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The SUV craze is growing stronger and stronger as the years go by. In the past, urban buyers preferred small hatches, but now they’re increasingly turning to crossovers like the Nissan Qashqai.
As far as small SUVs are concerned, the second-generation Qashqai has always been on the larger side, and that has translated to surprising practicality in a package that is well and truly city friendly.
But despite this desirable duality, some urban buyers have been craving something a little sportier. Enter the Qashqai’s new limited-edition variant: the N-Sport. Yep, we’ve tested to it to see if it’s a triple threat.
|Nissan Qashqai 2020: N-Sport|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Qashqai is one of the better-looking small SUVs, and the N-Sport ups the visual ante in just the right places.
Up front, it is disappointingly equipped with halogen headlights, but at least they’re capped off by arrow-shaped LED daytime running lights (DRLs). The fog lights also use cheaper bulbs, which don’t make for great night-time visibility.
Anyway, the design itself is attractive, with Nissan’s signature 'V-Motion' grille large and in charge, featuring a mesh insert and a combination of gloss-black and chrome trim.
The N-Sport stands out from the Qashqai crowd with its body-colour front bumper, which features matte-silver inserts across the side air intakes.
Around the side, the wheelarches are also body-colour, with unique 19-inch 'Wind' alloy wheels positioned below. Their multi-spoke design certainly spices things up.
Again, the N-Sport turns to a matte-silver finish, this time for the Qashqai’s side-mirror caps, roof rails and skirts. It’s all subtle but effective.
At the rear, the N-Sport’s tailgate spoiler and arrow-shaped LED tail-lights are lifted from other members of the Qashqai family, so no surprises there.
But look lower and another body-colour bumper with matte-silver inserts comes into view. And if you’re still having a hard time picking the difference, there’s also the obligatory ‘N-Sport’ badge to really spell things out.
Inside, the N-Sport looks like any other Qashqai, save for its black cloth/leather-accented seat upholstery and black headliner.
So, there’s not much in the way of ‘innovation that excites’, especially where the 7.0-inch touchscreen is concerned. A recent update introduced a new multimedia system, which goes some way in making up for the sins of its predecessor.
That said, it’s still one of the worst out there due to its lack of functionality, low resolution and puzzling widescreen format. Thankfully, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support is now on hand, so make the most of it.
The multi-function display wedged in between the traditional tachometer and speedometer is good, though, serving up all the right information to the driver.
And then there's the interior’s seriously premium quality. While the leather-accented steering wheel and gear selector are to be expected, the soft-touch upper and passenger-side middle dashboard, and front door shoulders are not.
So too are the leather-accented armrests, door inserts, door handles and knee rests. It’s all very nice. The same can’t be said, though, for the centre stack’s gloss-black trim, which is prone to annoying fingerprints. The titanium accents used elsewhere are less troublesome.
Measuring 4394mm long, 1806mm wide and 1595mm tall, the N-Sport is on the larger side for a small SUV, which means good things for practicality.
Cargo capacity is generous, at 430L, but can be increased to a massive 1598L with the 60/40 split-fold rear bench stowed, an action that can only be performed via manual release in the second row.
The boot itself has a wide aperture, which is makes loading bulkier items easier. What doesn’t, though, is the tall load lip. And a hump in the middle of the floor also has to be contended with when using the maximum storage space.
That said, two bag hooks, four tie-down points and a couple of side bins are on hand to more than claw back respectability.
In-cabin storage options are numerous, with the tall central bin proving rather useful, despite featuring a removable tray, a USB-A port, a 12V power outlet, an auxiliary input and a very shallow cupholder.
The latter is at odds with the two cupholders behind the gear selector, which are too tall for coffee cups. For the record, the front and rear door bins can only accommodate one regular drink bottle each. But we digress…
Other in-cabin storage options include a small cubby in between the central bin and the two cupholders, and a larger one in front of the gear selector, which also houses another 12V power outlet.
The glove box is average size, while there’s no sunglasses holder despite the absence of a panoramic sunroof that would normally eat into the space used by one.
In the second row, a pair of map pockets sit on the front seat backrests, while a cubby is found in the rear of the centre console, where air vents and/or USB ports would usually be found. Yep, rear occupants won’t be pleased.
That said, they'll be elated with the spaciousness. Behind my 184cm (6.0ft) driving position, around 6.0cm of legroom is on offer alongside plenty of toe-room. Headroom is also great, at roughly 4.0cm.
Thankfully, the transmission tunnel is relatively small, so there’s more than enough footwell space for two adults or three children, who will be disappointed by the small size of the fold-down armrest’s two cupholders.
Speaking of the kids, the outboard seats are equipped with top-tether and ISOFIX anchorage points for child seats, although the awkward aperture of the rear doors makes fitting them a touch tricky.
