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Nissan Qashqai 2018 review: N-Tec

EXPERT RATING
7.6
Small SUVs have exploded in popularity, prowling our cities and suburbs in record numbers. Time to put one to the ultimate test, then; a full weekend of family duties.

It is no secret that there has been a softening of the SUV species of late, with our not-quite-4WDs now designed less for the freedom of rugged outback adventures, and more for picking up adventurous rugs from Freedom.

It's the compact SUV category that really dispels the notion of these cars as go-anywhere warriors. Unless by 'go anywhere', they mean 'go anywhere suitable for a front-wheel-drive hatchback, only slightly taller'.

But all of that clearly matters little to many car buyers, with city-sized SUVs pouring out of dealerships in incredible numbers. The Nissan Qashqai is one such example, blending the ride height and look of an SUV with the road characteristics of a hatch or small sedan.

Despite sitting on 19-inch alloys, ride and handling was excellent on uneven roads. Despite sitting on 19-inch alloys, ride and handling was excellent on uneven roads.

So for my weekend test I'm driving the 2018 Qashqai N-TEC. Priced at $36,490, the N-TEC sits at the top of a Qashqai range that also includes the ST ($26,490) and the ST-L ($32,990).

This 2018 Qashqai has undergone a mid-life update designed to help it keep up with a formidable small-SUV pack (Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, etc). While the exterior has been given some minor nips and tucks, it's under the skin where the key updates have taken place. But more on that later.

The question now is, how will the Qashqai N-TEC handle family duties?

Saturday

We had a busy schedule, the highlight being a trip to a Circus Oz show as part of the Sydney Festival.

This latest Qashqai looks sharp. It's definitely one of the better-looking SUVs in its class, with a number of new and subtle styling cues to distinguish this 2018 model from the one it replaces.

The N-TEC's cabin has been gifted a panoramic glass roof that works cleverly to help give the impression of space. The N-TEC's cabin has been gifted a panoramic glass roof that works cleverly to help give the impression of space.

The most noticeable changes are up front, with the addition of Nissan's 'V Motion' grille and sharper LED headlights with boomerang-shaped daytime running lights. Apart from the roof rails (standard on N-TEC), there's barely any discernible changes to the side and rear views.

The ride height is in the goldilocks zone, making for effortless entry and exit (particularly useful for those drivers and passengers who may be nursing dodgy knees and hips).

Inside, the N-TEC's cabin has been gifted a panoramic glass roof that works cleverly to help give the impression of space, which quickly became my favourite feature. The seats (heated in the front) are outfitted in leather and cloth and provide an excellent amount of comfort.

  • The dash design works well; it's clean, simple and well designed. The dash design works well; it's clean, simple and well designed.
  • The N-TEC is let down somewhat by the 7.0-inch touchscreen. The N-TEC is let down somewhat by the 7.0-inch touchscreen.

The kids in the back had ample room, and they could make use of two cupholders in the centre armrest or the bottle holder in each door. Legroom is good, with room enough for me to sit behind my driving position (I'm 180cm) with space to spare.

In addition to the extra two cupholders and the glovebox up front, the cabin is peppered with plenty of nooks and cubbies for items of various sizes and shapes. The dash design works well; it's clean, simple and well designed.

There's a bottle holder in each door. There's a bottle holder in each door.

The N-TEC is let down somewhat by the 7.0-inch touchscreen, though. It's not as simple to use as others in the class. Screen resolution for the maps is not great, and there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

After a morning of errands we set off for Circus Oz, a trip that would involve both urban and motorway driving. Bouncing around the urban streets is where the N-TEC was most at home. Despite sitting on 19-inch alloys, ride and handling was excellent on uneven roads and it soaked up the speed humps with ease. Ride and handling on the motorway was composed and only let down by the lack of power on tap for overtaking.

On the return trip I was struck by how serene the cabin was, with only minor noise noticeable from the CVT under acceleration or at higher speeds. It's impressive. The serenity was only broken by the kids' verbal battles in the back seat. But I guess you can't have everything.

