Evolution isn’t an easy thing to understand – biology, genetic make-up, inherited traits — these concepts are too complex for many of us. Similarly when you see the Nissan Qashqai it is hard to understand how it’s taken the place of the Primera in the Nissan range. Named after a middle-eastern nomadic tribe (as you do) the Qashqai is a mid/large hatchback blended with SUV attributes. But before you go shouting ‘Mutant’ be aware that it’s already sold an impressive 330,000 units in Europe and ranked 11th overall in the 2009 J.D. Power Vehicle Satisfaction Survey out of over 100 current models. The Qashqai’s unlikely ancestor the Primera was once loved here in NZ for its strong power plant, comfortable interior and no nonsense approach, are these traits inherited? Car and SUV took control of a ST variant Qashqai for a week to investigate.
Designed by Nissan’s European arm, the Qashqai is styled for those torn between the urban-practicality of a hatchback and the rugged charm of an off roader. Its exact size is difficult to gauge from photographs, a clear indication that the beefy design is working well. To offer an idea of the Qashqai’s proportions, it has a handy 188mm ground clearance and a similar footprint to the Ford Focus. While not considerably large the styling is modern, imposing but also quite subtle. Character lines bulge from the bonnet and contrast with large neutral headlights and flat sides push back into thick rear pillars. The windscreen is raked back but the roofline is car-like resulting in a neutral stance. Completing the off-roader proportion of the styling is tough plastic trim that wraps around the wheel arches and the base of the Qashqai’s body.
Open it up for interior dissection and your greeted with a practical and spacious cabin. A ringed instrument cluster houses a small information display screen between large gauges. The centre control stack has everything you need and is within easy reach but is visually basic, particularly the dated looking stereo. The steering wheel is tilt and rake adjustable and a good thickness but doesn’t house audio control buttons. There is very large storage capacity in the cooled glove box and the centre binnacle that also houses twin cup holders. The driving position is a real feature of the Qashqai and feels reclined like a car but also elevated giving commanding forward visibility. This is backed up by well bolstered and cushioned seats. Luggage capacity in the hatch is a limited 335-litres, partly caused by a full size spare wheel. The back seats have a 60/40 split and this increases storage to a massive 1443 litres. Overall, the charcoal and silver themed cabin is a touch bland in ST trim, however, it’s very practical using solid materials that convey a sense of durability.
Turn the key and the Qashqai breathes into life, motivation comes from a 2-litre 4-cylinder motor, power output is a healthy 102kW with 198Nm of torque. It’s a willing unit that offers usable acceleration but with a plump 1430kg body to pull around it never feels truly dynamic. Power is transferred to the front-wheels through a 6-speed CVT transmission with a manual shift option. The gearbox offers variable ratios that benefit fuel economy resulting in a reasonable 7.89 l/100km figure. Although the Qashqai moves along well enough, the CVT box struggles at times to find the right power measure for the engine, making it a busy unit that can be noisy.
The Qashqai is a crossover vehicle in nature if not definition so the big question is does it handle like a car or like an off-roader? Well, the NZ spec model is front-wheel-drive only making it easy to drive and familiar for those trading up from a conventional hatchback. It is very car-like in its manoeuvrability and despite the extra height it turns with a minimum of pitch or body roll. This is thanks in part to a front subframe with an anti-roll bar and fully independent multi-link suspension at the rear. But this clever suspension set-up comes at a cost in ride quality with bumps and dips in the road too easily transferred to occupants and the Qashqai can feel twitchy at low speeds. That said, the Qashqai’s steering feels tight and overall it’s a fairly agile beast.
Standard safety specifications on the Qashqai include an Electronic Stability Program, with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Six airbags stand guard including full-length curtain airbags providing protection for front and rear passengers.
Priced at $34,300 for the ST trimmed Qashqai, there is some value for money represented. It’s a basic vehicle in terms of interior and power but modern in its styling, safety and its place within the automotive kingdom. If you’re not planning on going off-road but you favour a raised driving position and a hardwearing vehicle the Qashqai would make a smart choice.
Car sales mimic natural selection and in Europe the Qashqai has been feasting on the market share of more established competitors. Only time will tell how it fares in the NZ market. Exactly how it replaced the Primera will remain a mystery of evolution for now, but it’s not the first time we have all been stumped by a missing link.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
What we like:
What we don’t like:
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Nissan Qashqai (2009) – Specifications
Aluminium 2.0 litre MR20 engine ¢ ¢
Capacity cc 1997
Bore and Stroke mm 84 x 90.1
Compression Ratio 10:1
Power kW @ rpm 102 @ 5200
Torque Nm @ rpm 198 @ 4400
No. of Cylinders & Configuration 4 in-line
Induction Multi point injection
Emission Control 3 way catalytic converter
Emission Class ADR 79/02 (Euro 4)
6-Speed Xtronic CVT Automatic Transmission with manual mode
Wheels and Tyres
Tyre Size 215/65R16
Overall Length (mm) 4315
Overall Width excluding mirrors (mm) 1780
Overall Height (mm) 1615
Wheelbase (mm) 2630
Track Front / Rear (mm) 1540/1550
Minimum Turning Circle kerb to kerb (m) 10.6
Kerb Weight (kg) 1430
Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) (kg) 1960
Ground Clearance (mm) 188
Towing Capacity (braked/unbraked) (kg) 1200/685
Cargo Capacity (VDA) (L) Seats up / down 335/1443