Mazda CX-3 Touring petrol 2015 review
Derek Ogden road tests and reviews the Mazda CX-3 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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It's a hard, depressing fact of life that your tax dollars tend to end up paying for helicopter rides for public servants and lavish weddings for local councillors, not for roads. Just think for a minute now about the byways and highways near your place; chances are that they probably wouldn't look out of place in a post-apocalyptic thriller.
So what's a reasonable person to do? Anything low-riding, hunkered-down or in any way sleek will spend its time lurching over potholes, speed bumps and manhole covers like a land-going seal. Happily, however, there's a flock of small SUVs that'll make short work of pockmarked bitumen, thanks to their taller ground clearance and long suspension travel.
The Nissan Qashqai fits this particular bill to a T, offering a blend of small car and SUV in a way that should make molehills of city streets.
Ever since Nissan ditched the Dualis moniker in favour of Qashqai, they've only offered the mini-SUV as a front-wheel-drive proposition, reflecting the Australian market's love of SUV packaging and styling above all else. In reality, the little Nissan is more high-riding hatchback than off-road adventurer, but the decent clearance of 188mm, along with the base-spec ST's high-profile tyres, should put you in good stead should you decide to tackle any dirt roads.
The cabin is probably best described as functional, rather than sleek, stylish or sumptuous. Nissan's choice of a small media screen without touch capabilities feels a little low-rent in 2016, especially with its fairly pixellated display.
To rub salt into that particular wound, it must be said that while there are no issues with Bluetooth connection, other than the hold-tongue-pat-belly-rub-head method to connect, the best appellation one could apply to the Qashqai's stereo is ‘adequate'. The bass is muddy and the treble is pitchy; it feels like Nissan went with the cheapest available speakers.
There's evidence of discount build quality, too. When pressed, the door cards flex more than a bodybuilding convention, and the steering wheel grip is about as fun to hold as a fire blanket. Further examples of its budget build include cheap plastics on the door handles and switchgear, manual air-conditioning controls and a drivers-only auto window.
The Qashqai also offers a pretty large cargo area at 430 litres
The front seats do tend to hoist you too high in the air, which means there's not enough room in the front for the truly tall. And it's not just a problem for the lofty; people of fair to middling height could also use a lower seat height, which would make for a more comfortable resting position on the driver's footwell.
Oddly, considering the high front row, the rear seats offer plenty of headroom and legroom, even for the gangliest of teenagers. While they may enjoy the commodious seating arrangements, they'll still want directional air-conditioning vents to call their own, having to make do instead with whatever wafts back from the dashboard-mounted vents and those under the front seats. Happily, the teenagers in question do have ample places to store their energy drinks, so perhaps they won't notice.
The Qashqai also offers a pretty large cargo area at 430 litres, thanks to its front-wheel-drive architecture and space-saver spare wheel.
The Qashqai is really in its element on crowded city streets. Thanks to its diminutive dimensions, it'll fit down narrow lanes and in tight parking spaces. Of course, proper city cars like micro hatches will have its measure in that regard, but then again, so will a bicycle.
Its high ride height and well-sorted suspension mean that the Qashqai can dismiss the corrugations and aberrations of Australia's crumbling road network without fuss. Drainage channels, speed bumps and other ‘road furniture' presents next to no challenge, either.
The Qashqai is perfectly happy to run the dullest of daily errands
Similarly, the Qashqai's combination of a naturally aspirated, 2.0-litre engine and smooth-acting CVT make it an absolute doddle to thread through traffic. Considering the engine's pretty meagre 106kW, hard acceleration will have you to city speed limits sooner than you think.
There's a noticeable lift as the engine passes 3500rpm, as the engine really comes on song. It's odd, then, that the CVT spends most of its time trying to keep you in the lower registers. This is probably in the name of minimising fuel consumption, but if you stomp on the accelerator like you're re-enacting American History X, the CVT will yield and let you up the rev range.
In reality, it's not necessary; the Qashqai is perfectly happy to run the dullest of daily errands at a sedate, city-friendly pace.
Taking the Qashqai out of the suburbs serves up much the same experience as taking a small city car into the big blue yonder. It's all right for sporadic trips, but if you're a constant traveller, you'll want to look elsewhere for a highway mile-eater.
Not to say that the Qashqai is lacking dynamically; the ride is well-settled, and never feels put out of joint by mid-corner variations. Like so many of its front-wheel-drive brethren, you can drive the Qashqai much like you would a lanky hatchback. There's a bit of lean as the high ride height exacts its toll on the handling, but the Qashqai tucks in well and clings on without bucking around or protesting.
It'll cling on in corners long after bigger SUVs like the RAV4 have given up entirely and gone home to sulk. There's a little interference from the traction control, and perhaps a little too early for keener drivers, but let's be honest: it's not how anyone – barring teenagers – will drive it.
The Qashqai really is as well-suited to the confines of a concrete jungle as it is out of its depth on the open road
The Qashqai's CVT keeps the 2.0-litre bubbling along, not asking it to toil until confronted with a serious incline. With a small, naturally aspirated engine lugging 1.4 tonnes, it's never going to bomb down the outside lane at licence-shredding speeds, but you're unlikely to feel let down when you put your foot down.
So, while its engine, suspension and gearbox are at least up to the task of the open road, the Qashqai falls down in another key area that's so often the Achilles heel of budget small SUVs.
On anything but the most billiard-smooth bitumen, the Qashqai delivers a harsh, booming roar throughout the cabin. Rocks and sticks flung up by the tyres strike with hollow-sounding clunks from the underbody, too; evidence of a lack of soundproofing on the floor pan. It's a shame, really; the Qashqai really is as well-suited to the confines of a concrete jungle as it is out of its depth on the open road.
If Nissan had only paid a little more time and attention to the interior materials and NVH isolation, the Qashqai could be at the forefront of its segment. But, because proper NVH isolation appears to elude Nissan (and so many other manufacturers), its small SUV has to make do with a mediocre finish.
Good on-road manners, decent inner-city pep and a low price.
High-quality interior materials, proper NVH isolation and a touchscreen media system.
The capped-price servicing plan seems pretty extensive, with a system in place for yearly / 10,000km service intervals up to 12 services. In theory, then, you'll know the servicing costs of the Qashqai for up to 12 years, which has to be some sort of record. It'll be cheap when you get to the petrol bowser as well, thanks to the 2.0-litre's lax 91-octane requirements.
|ST (4x2)||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$13,990 – 20,995||2016 Nissan Qashqai 2016 ST (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|Ti (4x2)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$20,990 – 29,888||2016 Nissan Qashqai 2016 Ti (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|TL||1.6L, Diesel, CVT AUTO||$22,999 – 27,990||2016 Nissan Qashqai 2016 TL Pricing and Specs|
|TS||1.6L, Diesel, CVT AUTO||$21,985 – 23,990||2016 Nissan Qashqai 2016 TS Pricing and Specs|