There’s barely a suburban street that doesn’t have a Qashqai, or a pair of Qashqai. There isn’t a school car park or supermarket without a brace of Qashqai. Nissan’s mini SUV is pandemic, having created the crossover category and now dominated it for 10 years.
It’s that success that’s caught the eye of the competition, so it’s no surprise to find that Nissan has updated the Qashqai as it fends off increasingly competitive SUV crossover rivals in the hottest segment on British roads.
In the fight to be the ultimate crossover there is no let up. Is the Qashqai still king?
Nissan Qashqai (2017) review: Design
The Qashqai was updated as recently as 2014, so this latest model isn’t such a drastic change from the model that comes before it. We’re happy with that, as the outgoing model carries an elegance in its design that some rivals are only just scrabbling to compete with. Look at the drastic rethinking of the new VW Tiguan, for example, which has taken time to come around to updating its style.
For this new Qashqai, the changes are mostly around the front with a new grille, bonnet and bumper, and a new “boomerang” daytime running light (for those models equipped with LED lights).
The slight oddity about the front is that the physical badge on some models is replaced by a plate that shows it graphically, although there’s a clever bit of design here. This new badge section allows Nissan to house the sonar behind it, part of the Intelligent Mobility suite that will give you things like crash avoidance and pedestrian detection. That means the sonar is invisibly integrated, rather than appearing as a blob somewhere else.
There’s also a design change on the underside of the car. At the rear there’s been some work on the aerodynamics, with a finned “vortex generator” panel at the rear. This is designed to alter the airflow as it exits the underside of the car and reduce the wind noise when driving.
In this model of car, equipped with the new top-spec Tekna+ trim, there’s quality details added to the exterior, like the satin silver door mirrors and roof rails. Look familiar? That’s what Audi does on its RS Q models. That’s no accident, as increasing quality is what Nissan is focusing on the new Qashqai.
Many of these details pour into the higher trim levels, looking to take the N-Connecta and Tekna models up a premium tier, while the Visia and Acenta remain fairly close to where they were before – and continue to offer the best value for money.
In our eyes it’s all good: the Qashqai is still one of the most attractive models in this class: it’s well-proportioned with its fun but practical mini SUV stylings, with a balance that looks just right. But there’s a lot more competitive choice appearing all the time – whether from Kia, Seat, VW or beyond – which is really the driving force behind these changes.
Nissan Qashqai (2017) review: An interior upgrade
Slip into the seats of the new Qashqai and there’s a familiar feeling. The interior layout remains very much as it did before, so there hasn’t been a huge change in design. Instead, Nissan again focuses on quality. In keeping with those vortex generators on the underside of the rear, there’s been a range of changes to reduce noise on the inside too.
That’s noticeable on the road and comes in the form of better door seals, more sound deadening material in the engine bay and wheel arches, as well as thicker glass. The aim is to create an interior space that has a premium feel, somewhere that’s quiet and refined and, more importantly, able to compete with those increasingly sophisticated rivals.
Swap from the old Qashqai to the new and the experience is one of Qashqai+: it looks the same, it feels the same, but it’s slightly better. It’s a nicer cabin to ride and drive in.
The interior is made up mostly with soft-touch plastics and leather touch points – although this will vary depending on what trim level you opt for. Up at the new Tekna+ level, you’re looking at Nappa leather seats as standard – and comfortable they are too. There are newly designed seats for N-Connecta and above, again, with those top trim levels getting more of the luxury stuff, but all the models get a new steering wheel, which is probably the biggest single change on the interior.
The new steering wheel opts for a sportier D shape with a flatter bottom. Nissan says this is based on customer feedback, meaning it’s easier to slip into the driver’s seat (not that it was difficult before), but this is also a thicker steering wheel with new controls, designed to feel more premium.
Overall, the result of Nissan’s interior and exterior changes, as well as the introduction of this new Tekna+ trim level, means that there’s now a super quality Qashqai for those who might be considering hopping to a different marque. Fear not, Nissan has been listening and the Qashqai is now offers more options for more buyers. At the same time, that’s pulling the prices up, so that Qashqai again faces more competition from the likes of the new Seat Alteca or the Kia Sportage in being the school-run champion.
Nissan Qashqai (2017) review: Technology
The technology story is currently incomplete, as one of the changes coming to Qashqai is Nissan’s ProPilot system. This is a semi-autonomous option that will basically take care of your driving on the motorway or in slow moving traffic – thanks to a combination of lane sensing, adaptive cruise control and braking systems. That’s now scheduled as a 2018 option, but should see launch Europe-wide. We’re not sure which trims it will be an option for, we suspect N-Connecta and above.
Elsewhere, the technology story of the interior is very much as it was before. There’s a central 7-inch display (on N-Connecta and above) flanked by buttons to control major elements of your in-car experience, like music or navigation. The system in the new Qashqai is essentially the same as the previous version.
