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Driven: Nissan Qashqai DIG-T 163. Image by Nissan.

Driven: Nissan Qashqai DIG-T 163
Is the new, high-powered petrol Qashqai crossover a missed opportunity?

 



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Nissan Qashqai DIG-T 163

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: a lot of the usual Nissan Qashqai excellence...

Not so good: ...but you'll be better off with a diesel model

Key Facts

Model tested: Nissan Qashqai N-Tec DIG-T 163
Price: from 18,545; car as tested 23,750
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover SUV
CO2 emissions: 138g/km (Band E, 130 VED)
Combined economy: 47.1mpg
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
Power: 163hp at 5,600rpm
Torque: 240Nm from 2,000- to 4,000rpm

Our view:

Having hit the mother lode with the Qashqai crossover, you can forgive Nissan for experimenting with the current line-up. While the MkII car has, from launch, had a range of engines with a modest maximum output of 130hp, the Japanese carmaker has decided to inject a touch more zing into the petrol 1.6-litre DIG-T by upping the power and torque considerably, and getting rid of an old, inefficient 2.0-litre normally aspirated petrol engine in the process.

We've no problem with this decision - after all, diesel seems to have become the pantomime villain in recent months, so a broader petrol offering is a sensible move - but what we're more confused about is why Nissan didn't decide to go the whole hog, as it were, and give the phenomenally successful Qashqai the 190hp turbocharged lump, as seen in the Juke and Pulsar models. Instead, it has stuck at 163hp, which doesn't seem like much of a worthwhile increase on the existing range.

There's little to distinguish the DIG-T 163 from its brethren. In fact, there's nothing at all. Finished in Ink Blue, it might as well be any old Qashqai. This is not a bad thing, though, as we love the look of the second-gen crossover, we really like the spacious, intelligent and attractive interior and as an N-Tec it comes with most essential goodies loaded: Intelligent i-Key button start/stop with easy entry; cruise control; the Smart Vision Pack including High Beam Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and Land Departure Warning, among other safety software; dual-zone climate control; a panoramic sunroof; NissanConnect touchscreen satnav on a seven-inch screen; the around-view cameras; and 18-inch diamond cut alloys, plus more. It's not cheap, though - with 550 of metallic paint added, a Qashqai in this spec would cost the best part of 24,000.

There are also precious few differences to the way it drives. This, in many ways, is a good thing. It means the 163 has clean, if largely uninvolving handling, an excellent ride, high levels of refinement and a generally easy-going nature that makes it easy to see why so many people love the Qashqai. It's simply that the high-powered turbo petrol doesn't really add anything new to proceedings. It's a great engine in isolation, as it likes to rev, never sounds harsh and keeps the power delivery nice and smooth, but it doesn't make the Nissan appreciably quicker or nicer to listen to. Granted, we managed to get near its quoted combined economy of 47mpg, yet the diesel will do much better than that and will be a bit less to tax as well. Also, the DIG-T is down on torque compared to both of the dCi units, so it requires more forethought when driving on a motorway.

This is one of those cars that's absolutely fine - if you buy one, you'll be very happy owning it. But there are more rounded versions in the line-up and we also think Nissan would have been better served if it had made a pseudo-sporty example with 190hp as a range halo model, with marginally firmer suspension and some subtly aggressive body addenda; however, there's probably a lengthy Excel presentation somewhere that Nissan would show us to explain why the DIG-T 163, as a downsizing of the superseded 2.0, makes more fiscal sense. In our eyes, you're better off sticking with the cheaper, more frugal and just-as-impressive diesel Qashqais that are already established.

Alternatives:

Ford Kuga: always a dynamic treat, as it's a Ford, and has some strong engines, although it is not as pretty as it once was.

Renault Kadjar: the Qashqai's French cousin is an even more attractive machine on the outside, with an arguably more flamboyant interior. It doesn't, as yet, have a model that delivers 163hp, though.

Skoda Yeti: a great crossover with plenty of identity and surprisingly agile driving characteristics. Competitively priced and well-equipped, this is the Qashqai's chief nemesis.


Matt Robinson - 5 Sep 2015









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2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.

2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.2015 Nissan Qashqai. Image by Max Earey.








 

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