Nissan Qashqai: Urban Crossover

First Published (2011)
I’m not entirely sure what “Urban Crossover” means, but this is Nissan’s description of the unpronounceable “Qashqai.”

To the lay person, this is a chunky five-door hatchback designed to look like a rugged off-roader but in truth is not much bigger, in any dimension, than the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. It served its purpose well this week as I was called in to provide transport for an exhibitor at a trade show in London’s Olympia Centre.

Collecting the Qashqai in Glasgow, I had a good chance to get to know it on my way to pick-up my passenger and his kit somewhere near Wales, before lugging it all to the Capital.  Having driven a handful of utilitarian 4x4s in my time, I was pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity of the pedals and ease of the Qashqai’s controls . Light steering makes parking and manoeuvring a doddle, while the big chunky tyres and beefy suspension helps it traverse the pothole-strewn British road network.

Progress on the motorways is fairly effortless in the Nissan. There are no problems keeping up with the faster moving traffic. Fifth gear comes into play quite early, yet the power delivery is smooth and instant right up to the speed limit.

The Qashqai’s front seats are very comfortable, despite limited adjustability on this model, and I could happily cross continents without complaint as far as ride is concerned.  On Shropshire’s country roads the Qashqai handled superbly. Thanks to its compact dimensions, it is easy to treat like any other small agile hatchback, although carrying any speed at all into quiet roundabouts belies the added weight that distinguishes it as a “Crossover.”

The car-park at London’s Olympia is on par with Glasgow’s Mitchell St. NCP for tight bends and ramps, with every nook and cranny used for smaller than average parking spaces. I was at the edge of my comfort zone wheeling the Qashqai around this labyrinth, and would fear driving anything longer, wider or more expensive in there.  All the kit fitted in nicely, with the rear seat-backs folded forward and parcel shelf removed. The thick hatch door itself doesn’t open particularly high so anyone nearing 5’10 or taller will need to mind their head when loading.

The clutch of a nearly-new car is always hard work in rush hour traffic and the long travel of the Nissan’s left pedal provided a mini work-out as we slowly inched back towards the motorway after the event. Slogging through London’s jams gives a renewed appreciation for an automatic gearbox.

With the outside temperature plummeting on the journey back from London, a hugely annoying feature of the Qashqai surfaced. At anything below four degrees C, the temperature display on the bright and clear instrumentation panel begins to flash – Continually! That’s around 500 miles, in the dark, with something constantly trying to catch your attention inside the car at the very time when you should be concentrating on conditions outside the car.

Not only is this feature distracting, it’s easy to catch the flashing display in your peripheral vision and assume you’ve not cancelled the indicator. The instinct is to flick the stock, leading to inevitable confusion among following drivers. Given that the recent UK winter included a month of continual sub zero temperatures, this could become a very real annoyance to British buyers at a time when bigger cars are more useful.

But generally speaking, the Nissan Qashqai is a very good car. It’s comfortable, composed and can perform as well as any small hatchback in an urban environment, with all the practicality of an estate and the chunky stance and style of an SUV.

Maybe there’s something to this “Crossover” malarky after all.

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