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Nissan Qashqai 2019 review: new petrol engines keep the British-built best-seller fresh

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 19/03/2019 Alex Robbins

© 2019 Getty Images The second-generation Nissan Qashqai is not long for this world. You might have been able to tell if you happened to visit the Nissan stand at the Geneva motor show this year; the big reveal there was the IMq concept, whose size and stance suggest it previews, in extreme form, the next Qashqai. 

We also know that that model will be available with Nissan’s E-Power range-extender set-up, bringing – at long last – an alternative-fuel model to the Qashqai line-up. And that being the case, you might forgive Nissan for giving up on the current version and letting it drift gently into the sunset on its high tide of good sales figures.

However, the Qashqai has been given one last fillip with the arrival of two new petrol versions. Both 1.3-litre turbos, one with 138bhp and the other developing 158bhp, they replace respectively the 1.2- and 1.6-litre petrol engines, the former historically rather underpowered and the latter rather pricey.

Consequently, they should help to bolster sales during the decline of diesel, for which we can blame the simultaneous disappearance of the 1.6-litre diesel model, leaving the 1.5-litre with 113bhp as the only derv-powered option left. 

The range starts with the Visia which gets air-conditioning and cruise control, but no touchscreen. Then comes Acenta Premium, with sat-nav, dual-zone climate control and a rear-view camera as standard; N-Connecta gets keyless go, a 360-degree top-down parking camera system and tinted rear windows, while Tekna gets a Bose stereo, LED headlights and heated front seats. Tekna+ then adds full leather seats, electrically adjustable in the front.

Inside, the Qashqai continues much the same way as it was before – which is to say, agreeably, if not exceptionally. Despite its age – and the arrival during its lifetime of some rivals endowed with rather lovely interiors, to wit the Peugeot 3008 and Volkswagen Tiguan – the Qashqai still feels well turned out, with high-quality plastics throughout and a quick and intuitive, if slightly plain-looking, touchscreen infotainment system, standard on Acenta Premium versions and above. 

© Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto Space in the front is perfectly adequate for even taller, wider occupants, and there are plenty of usefully-sized cubbies for your knick knacks. The rear seats aren’t quite so capacious, though, with leg room adequate but not overly generous; you’ll still find plenty of shoulder and head room, at least. 

And while the boot is big enough for the weekly shop, you might notice when you’ve larger items to lug that it now lags toward the back of the class; the 3008, Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq all boast significantly more luggage space. 

It’s the less powerful of the two new engines we’ve got here, though frankly it’s probably all you need, unless you regularly plan to carry lots of people or heavy loads. Impressively, it doesn’t feel like most other small-capacity petrol turbos, with not much happening until the turbo comes on boost. Instead, this little 1.3’s power delivery is smooth and linear, so you don’t get caught out if you find yourself in too high a gear with too few revs. 

The downside is that it isn’t the quietest unit around, especially if you push it hard, at which point it gets both vocal and coarse. Happily, there’s enough oomph low-down that you won’t need to do that most of the time. 

Indeed, this Qashqai is at its best when driven sedately. Push it too hard, and the body starts to lean over more than you’ll find in, say, an Ateca or even a Karoq; you sometimes find yourself having to grab a little more lock if you steam into a bend too quickly, too, mainly the fault of the slow, light and rather numb steering in combination with the Qashqai’s tendency to push its nose wide early  

But dial your efforts back a little and the Qashqai feels quite pleasant, lolloping gamely through bends, its suspension controlling body roll far better at more restrained speeds. It’s an easy car to drive briskly, but not a rewarding one to drive fast, in other words.

© 2019 Getty Images And that’s acceptable given two factors: firstly, Qashqai buyers are unlikely to mind, or even care, that they aren’t getting hot hatch responses. And secondly, the payoff is a satisfyingly unruffled ride. That’s the case whether you’re in town, the Qashqai ironing out all but the worst urban potholes, or on the motorway – where, with the exception of that slightly droning engine, the Qashqai also damps out noise to a commendable degree. 

The improved fuel economy and driving experience you get with these new 1.3-litre engines, then, mean the Qashqai stays near – if not at – the top of its class. And given its value – you’ll still pay less for it like-for-like than you will for most of its rivals, with the notable exception of its better-value platform-mate, the Renault Kadjar – you’ll probably be willing to overlook most of its flaws. 

So while this update hasn’t turned the Qashqai into a car that’ll set your world alight, it nevertheless remains one you’d be foolish to ignore if you wanted quiet, comfortable, inoffensive family transport with a high-quality gloss and, more so than ever before, petrol power. 

THE FACTS

Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DIG-T 140 N-Connecta

TESTED 1,332cc four-cylinder petrol turbo, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive

PRICE/ON SALE £24,575/now

POWER/TORQUE 138bhp @ 5,000rpm, 177lb ft @ 1,600rpm

TOP SPEED 120mph

ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 10.5sec

FUEL ECONOMY 41.4mpg/53.2mpg (WLTP Combined/NEDC Combined)

CO2 EMISSIONS 130g/km

VED £165 first year, then £140 per year

VERDICT The class leadership has moved on, but the Qashqai remains one of the best of the rest, and an amiable, easy-going way to transport your family. These new petrol engines suit it well, and arrive just in time to provide a worthwhile alternative as diesel’s popularity continues to dwindle. 

TELEGRAPH RATING Four stars out of five

© Thomson Reuters THE RIVALS

Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE-L, from £25,660

Pricier than the Qashqai, but you get the punchy 1.5-litre engine and well-equipped SE-L variant for you cash. What’s more, the Karoq is more spacious and more versatile than the Qashqai, especially in this form which gets tumble-forward rear seats.

Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 Active, from £24,575

Down on both power and specification compared with the Qashqai, but the Peugeot 3008 looks good and feels rather more special inside. Comfortable ride and taut handling mean it drives better, too, though it isn’t quite as smooth as the Nissan on the motorway. 

Renault Kadjar 1.3 TCE 140 S Edition from £23,595

Larger of boot and cheaper of price than the Qashqai, the Kadjar is just as family-friendly, it not more so, though it loses out on ride comfort. Still, its value – not to mention its well-stocked equipment list – means it’s worth a good, hard look as an alternative.

Gallery: A visual history of 120 years of Renault [Auto Car]

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