed, once you learn to trust it and the limitations.
Qashqai engine choice has been revamped over the years and 115PS 1.2 turbo and 163PS petrol units carry over along with the 110PS 1.5dCi diesel while the 130PS 1.6 has recalibrated software and some more sound insulation to improve refinement. Sampled with both manual and Xtronic CVT, we found it a very smooth and quiet engine, barely distinguishable in sound from the 1.6 petrol, but with a bit more low end torque.
The UK range, priced from GBP19,295 to GBP32,530, continues 2WD and manual transmission-heavy and you can’t have a 4WD petrol or a 1.6 petrol auto, nor can you have an automatic diesel 4WD although Nissan Europe’s product planning head Kimihiro Kusajyaniji (Kusa-san) acknowledges ‘customer feedback’ to that end and hinted strongly that driveline combination is coming.
The big news, which Nissan GB calls a step to real autonomous driving, is due in spring 2018 and called Pro Pilot. This, already available in Japan, combines lane keep assist, intelligent (ie radar assisted) cruise control and traffic jam assist and means your Qashqai will steer, accelerate and brake itself in traffic queues, such as the horrendous jams we get on UK motorways, and will no doubt be a popular item once available. The delay in introduction is so it can be properly “validated” for the wide variety of LHD/RHD, powertrain and road conditions a Qashqai can encounter across Europe.
I can’t wait to try it.
Nissan GB says the UK buyer likes well specified Qashqais. The base Visia grade accounts for only 2%, Acenta 10%, N-Connecta 56% and Tekna 32% so they’re expecting a decent take-up for the additionally loaded Tekna + included in the new range.