The Qashqai may have started the trend for small, family-friendly SUVs, but it has been surpassed by the Ateca in recent times. Does a recent update put the Qashqai back on top?
*** Note : £1 = $1.31
Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110 N-Connecta
- List price £25,555
- Target Price £25,555
- Our 2014 Car of the Year gets a facelift in an effort to improve interior quality and refinement
Seat Ateca 1.6 TDI 115 SE Technology
- List price £24,330
- Target Price £23,546
- The Ateca may be the young upstart, but it’s more powerful and cheaper as well
Make sure you’re sitting comfortably; we’re going to tell you a story. Once upon a time in a world not too dissimilar to ours, people with families drove forgettable hatchbacks and estate cars. To get away from this tedium, they started to buy big 4x4s.
The problem was that those 4x4s were greedy, gobbling up fuel and costing their owners lots of money. But then a knight in shining armour called Qashqai came along to give people a high driving position and tough looks with the running costs of a small hatchback. And they all lived happily ever after. Well, almost.
In the past year, the Qashqai has started to feel a little old, so Nissan has sprinkled some magic dust onto it in an effort to improve perceived quality and refinement. To see if the spell has worked, we’re putting the Qashqai up against our current Small SUV of the Year, the Seat Ateca.
Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement
We’ve selected the most frugal diesel versions of both cars. But while they have similar power outputs, the Ateca’s 1.6-litre engine gets you from 0-60mph nearly a second faster than the Qashqai’s 1.5-litre motor.
The Ateca also pulls harder from low revs, so you don’t have to change gear as often, and that makes it a more relaxing car to drive – especially when you’re carrying several people.
To make matters worse, the Qashqai driver has to make do with a gearshift that feels a bit ponderous, whereas the Ateca’s has a short, precise action.
True, the Seat’s engine is the noisier of the two under acceleration, having a grittier edge. However, you feel more vibrations through the Qashqai’s pedals, and it’s the Ateca that’s the quieter motorway cruiser, primarily because it’s better at shutting out wind noise.
The Qashqai has the softer suspension, so it soaks up most lumps and bumps better than the Ateca – no matter what speed you’re doing. The Ateca is by no means uncomfortable, though, and its better body control means it recovers composure quicker after dips and crests. In both cases, we would recommend sticking with the standard 18in wheels; bigger alloys reduce comfort.
The upside of the Ateca’s firmer set-up is taut handling; its body leans less than the Qashqai’s in corners. This superior control is combined with steering that’s quicker to respond and more precise. The Ateca isn’t quite hatchback good, but you’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have in it on a twisty road.
The Qashqai feels soggy in comparison, pitching and swaying about, although it needed less distance to come to a stop from both 30 and 70mph in our tests. Both cars are available with front-wheel drive only. If you want the added traction of four-wheel drive, you’ll need to upgrade to a more powerful diesel engine.
Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality
These cars feature steering wheels that adjust for height and reach, plus driver’s seats with height and lumbar support adjustment. Even so, most people will find it easier to get comfortable in the Ateca; its front seats have more underthigh support and it’s easier to adjust the angle of the backrest.
In terms of quality, both cars have a reasonable spread of soft-touch plastics, along with leather-wrapped steering wheels and gearlevers, but the Qashqai has more attractive trim on the dash and doors. Conversely, the Ateca’s controls work with more precision and feel more solid.
Forward visibility is good, whichever car you choose, although the Ateca just edges it. It has a higher roof and the seats go high enough to give you a more commanding driving position. However, thick rear pillars can make reversing a little tricky. The Ateca has rear parking sensors to help with this, but the Qashqai goes a couple of steps further; N-Connecta trim includes front and rear sensors and a 360deg camera, even if the latter is of low resolution.
The Qashqai’s touchscreen has been upgraded in the facelift, but Nissan hasn’t done enough. The screen is still quite small at 7.0in, and it’s mounted low in the dash, so it forces you to look away from the road. It’s also angled upwards and is therefore tricky to read in bright sunlight. It’s responsive enough, but the graphics look basic and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring. We do like the hard shortcut buttons, though.
SE Technology trim includes an 8.0in touchscreen that’s mounted high up on the dashboard and is angled towards the driver, making it easier to use. As in the Qashqai, you get sat-nav and a DAB radio, but there’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The icons are bigger and easier to hit than the Qashqai’s, while the interface looks far more modern. An upgraded system is available, but we’d save our money and stick with the standard one.
Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot
Despite being fractionally shorter than the Qashqai, the Ateca is roomier inside. In the front, it has a little bit more leg room and significantly more head room, although we suspect the optional panoramic glass roof (£450) fitted to our Qashqai test car robbed it of some head room.
As a bonus, the Ateca has bigger door pockets and a larger cubbyhole in front of the gearlever, with the latter able to charge your compatible phone wirelessly (if you add a £505 pack, which also includes keyless entry). The Qashqai fights back with a larger cubby under the armrest that houses USB and aux ports, although the Ateca also has these, and they’re in front of the gearlever, where they’re more easily accessible.
In the rear seats, the Qashqai has slightly more leg room, but the Ateca has the overall advantage, with significantly more head room and a less claustrophobic feel, thanks to a lower window line and more glass. The Ateca’s rear door pockets are usefully bigger than the Qashqai’s, too.
As for boot space, the Ateca is ahead once again. The Qashqai may get a height-adjustable boot fl oor as standard (a £120 option on the Ateca), but its load space is smaller and a more awkward shape. It’s also useful that you can fold the Ateca’s rear seatbacks from inside the boot, thanks to a couple of handily placed levers.
If you’re tempted by a posher Qashqai with an upgraded Bose stereo, make sure you can live with the fact that this reduces boot space by nearly 30 litres.
Official boot capacity 430-1598 litres Suitcase capacity 6
Despite being the longer car, the Qashqai is less spacious inside. Adjustable boot floor is standard but can’t make up for the boot’s awkward shape and smaller capacity. Even so, it’s bigger than that of most similar-priced hatchbacks
Official boot capacity 510-1604 litres Suitcase capacity 8
Ateca is bigger in almost every area, making it much more practical. Those in the rear will find it less claustrophobic than the Qashqai and the boot is a more uniform shape. Variable-height boot floor is a worthwhile option
Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security
The Ateca’s list price undercuts the Qashqai’s by around £1200, and the gap grows to £2000 after haggling, because only Seat dealers will do a deal at the moment.
It’s also worth noting that the Ateca is likely to hold on to 9% more of its value over three years. Throw in cheaper insurance and servicing and over that same three-year period, the Ateca works out around £4000 cheaper if you’re a private buyer.
If you’re looking to lease or take out a PCP finance deal, the Ateca continues to have the advantage, but the Qashqai’s lower CO2 emissions mean it will save company car drivers around £500 in benefit-in-kind tax over three years.
The Qashqai is also easier on fuel; our True MPG figures show that you’ll spend around £120 less on diesel over three years.
Both cars come with all the equipment a family is likely to want, including automatic emergency braking, and both were awarded five stars out of five by the Euro NCAP safety agency. The Qashqai comes with more standard equipment, but then it costs significantly more.
The Qashqai is a former What Car? Car of the Year and remains very likeable, thanks to its cushy ride and low CO2 emissions and generous roster of luxuries. However, the latest updates aren’t enough to put it back on top of the small SUV class.
Instead, it’s the Ateca that wins this test, because it’s more practical, has a better infotainment system and is more enjoyable to drive. That you can add a couple of choice options and still pay less than you would for the Qashqai merely seals the deal, although we would recommend going for the 1.4-litre petrol model instead of this diesel if you’re buying privately, because it’s even cheaper and has punchier performance.
1st – Seat Ateca
- For Roomier interior; stronger performance; sharper handling; cheaper to buy and own
- Against Firmer ride; higher BIK rate; not as fuel efficient; stingier standard equipment
Specifications: Seat Ateca 1.6 TDI 115 SE Technology
- Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
- List price £24,330
- Target Price £23,546
- Power 113bhp @ 3250-4000rpm
- Torque 184lb ft @ 1500-3250rpm
- 0-60mph 10.8sec
- Top speed 114mph
- Claimed fuel economy 64.2mpg
- True MPG 50.2mpg
- CO2 emissions 114g/km
2nd – Nissan Qashqai
- For More comfortable ride; more standard equipment; low CO2 output
- Against Odd-shaped boot; more expensive to buy and run privately; so-so infotainment
Specifications: Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110 N-Connecta
- Engine size 1.5-litre petrol
- List price £25,555
- Target Price £25,555
- Power 108bhp @ 4000rpm
- Torque 192lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
- 0-60mph 11.7sec
- Top speed 113mph
- Claimed fuel economy 74.3mpg
- True MPG 51.9mpg
- CO2 emissions 99g/km