The compact SUV segment, which features combatants like the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Chevrolet Equinox and Toyota RAV4, is the hottest-selling vehicle category in the country right now.
The love felt by consumers for SUVs is a fascinating phenomenon, and one of the defining elements of the early 21st century. For their part, the manufacturers have responded to demand by flooding this market with new products.
The past few years have seen the emergence of the sub-compact SUV segment, and unsurprisingly the models available in this rapidly growing market have been multiplying like rabbits. This year alone, Toyota has introduced the C-HR, Ford has presented the EcoSport and Nissan has launched the Qashqai. Hyundai and and Kia are preparing to introduce their entries, and the existing Mazda CX-3, Hyundai HR-V and others continue to rack up impressive sales.
In fact, the subcompact SUV market is currently the fastest-growing segment in Canada, which portends good things for a model like the Qashqai…
A mini Rogue?
The Nissan Qashqai has actually been available in Europe for a good decade. Three million units have already sold around the world, 2.5 million of them on the Old Continent. This is a car that has proved its mettle already.
Now, Nissan takes a calculated risk by bringing it across the Atlantic.
In essence, the Qashqai is a Rogue that has been put in a dryer to shrink it. The visual signature is very similar in front, thanks to the V-shaped grille and the quasi-identical design lines. Squint and you may even confuse the two.
A deeper look, however, reveals some differences. For instance the Qashqai is shorter in both height (by 98 mm) and length (by 250 mm). Unavoidably, this means less space inside – and this is particularly noticeable in the rear seats and in the trunk when the rear bench remains upright. Folding down those 60/40 seats, however, does free up cargo space to a very-acceptable 1,500 litres.
These space constraints, however, are all that really differentiate the Qashqai from its larger sibling. For the rest, its owners benefit from all that the Rogue has to offer.
Versions and price
Like the Rogue, the Qashqai is offered in three main versions: the S, SV and SL, which can be had with a total of seven equipment levels.
The base model is available with three of those packages, its pricing starts at a very attractive $19,998, and it comes with front-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission. To hold the price down below that psychologically important $20,000 barrier, however, Nissan did have to make some difficult choices. So while heated front seats are included, cruise control is not. This is, in my view, simply unacceptable. We’re not talking about a Micra here, after all!
This front-wheel drive base model Qashqai also comes with an optional CVT transmission. Buyers can also choose four-wheel drive as an option. The first brings the price up to $21,998, the second to $24,198.
Step up to the SV version, and the features included step right up along with you, and in fact Nissan expects this is the model most consumers will gravitate towards. Given that it comes with standard smart key, power sunroof and dual-zone A/C, it’s easy to see why. The price for the front-wheel drive iteration is $24,598, while getting the all-wheel drive powertrain will set you back another $2,200.
For those who want even more, the Nissan Qashqai SV at $29,498 comes with a host of features and functions, for instance roof rails, 19-inch wheels and a 360-degree camera. A Platinum package that gives you a slew of additional safety systems is available, and will bring the total cost up to $32,198. For this trim, only the all-wheel drive is offered.
An honest SUV
Honest is probably the most accurate way to describe the driving experience provided by the Qashqai. If driving pleasure is a priority for you, the Mazda CX-3 will be more your cup of tea (though it offers less space, it should be noted). Otherwise, you’ll be satisfied with what the Qashqai can do, and do quite well.
For example, the ride smoothness it offers is frankly excellent. That said, the generous travel of the suspension does cause some roll and bouncing on uneven road surfaces. As for the steering, it is not particularly responsive; the CVT box, meanwhile, makes for a noisy engine when accelerating hard.
You’ll get a much more dynamic driving experience out of the manual transmission, which helps you get the most bang possible from the 2.0L, 4-cylinder, 141-hp engine under the hood. On the other hand, the stroke of the gear shifter is significant and sometimes lacks in precision. It’s also worth noting that with the manual transmission the engine revs higher at cruising speed, making the vehicle less fuel-efficient. I would still choose this gearbox, despite that, and actually it’s a shame that the manual box is not offered in the rest of the lineup. The reality is that today’s consumers don’t really want it, and it has become little more than a marketing tool for manufacturers to offer a lower starting price to attract buyers. A real shame.
At the time of writing this review, the 2017 Nissan Qashqai is making its first appearance at dealerships. Already, we’re hearing that in some places dealers’ order books are full. Chances of success for the model are very high indeed. The price is right, the interest is there and, to top it all off, the Qashqai looks pretty darn good.
While it doesn’t deliver a particularly exalting driving experience, its performance on the road won’t leave you disappointed; neither will its fuel consumption, which comes in at around 8.4L (give or take a few decimal points, depending on the version chosen).
All in all, and barring any surprises, the Qashqai represents a solid buy, something that can’t always be said for brand-new models.