Nissan Qashqai VS Fiat 500X
- Looks sharper
- Still good to drive
- Standard safety gear
- Still no CarPlay/Android Auto
- Highway tyre noise on the 19-inch wheels
- CVT could be less flarey
- Fun looks
- Good interior
- Great safety package
- Iffy transmission
- Oddball ride
Nissan's Qashqai has achieved something remarkable. After enduring a name change for its second generation (it used to be called Dualis), it has maintained its strong popularity among Australian buyers who are switching en masse to SUVs.
The compact SUV market is becoming increasingly crowded - the Dualis had few competitors on its release but today's Qashqai has 27 of them. The Nissan has seemingly brushed off all-comers, consistently and persistently battling with the Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V.
It's mid-life update has arrived and as night follows day, MY18 supercedes MY17, with new additions to the safety list, a farewell to diesel power and a detail-focussed update to the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Fiat's indomitable 500 is one of the great survivors - not even VW's recently deceased New Beetle could keep riding the nostalgia wave, partly because it made itself just that little bit out-of-touch by not being a car anyone can buy. The 500 avoided that, particularly in its home market, and is still going strong.
Fiat added the 500X compact SUV a few years ago and at first I thought it was a daft idea. It's a polarising car, partly because some people complain it's capitalising on the 500's history. Well, duh. It's worked out well for Mini, so why not?
I've driven one every year for the last couple so I was keen to see what's up and whether it's still one of the weirdest cars on the road.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Qashqai's MY18 update is subtle but effective. It had a good base to start with, so it was all about detailed improvements. Ride and handling are better, it looks a bit more modern, the safety gear is improved and the exit of the diesel won't upset too many people.
As for which Qashqai is best, it's probably the ST-L - a good mix of spec and price make it our pick. As a range, it's likely the Qashqai will continue to sell as well as it has, despite stiffening competition. It has a solid reputation, well-judged spec and it can carry people and things in comfort and reasonable style.
The Qashqai's mid-life update is upon us - does it keep it in the hunt as pressure builds from Japan, Korea and Germany?
The 500X is a fun-looking alternative to the various options available from everyone else and is - overall - better to drive than its Renegade twin.
It packs a very good safety package which you can't ignore but does lose points on the warranty and servicing regime. But it's also built to take four adults in comfort, which not every car in the segment can boast.
Would you choose the Fiat 500X over one its better-known competitors? Tell us in the comments section below.
The exterior design has been left largely alone, with just a small amount of surgery to bring it up to date with current Nissan thinking. There's a new iteration of the 'V Motion' grille, revised headlights and more interesting bumper designs front and rear.
The cabin is largely the same - beautifully built, most of the materials are pleasant to the touch if not exactly an aesthete's delight. Everything is well laid-out, the dash is clear and the switchgear all perfectly pleasant.
The space is well proportioned, too and with the big sunroof, flooded with light, so it doesn't feel the slightest bit tight or claustrophobic, quite a feat in a car this size.
Look, I like the 500X, but I know why people don't. It's clearly a 500X in the way a Mini Countryman is a Mini. It looks like a 500, but get closer and you see the difference. It's chubby like a $10 weekend market Bhudda statue and has great big googly eyes like Mr Magoo. I find this endearing, my wife does not. The looks aren't the only thing she doesn't like.
The cabin is a bit more restrained and I quite like the band of colour stretching across the dash. The 500X is meant to be a bit more grown up than the 500, so there's a proper dash, more sensible design choices but it still has the big buttons, perfect for the meaty fingers of people who won't be buying this car.
Rear legroom is good, with enough room behind my driving position for folks of up to 185cm. There is tons of headroom front and rear even with the panoramic sunroof of the higher model spec. The interior dimensions mean four adults can cheerfully fit, with its light airy design (evident in the photos) made even brighter if you've got the full-length sunroof open.
Cabin storage includes up to four cupholders (ST and ST-L miss out on a rear armrest, so no vessel holding back there) and four bottle holders. The glove box easily swallows the owners manual.
The Qashaqi's boot space is nearly number one in its class, bettered only by Honda's HR-V. With 430 litres, it has the luggage capacity for a family getaway and the size for every day needs such as shopping or carrying the kids and their gear around.
Drop the 60/40 split fold back seats and you're in dangerous territory if you live near an Ikea - the space almost triples to 1596 litres and somehow people put these two facts together and your weekends are lost - although I guess it depends how much you like helping people.
At just 4.25 metres, the 500X isn't big, but makes the most of what it's got. The boot impresses at 350 litres and with the seats down, I think you could reasonably expect to triple that figure, though Fiat doesn't have an official number that I can find. For added Italian feel, you can tip the passenger seat forward to get really long things in, like a Billy bookshelf flat pack from Ikea.
Rear seat passengers sit high and upright meaning leg and kneeroom are maximised and with that tall roof, you won't scrape your head.
The doors each have a small bottle holder for a total of four and Fiat has got serious about cupholders - the 500X now has four.
Price and features
The MY18's launch will see four Nissan Qashqai models on the price list: the ST, ST-L, N-TEC and Ti. The N-TEC will be with us throughout early 2018 when the advanced safety technology of the Ti becomes available. The current plan is that the N-TEC will disappear when that happens.
The 2018 Qashqai introduces a number of new features as standard across the range. All of them now have forward collision warning, auto emergency braking and lane departure warning. These are in addition to front and rear parking sensors and the reversing camera carried over from the 2017 models.
Pricing hasn't moved very much, meaning how much you pay for a Qashqai has only changed due to the new spec level and the end of the diesel models. The ST is up by $500, the ST-L and N-TEC don't really have obvious counterparts given the demise of the diesel and the petrol Ti is $1000 more. Having said that, the ST-L is $1000 cheaper than the old TS.
