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Driven: 2021 Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.3 DIG-T. Image by Nissan.

Driven: 2021 Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.3 DIG-T
Will the new Qashqai be as popular as its predecessor?

   



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2021 Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.3 DIG-T

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Since the first-generation Qashqai was introduced in 2007, it has become the definitive family SUV. A sales phenomenon, the car really hit the high notes when the second-generation model was launched in 2013. Since then, only the details have changed, but the time has come for an all-new Qashqai to take the reigns. Nissan has bitten the bullet hard, creating a more futuristic model for the modern world, but can it be as good as its illustrious predecessor?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.3 DIG-T
Pricing: £33,570 (as tested)
Engine: 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 145g/km
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 128mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Power: 158hp
Torque: 260Nm
Boot space: 479 - 1,422 litres

What's this?

Itís the replacement for one of Britainís most popular cars, and itís set to be equally popular. The question is, does it deserve such popularity?

Itís certainly off to a good start, with a cool exterior featuring narrow lights and clean surfaces. It isnít so unrecognisable from whatís gone before, but itís definitely more modern. Whether itíll age well remains to be seen Ė we maintain the second-generation Qashqai was a really good-looking SUV that got uglier as the years (and facelifts) went by Ė and time may not be kind to this new-generation model. But thatís a problem for 10 yearsí time.

The interior is more of a step forward, with a much more modern feel. The old Qashqai had some cheap buttons and a ropey touchscreen, but the latest-generation car feels much more upmarket on that front, with a bigger screen thatís more intuitive. And even though the navigation system feels a bit old, it doesnít matter too much because the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration tech means youíll barely use it anyway.

Nissan says it has improved the materials on offer, too, but thereís less evidence of that on show. The old Qashqaiís cabin always looked a bit drab, but the plastics were mostly quite soft, particularly those above about knee height. The new Qashqai largely feels similar, if not slightly less tactile, with some unappealing plastics and most of the same buttons dotted around. That said, itís all quite well built, giving you the distinct impression all the switches and panels will stand the test of time, even with a family of four on board.

The most positive thing about the new Qashqai, though, is the amount of space it offers. A big boot and plenty of rear space are prerequesites for a solid family SUV and the Nissan offers that in abundance. The 479-litre boot, for example, is almost as big as that of the much larger Volvo XC60, and itís certainly a step ahead of the Volkswagen T-Roc and its rivals. Itís the same story when it comes to rear passenger space, with adequate room to seat four adults in relative comfort and more than enough space for children. Itís a bit dark back there Ė especially with tinted windows Ė and the materials arenít quite as good as they are in the front, but itís solid and spacious, and you donít really need much more than that.

Our test car did provide more than that, however, because it was a top-of-the-range Tekna model with bags of standard equipment. It had 19-inch alloy wheels, a head-up display and some leather upholstery, as well as a glass roof, two-zone climate control and the 360-degree Around View reversing camera system. And, being a Nissan, it was chock full of driver assistance tech, including cruise control that maintains a safe distance to the vehicle in front and blind-spot monitoring.

But you pay a price for all that kit. This version of the Qashqai is not set to be the most expensive in the long term Ė hybrid powertrains and suchlike will see to that Ė but it still cost more than £30,000. Of course, finance deals will mean most drivers wonít really notice that, but cars arenít cheap nowadays, and the Qashqai is proof of that.

How does it drive?

When a new model comes along, itís supposed to be better to drive than the car that preceded it. But the new Qashqai just isnít. It may look snazzier and the interior quality might be better, but the latest-generation car has lost some of the comfort that made the previous generation so good.

Itís not that the Qashqai is now a bad car Ė it isnít. It just doesnít have the same appealing mixture of ride and handling as its predecessor. Because while Nissan has undoubtedly sharpened the Qashqai up a bit, itís done so by sacrificing the pillowy softness of the previous iteration. And as much as car journalists love to drive cars that feel great on their favourite B-road, customers tend to be more interested in comfort.

The old Qashqai had that in spades, with a lovely cushiness to its suspension that made it smooth and unflustered, even on British asphalt. It was like driving a big duvet. Of course, while that made it brilliant around town and on the motorway, it wasnít perfect on a country lane. There was quite a bit of body roll and though the steering wasnít disastrously light, it was a bit short on feel. It was no Mazda CX-5, then, but it was pretty much ideal for most families.

In contrast, the new Qashqai is a bit better on a back road. It feels tauter and less prone to roll or lean, while thereís perfectly sufficient levels of grip. Thereís no more feel through the steering, but the car feels sharper and more keen to turn into corners, while the gearbox is a bit less spongy.

Thatís the good stuff. The problem is all that has been done by spoiling the ride, which now feels more brittle and less refined than before. It isnít too stiff, and in isolation itís acceptable, but when you consider whatís gone before it feels a bit disappointing.

At least the engine is reasonable, considering itís only a mid-range option. Itís a 1.3-litre turbocharged unit thatís shared with sister company Renault, and it produces a useful 158hp. Thatís plenty in a family SUV, and with a six-speed manual gearbox and all-wheel drive, itís enough for a decidedly unremarkable 9.5-second dash to 62mph. Thatís perfectly adequate, but it wonít be causing much excitement.

Perhaps more importantly, that engine is capable of returning well over 40mpg on a long run, making it relatively economical for what it is. Yes, a diesel SUV might do more, but itíll cost more to buy and to fuel, but itíll probably only do a few more mpg. Unless your annual mileage is outrageous, youíll be quite happy sticking with this. Unless, of course, youíre a company car driver. In that case, youíll want to hang on for one of the hybrids, which will inevitably provide lower CO2 emissions.

Verdict

For all Nissanís research and development, the new Qashqai is simply not as good as its predecessor. Of course, it handles more impressively and the technology is streets ahead, but some really important balls have been dropped. It isnít as comfortable as before, and nor does it feel as solidly built. The design, too, is a little underwhelming, but despite all of that, the Qashqai is still a good car. Other brands have caught up and itís no longer the default choice, but itís good enough to compete with some very capable family SUVs, and thereís no shame in that.


4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


James Fossdyke - 24 Apr 2022



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