On the whole it’s ok, but this is one area that the Qashqai seems to have overlooked the mission to update to a premium experience – and not only in the black glossy surround. While major areas are covered, it’s not hugely connected: there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, instead opting for Nissan Connect (Google Play, iTunes), where you’ll have to install the app on your phone to enable some connected features on the display.
Those amount to the likes of Facebook, Trip Advisor and Eurosport, which seems to be the wrong emphasis. You don’t need those things in your car, whereas offering Spotify would be a real benefit. As a result, the infotainment system feels a little dated as it currently stands.
There is something to sweeten the deal, however, in the form of a new Bose sound system. This is an 8-speaker system comprising two front tweeters, four main drivers in the doors and two subs in the back. It actually sounds very good, offering plenty of clarity and performance at high volumes without distortion. Best of all, the Bose sound system is standard on the Tekna and Tekna+ models.
It’s worth noting that all grades of the Qashqai get Bluetooth and a USB socket as standard, as well as DAB radio. However, one of the new additions – the shark fin antenna – is again reserved for N-Connecta and above.
Nissan’s technology story isn’t just about your entertainment though. There’s also a lot of assistance on the road, from an effective lane departure system to cruise control and emergency braking. There’s speed sign detection so you can see the speed limit at a glance, as well as camera alerts.
Perhaps our favourite is the 360 camera. This is included on the N-Connecta and above, letting you hit the button for a view on all sides of the camera. It’s perfect for seeing how close to the kerb you are, or how well you’ve managed to park in that tight space. If you’re worried about driving a car bigger than a thimble then this is really useful aid.
Nissan Qashqai (2017) review: On the road
The 1.6-litre diesel model came paired with the Xtronic gearbox – a continuously variable transmission (CVT) autobox – for this review. It’s quiet and sophisticated, avoiding too much of the booming diesel noise thanks to that sound-proofing tech.
This is also a fairly spritely 130bhp diesel and there are options for front (2WD) or all-wheel drive (4WD), as well as 6-speed manual. The 1.5-litre diesel remains the most efficient with emissions at 99g/km CO2.
If you’re buying the Qashqai as an urban driver, then the 2WD automatic option is the one you’ll want to save all the gear shifting and give you the smoothest ride, although it comes at a premium over the manual.
We mentioned that it’s a CVT, meaning it’s a little slower in adjusting to changes, like needing more power coming out of a corner. At the same time, this is a crossover, most likely with a small family installed, in which situation the CVT transmission delivers what it’s supposed to – a smooth ride. The suspension does the same, soaking away bumps, but leaving you with a little more sway that fits the height of the vehicle. Similarly, the steering as standard is light: if you want it heavier, you’ll have to dive into the settings to add a little weight.
So what’s the final result? The Qashqai is perfectly comfortable and easy to drive. On this 1.6 model there’s enough power to keep you heading up hills when you’re loaded with a week’s worth of camping kit, but not so much power that you’ll be smiling from ear-to-ear once you’ve deposited your passengers.
In that sense, it’s perfectly suited to task. Pitched as an urban crossover and adopted as a family car across the country, the Qashqai continues to deliver what it’s good at.
Taken in the context of its new and most expensive premium tier, however, there’s fierce rivals from the likes of Audi with the Q2 and Q3, which offer a drive that’s a little more dynamic, while pushing a quality spec at similar prices.
The 2017 Nissan Qashqai is a classic facelift update. There are some external updates that bring premium highlights – like the sharkfin antenna or the Tekna+ silver wing mirror covers – and interior plushness with better leather and great seats.
But in many ways, this update is all about the introduction of Tekna+, an option that gives many new features while also pulling the Qashqai up in price. The aim, no doubt is to appeal to higher spenders, but as the price rises, so does the competition, so careful selection in an increasingly competitive segment remains important.
Ultimately, however, the Qashqai continues to be exactly the car it’s meant to be: it needs to be a consideration for anyone looking for a family crossover. It’s nice to drive, it looks good and it’s hugely practical, but on the interior (apart from the nice new Bose sound system) there’s not a huge change from the last model.
Alternatives to consider
The Seat Alteca might not have the good looks of the Qashqai and in some ways its visually forgettable, but this is part of its charm. It’s understated and good at everything. It drives well, it’s competitively priced and offers plenty of spec. It’s also something of a surprise, which is why the Alteca could be a stealth hit: it’s a real Qashqai rival.
If there’ one car that’s starting to see the Qashqai effect on the UK’s roads, it’s the Sportage. Through refinement in design, a huge warranty and aggressive pricing, Kia has had a real impact on the roads, with the Sportage occupying the same space as the Nissan. It’s practical, affordable and you get a lot of tech for your money.
The dowdy days of the Tiguan are over; the redesign of VW’s small SUV is so drastic, it’s difficult to believe it’s the same car. If there’s a challenger for the Qashqai’s good looks, then it’s the new Tiguan. Propping up those looks is a lot of sophistication which really sees the Tiguan in a slightly higher tier in this new form.