IT may summer, we are all but half way through 2010, but although car sales are better than last year they still lag way behind the good old days.
Road Tested by Hugh Maguire
However, despite the current economic woes there are some cars that are continuing to sell quite well and the Nissan Qashqai is one of them so I decided to take a closer look at it once again.
Some times manufacturers are very lucky and manage to fall upon a design and formula that really works very well indeed and as a result buyers flock to buy the car. So it is with the Nissan Qashqai!
Nissan do not necessarily have a range that is as fresh as some rivals. Lets face it, the Primera, Almera and even Micra and X-Trail have all been around for quite some time, while rivals have been launching new models across all sectors. Ultimately sales have suffered somewhat as a result, though they are still doing pretty well in general terms.
However Nissan have not been napping and have just launched a funky new car called the Qashqai which seems to have captured the imagination of many Irish motorists so much so that I believe there may now be a bit of a wait to get one. Sales of the Qashqai are booming and having spent a week and some 600km road testing one I can clearly see why.
The Qashqai is a five door car with a body style that looks somewhat like a small 4x4 or SUV. There are 1.6 and 2.0 litre petrol engines and a 1.5 diesel. The majority of Qashqai models sold will be 2 wd but a 4wd version is available powered by the 2.0 litre petrol unit. This new Nissan's real competititors are the likes of the VW Golf, Ford Focus and so on. My test car was the 1.6 SE petrol 2 wheel drive.
I like the chunky good looks and the sweeping lines. The car has a presence on the road and viewed from any angle it looks very well indeed. Naturally in keeping with it's image it does sit higher off the road than a conventional hatch and that to many is a big attraction.
One woman who had tested one at her local dealer and was quizzing me about the car said the big attraction for her was the higher driving position, and the feeling of safety she got from a car that sits higher on the road than the average hatch. She now may trade in her Ford Focus for the Qashqai she liked it so much.
Behind the wheel
The cabin is very impressive with an attractive design and quality to the fore. Supportive seats with big side bolsters give an excellent driving position and reach and rake adjustable steering comes as standard. The driving position does give a commanding view of the road and the instrument layout is clearly and logically laid out.
All models get air conditioning, alloy wheels, four electric windows, central locking, a CD player a multi-function steering wheel and even a Bluetooth hands-free phone kit. On the safety side things are no less impressive with ABS, front, side and curtain airbags, and ISOFIX.
There is plenty of head and legroom both front and rear, but like most cars in this class the Qashqai sits four much more comfortably than five. The boot which is accessed via the large rear tailgate is ample and of course the rear seats fold down to create even more space.
The 1.6 litre 113 bhp petrol engine proves very impressive delivering good acceleration through the gears and excellent motorway cruising capabilities. The slick 5-speed gearbox is light, precise and easy to use. One particular feature of this combination that impressed was its ability to accelerate well even in 5th gear.
On the economy front it proved quite frugal too consuming 8.1 litres per 100km according to the on board computer in very mixed driving conditions. Expect to burn on average 7.8 litres per 100km.
The suspension set-up is primarily for comfort and in that it certainly delivers. Road imperfections and bumps are all well dampened out and absorbed without a hint of drama. The handling is also very good though you will get more bodyroll in corners than in a conventional hatchback due to its higher stance. Levels of refinement are high with wind, road and tyre noise all very well suppressed.
Prices start at €23,995 for the 1.6 SE, the 1.5 SE diesel costs €26,695while the 2.0 CVT SVE 4x4 costs r32,995. The Qashqai delivers a very well rounded package and I can see why it has caught on so quickly.
It is stylish, very compact and not too big like many SUV's and 4x4 type vehicles. There is a comprehensive specification list, it drives well, has a reasonable degree of versatility and is well priced.
Build quality is top notch and it feels quite classy inside. Because of all of that it will appeal to many families and I have no doubt you will see many Qashqai's on the school run in the near future. Bulls eye Nissan, I can give the Qashqai my highest recommendation.