Test Drive: Nissan Qashqai 2.0 dCi AT – the Urban Cruiser image

We have recently went for a spin in the facelifted Nissan Qashqai 2.0 dCi AT, the path opener for its smaller brother, the Juke.

The Nissan Qashqai has been around for several years and unlike a part of its competition, the model has been developed on its own platform which is noticeable once you push the gas pedal and try to see how it can go around a corner in all-wheel drive.

Engine and Transmission

The model we tested came with the 2.0-liter dCi, which is the top of the line for diesel engines. The unit is producing a total output of 150 horsepower which is enough for a daily commute. Power is being sent to either the two-wheel or the all-wheel drive through an automatic transmission but you have to keep it above 2,000 rpm in order to get the most out of it. The automatic gearbox is a “must” if you will use the crossover mostly in an urban environment because it will take care of your fuel consumption and, of course, it will save you from gear shifting most of the time.

Things will quickly change once you will leave the city and head towards a mini vacation because that automatic transmission will transform the Qashqai into a three-ton vehicle powered by a small engine and you won’t be able to make this feeling go away even in sequential mode. The crossover can easily climb a steep hill even in two-wheel drive but you will have to be patient once you will try to pass a car on the road. My choice would be a manual transmission which will make these problems go away or even better, steering wheel paddle shifters.

Fuel Consumption

On a hot autumn day in the city, with the AC on and in the two-wheel drive mode, the average fuel consumption refused to drop below 11.2 L / 100 km even if gears were shifted at 2,100 rpm. A stop/start system is a must for the Qashqai but unfortunately the model we tested didn’t have it. On the highway, the crossover’s average fuel consumption was showing an average of 7.2 L / 100 km with the same AC on and with the cruise control set at 120 km/h. With the AC off and my right foot controlling the acceleration, the fuel consumption dropped to 6.9 L / 100 km. With the all-wheel drive on, the fuel consumption indicated an extra 2 to 3 liters burned every 100 km.

The Ride

The Nissan Qashqai has been developed for the urban environment and its suspension can tackle small holes in the road or speed limiters at an average speed so your kidneys won’t feel them. The ride is surprisingly comfortable for a C segment crossover and the high driving position will allow you to see every other car or obstacle around you. Some people will probably dislike this high driving position, which is even higher than the one offered by hatchbacks, but I found it quite useful in the city.

The steering of the Nissan Qashqai is precise if we will consider its size and purpose and even if it hasn’t been developed for high speed cornering, it’s quite hard to under steer in two-wheel drive and almost impossible in all-wheel drive, even on a wet surface. Unfortunately we couldn’t test the AWD system on snow because there wasn’t any and on mud, because we felt sorry for the car and for its large 18-inch alloy wheels.

The visibility offered by the Qashqai is good mainly because of its high driving position and its large side mirrors. The A or B pillars won’t stand in your way once you will try to squeeze the vehicle into a tight space and you will probably never use the rear window on this version because the model is equipped with a rear-view camera and the real-time images are shown on the 5-inch display. Three other cameras are fitted to the vehicle, two of them below the side mirrors and one on the front grille and they offer a 360 degree view around the crossover, extremely useful in tight spaces.

Interior Design

The Japanese touch can be seen throughout the cabin but the Qashqai also has a dose of European design which will be highly appreciated by its customers. All the buttons are where they are suppose to be, in quick reach of the driver, but the heated front seats controls, which are placed in front of the center armrest, will sometimes become a reason for practical jokes, depending on who is sitting in the passenger seat.

The multifunction steering wheel will make your life easier thanks to the audio controls for volume and next / previous song, radio / USB / CD switch, for the cruise control and speed limiter, for the trip computer and also for answering or rejecting incoming calls. The aluminum inserts offer the crossover a sporty touch and they are welcomed in a contrast with the black plastic used throughout the cabin, which has a good quality considering the top of the line level chosen.

The seats of the Nissan Qashqai, “covered” in soft black leather with contrast white stiching, are comfortable and they will continue to take care of you even after a few hours of driving. There is enough leg room for the rear seat passengers who will also travel comfortably but the center tunnel can sometimes irritate the fifth passenger after a longer drive. The Qashqai is more spacious than a normal compact car and, even if it’s smaller than other crossovers, its 410-liter space in the boot can happily “host” the luggage of four or even five people.

Equipment Level

The Nissan Qashqai we chosen was the top of the line and it’s offering things like the Bose premium sound system with CD/MP3/Radio, Aux, USB, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, keyless go, four automatic windows, cruise control with speed limiter, 5-inch display for the navigation system, for the four cameras and also for the audio controls, soft black leather with white contrast stitching, heated front seats, a full panoramic roof which can be hidden at the touch of a button, rear privacy glass, aluminum pedals, electrically folding / heated side mirrors, Bluetooth, automatic headlights, headlight washers, front fog lights, front and rear armrests with cup holders, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Likes / Dislikes

The Nissan Qashqai has its ups and downs too, just like every other vehicle out there and we especially likes the full panoramic roof which allows the sun to go in and enlighten the cabin and also lets your passengers look for stars while driving at night. The dual-zone climate control is another plus, along with the soft leather seats. We also liked the four cameras which give you a 360-degree look around the vehicle, very useful in tight spaces. The Bose premium sound system is enough to satisfy you even if you’re 19 years old and you’re listening to Lady Gaga on your iPod.

We didn’t like the automatic transmission on mountain roads which made the Qashqai feel like a three-ton vehicle, even if it’s coming with a 150 HP 2.0 dCi diesel engine. We also didn’t like the heated front seats controls because they are in reach of the front passenger and they were a constant joke tool. The 5-inch display is also used on other models, including the new Micra, and when paying close to 35,000 euros on this version you don’t want to see that. The Nissan designers and engineers should have paid a lot more attention on details like this one. A minus has also received the engine for its “reactions” below 2,000 rpm and the lack of a start/stop system.

As a conclusion, the Nissan Qashqai is an interesting vehicle but in order to be satisfied with it I recommend the full panoramic roof, the leather seats, a manual transmission and the stop/start system. A version equipped with these is close to 30,000 euros and for the money you can also have models like the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Mitsubishi ASX, the Renault Koleos, the Ford Kuga, the Hyudnai ix35, the Toyota RAV4 or the Skoda Yeti. The difference between these models is close to 5,000 euros.