Sunday

The schedule today included shopping in the city followed by a trip to the beach in the afternoon, and it gave me the opportunity to further test the N-TECs driving characteristics and luggage capacity.

Nissan has given diesel the punt for this mid-life update, only offering the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine. Developing 106kW/200Nm, it's coupled with a CVT auto that sends power to the front wheels. As you'd expect, tow figures are modest, rated at 1200kg (braked) or 729kg (unbraked).

Nissan has given diesel the punt for this mid-life update, only offering the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine. Nissan has given diesel the punt for this mid-life update, only offering the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine.

The engine and transmission combination works well to propel the Qashqai around the city and urban back streets, but it struggles a little when overtaking on the freeway. Hills (with a car filled with kids and luggage) can be a challenge, too. Not to be relied on to escape any sticky traffic situations in a hurry, then.

City driving in the Qashqai was hassle-free, apart from the car's overzealous sonar beeping when in the vicinity of any object or vehicle – which in the city happens more often than you might think. It became slightly annoying as it continued to draw my attention unnecessarily.

With its reasonably small dimensions, navigating underground city carparks was easy and I quickly managed to nab a 'small car' space, with the N-TEC fitting in with room to spare.

With its reasonably small dimensions, navigating underground city carparks was easy and I quickly managed to nab a 'small car' space. With its reasonably small dimensions, navigating underground city carparks was easy and I quickly managed to nab a 'small car' space.

For the afternoon trip to the beach we packed the Qashqai's boot, which at 430 litres is bettered only by Honda's HR-V. Luggage capacity triples to a cavernous 1596 litres with the 60/40 split seats folded down. The boot also features two handy secret underfloor compartments for additional storage.

The safety list in the five-star ANCAP rated N-TEC is exhaustive, with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, reversing camera, forward AEB, front and rear parking sensors and lane departure warning.

  • A beach trip in the afternoon gave me the opportunity to further test the N-TECs driving characteristics and luggage capacity. A beach trip in the afternoon gave me the opportunity to further test the N-TECs driving characteristics and luggage capacity.
  • For the afternoon trip to the beach we packed the Qashqai's boot, which at 430 litres is bettered only by Honda's HR-V. For the afternoon trip to the beach we packed the Qashqai's boot, which at 430 litres is bettered only by Honda's HR-V.
  • The boot also features two handy secret underfloor compartments for additional storage. The boot also features two handy secret underfloor compartments for additional storage.

Rounding out the safety kit is an around-view camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot warning, park assist and drowsiness detection. Families with small kids can fit a baby car seat using either the three top-tether anchor points or two ISOFIX points.

One small issue; the blind-spot monitoring warning lights aren't particularly bright, and so are hard to notice on sunny days.

According the trip computer my fuel consumption over the weekend was 8.1 litres per 100km - slightly above the claimed 6.9L/100km. I'll take it, though, particularly as the Qashqai is happy to sip 91RON fuel.

Verdict

The N-TEC is an incredibly easy car to live with, and it does an impeccable job of playing the role of family taxi. I was impressed with its ride, levels of comfort (particularly the quiet cabin) and sharp looks.

It scores well for practicality, too, despite being a cosy fit for five passengers. The engine might lack urgency, but it does the job in the suburbs - which is where the Qashqai will surely spend the majority of its time.

Does the Nissan Qashqai figure on your family car shopping list? Tell us in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$28,888
Based on 1044 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$20,000
Highest Price
$42,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
N-TEC 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $27,990 – 34,990 2018 NISSAN QASHQAI 2018 N-TEC Pricing and Specs
ST 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $20,000 – 32,990 2018 NISSAN QASHQAI 2018 ST Pricing and Specs
ST N-SPORT 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $20,680 – 26,180 2018 NISSAN QASHQAI 2018 ST N-SPORT Pricing and Specs
ST-L 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $24,990 – 37,490 2018 NISSAN QASHQAI 2018 ST-L Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Dan Pugh
Marketing Director

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