Priced from the $35,000, plus on-road costs, the N-Sport commands a $1000 premium over the mid-range ST-L and undercuts the flagship Ti by $3490 in the Qashqai range.
Standard equipment not already mentioned includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, a space-saver spare wheel, power-folding side mirrors with heating, rear privacy glass, satellite navigation with live traffic updates, six-speaker audio (with digital radio), keyless entry and start, and heated front seats. A pretty decent list, to say the least.
Our test vehicle was finished in 'Magnetic Red' metallic paint ($595), which is one of five extra-cost colour options.
The N-Sport is motivated by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 106kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4400rpm. Both outputs are average for an entry-level powertrain option.
This particular unit is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which has six simulated ‘steps’ designed to mimic a traditional gear set.
For the sake of efficiency, drive is exclusively sent to the front wheels. Yep, no all-wheel drive to be had here.
The N-Sport’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, while its claimed carbon dioxide emissions are 159 grams of CO2 per kilometre. All things considered, both are decent.
In our real-world testing, we averaged 10.6L/100km over 175km of driving mostly in the city limits. A more than acceptable result.
An 'Eco' drive mode is on hand, too, reducing throttle response to improve efficiency, but we didn’t go there often.
For reference, the N-Sport’s 65L fuel tank takes 91 RON 'standard' petrol at minimum.
ANCAP awarded the entire Qashqai range a maximum five-star safety rating in 2017.
The N-Sport’s advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, hill-start assist, surround-view cameras and front and rear parking sensors.
Notable exclusions include pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition.
Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (front dual, side and curtain), the usual electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist (BA) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EDB), among others.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
As with all Nissan Australia models, the N-Sport comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is on par in the mainstream market. That said, Kia, MG, and SsangYong lead all others with a seven-year term.
The N-Sport also comes with five years of roadside assistance, while its service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. The latter is on the shorter side.
A keenly priced six-year/60,000km capped-price servicing plan is available for $1785, or an average of $297.50 per visit.
As far as small urban runabouts go, the N-Sport more or less nails the brief.
In fact, it’s the kind of SUV that you’d much rather drive in traffic than on the open road.
The 2.0-litre engine isn’t exactly a powerhouse, requiring plenty of revs to flirt with maximum power, let alone peak torque.
It certainly helps then that the CVT is on hand. Like its contemporaries, this unit will jump up and down the rev range at a moment’s notice.
For this reason, it makes the 2.0-litre mid-range and upper reaches more accessible, making for decent acceleration when required.
At the same time, though, the CVT makes for a noisy cabin, even when accelerating without vigour. Needless to say, it’s not our favourite.
That said, this combination stacks up relatively well around town, where the pace is more leisurely. Yep, it’s not quick on a country road.
But despite the name, you weren’t expecting the N-Sport to be a sporty drive, were you?
We’re thankful it’s not, because it’s quite relaxing in the city, where commuting is often a stressful experience.
Key to this is the N-Sport’s independent suspension set-up, which consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with passive dampers.
Simply put, it’s comfortable. Despite the threat of the 19-inch alloy wheels, the ride is quite good, with most road imperfections dealt with nicely.
Speed bumps and potholes aren’t an issue. Rockier surfaces can give the N-Sport the jitters, but when don’t they?
The electric power steering isn’t quite as good, but it does the job. It’s speed-sensitive, meaning the N-Sport is easy to manoeuvre at lower speeds but more stable at higher velocities.
This system isn’t the first word in feel, but it's pleasingly light, a great characteristic in the urban jungle.
Handling-wise, the N-Sport doesn't set the world on fire. As per the high-riding crossover brief, it exhibits plenty of body roll during hard cornering.
Arguably, though, this trait makes for sharper turn-in, so it’s not all bad. And the 1392kg kerb weight is never really an issue in tighter bends.
The Qashqai is a very solid small SUV, and one of the better ones, if not the best, when it comes to city friendliness.
As its name suggests, the N-Sport is the sportiest version of the Qashqai, but just keep in mind it’s 'sporty' in looks alone.
That said, we’d save $1000 and go for the Qashqai’s mid-range ST-L instead. It also has all of the right bits.
|Midnight Edition||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$27,700 – 36,740||2020 Nissan Qashqai 2020 Midnight Edition Pricing and Specs|
|N-Sport||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$27,100 – 35,860||2020 Nissan Qashqai 2020 N-Sport Pricing and Specs|
|N-TEC (5YR)||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$27,900 – 36,960||2020 Nissan Qashqai 2020 N-TEC (5YR) Pricing and Specs|
|ST||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$21,400 – 29,040||2020 Nissan Qashqai 2020 ST Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|