Nissan’s Qashqai is the brand’s biggest seller in Ireland, writes Brian Byrne. By a long shot — last year the C segment SUV sold more than twice the number of the company’s second best performing model here, the iconic Leaf EV.
This is the third generation of a nameplate first rolled off the assembly line in 2007. At that time, anticipating the trend of crossover-SUVs for the family car market, it was designed to replace both the Almera compact and the Primera large family saloon models, both aged and tired. The strategy worked, and Qashqai boosted both the carmaker’s reputation and its bank balance. The strange-sounding name was used in Europe — variants were sold in other markets under more normal monikers, such as Rogue in the US.
The original quite soft style has sharpened up through the last two iterations, with the current car having a very strong presence indeed. The stylists have provided edgy shapes, managing to meld curves and angles into unexpectedly attractive elements. It is bold design work that could very easily have gone all wrong but instead achieved a coherent distinctiveness.
Inside, the sense of quality is impressive. As also is the attitude of those responsible that screens and instruments are for providing clear information, not simply to dazzle with pizzaz. That said, there’s a lot of information available, and it bears spending a little while before moving off for the first time to assess everything that’s there. It doesn’t take long though, to get comfortable with the array of switchgear on the steering wheel and under the screen where sensible rotary knobs manage the temperature.
Dashboard, doors and seat fabrics and fittings in the review car were all top-notch, an area where Nissan has really upped its game in recent years. There’s a bit more room in this one over the previous generation too, as the car is longer, wider and taller, and also has some extra wheelbase length. For the driver, it feels generous without being big — a good result. For those in the back, enough knees space and plenty of headroom. The boot will fit most luggage needs.
I drove a couple of the launch versions last year, both petrol with mild hybrid electrification, one of them automatic. I remember feeling quite at home in them very quickly, and this latest one for review was just the same. What was different was the drivetrain.
This is the ePower version, Nissan’s name for their full hybrid system in both the Qashqai and the larger brother X-Trail. What makes it particularly interesting is that it’s a series hybrid, where the petrol engine has no connection to the wheels. Instead it generates electricity for the battery from which an electric motor drives the wheels all the time. Nissan’s advertising is based on this giving an electric drive experience without having to plug in.
With no need for a transmission, and the quietness of an electric drive, travelling in the Qashqai ePower is a really smooth experience. The other technical advantage is that the 1.5 petrol engine can work in a more efficient way because compromises don’t have to be made as the motor adapts to gear changes.
There are arguments as to whether series hybrids are more or less efficient than the parallel hybrid systems where both the internal combustion engine and the electric motor drive the wheels in turn or together as required by speed and load. Whatever, keeping an eye on the energy transfer in my time with the ePower Qashqai, it ran on battery alone for a significant amount of time in low traffic levels. Under acceleration, it offered the distinctive torque lift that EVs have. All in all it was a most pleasant driving experience. I averaged 6.1L/100km in mixed motorway and local driving, which was respectable for a car of this size. All the usual driver aids were part of the specification.
PRICE: Qashqai SV MH from €35,100; review ePower from €45,900. WHAT I LIKED: The smoothness and the style.