Pricing for the ST range opener kicks off at $26,490 for the manual and $28,990 for the CVT auto. Rolling on 17-inch alloys, the ST has a six-speaker stereo, cruise control, cloth trim, keyless entry and start, air-conditioning and a space saver spare tyre.
The ST's sound system is powered by a 5.0-inch touchscreen and features an AM/FM radio, CD player, MP3 player and you can connect your iPhone or Android device via USB or Bluetooth. Sadly - and this goes for the whole range - there is not yet Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support.
Next up is the ST-L, starting at $32,990. On top of the ST spec you'll get 18-inch alloys, roof rails, fog lights, electric and heated folding mirrors, GPS sat nav, partial leather seats, heated seats, electric drivers seat and around-view cameras (as well as the normal reversing camera).
The infotainment screen is pumped up to 7.0-inches and DAB+ digital radio joins the list.
The gadgets list expands with the N-TEC, which will stick around until the Ti's arrival. Priced from $36,490, this one includes 19-inch alloys with fatter tyres, LED headlights (in addition to the LED daytime running lights), dual-zone climate control to replace the standard AC, auto headlights and wipers, panoramic sunroof, rear centre armrest, auto parking and mood lighting. The safety list expands with blind spot monitoring, high beam assist and reverse cross traffic alert.
The $37,990 top of the range Ti will land sometime before the middle of 2018. Compared with the N-TEC, the Ti is basically the same but adds nappa leather interior, lane keep assist and active cruise control.
Should the N-TEC be wildly successful, would it stick around? We asked, but Nissan wouldn't speculate. The reason for the Ti's late arrival is related to production availabilty of the lane keep assist and active cruise combination.
As for the colour choices, there are now eight colours for the Qashqai. As before, 'Ivory Pearl' (white) and 'Pearl Black' are no extra cost. The remaining colours - 'Platinum' (a light grey silver), 'Gun Metallic' (dark grey), 'Night Shade' (a sort of purple blue) and 'Magnetic Red' all cost $495. The new 'Vivid Blue', which is exactly what it sounds like, is new to the range and is also $495.
Those looking for more exotic colours like orange or gold will sadly miss out and the earthy tones of brown are also unavailable.
For a more detailed comparison, see our model snapshots.
I drove the Pop Star, which is the second of the now-two model "regular" range, the other being the, er, Pop. I drove a Special Edition in 2018 and it's not clear if it is Special as there's also an Amalfi Special edition. Anyway.
The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has 17-inch alloys, six-speaker Beats-branded stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers, leather shifter and steering wheel and a space-saver spare.
The Beats-branded stereo speakers are supplied with noise from FCA's UConnect on a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The same system is in a Maserati, don't you know. Offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect loses points by shrinking the Apple interface into a lurid red frame. Android Auto properly fills the screen, for some reason which is ironic given Apple owns the Beats brand.
Engine & trans
The petrol vs diesel decision is no longer part of the equation - as President Trump might say, diesel's ratings were low, with just under 10 percent of cars sold drinking the DERV.
Despite its availability in overseas markets, all-wheel drive is not available in Australia, perhaps because of the X-Trail's popularity (and close relationship to the Qashqai).
The only available engine is Nissan's 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol developing 106kW/200Nm. This neatly side-steps any turbo problems as it's a fairly straightforward sort of engine. As far as engine size goes, it is consistent with its Mazda rival, the CX-3 which also runs a 2.0-litre petrol.
The manual gearbox is a six-speed (just three percent of buyers choose to change their own gears) and mated to the same (MR20DD) engine. For those interested, this engine employs a chain rather than timing belt.
For CVT-equipped cars, the towing capacity is 1200kg for a braked trailer and a very specific 729kg for unbraked, so you can haul a decent load.
As with 4 wheel drive, an LP gas fuelled Qashqai is also a non-starter from the factory.
Engine specs across the segment aren't remarkably different - some are smaller turbo engines, but most around the 1.8 to 2.0-litre mark. The Qashqai's acceleration performance figures for the 0-100km/h dash are around ten seconds (CVT). Kerb weight ranges from 1343kg for the manual ST to 1429kg for the Ti.
Oil capacity is 3.8 litres and the recommended oil type is 5W-30.
Fiat's rather excellent 1.4-litre turbo MultiAir does duty under the stubby bonnet, making 103kW and 230Nm. Rather less excellent is the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which sends power through the front wheels only.
The offical combined cycle fuel economy figure for the 2.0-litre are 7.7L/100km for the manual and 6.9L/100km for the CVT. On test, which was partly highway and a good chunk of Victorian back roads, our fuel consumption figure was a neat 8.0L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity is 65 litres.
Fiat rather optimistically suggest you'll get a combined cycle figure of 5.7L/100km but try as I might, I couldn't do better than 11.2L/100km. What's worse, it demands 98RON fuel, so it's not the cheapest car to run. This figure us consistent with past weeks in the 500X and no, I wasn't thrashing it.
The Qashqai has always been near the top of the class when it comes to ride and handling if not quite there for off-road ability - front-wheel drive and the absence of hill descent control pretty much nixes any muddy fun ambitions. Nissan doesn't quote a wading depth, so that should also tell you it's not for rock-hopping.
Front suspension is by McPherson struts while the rear is a multi-link set-up, something you expect from the next segment up. The MY18 features firmer springs, retuned damping and stiffer anti-roll bars. Out on the flowing country roads outside Daylesford, the new set-up wasn't remarkably different to the old, but the body felt slightly better-controlled without ruining the excellent ride.
On 18-inch wheels, road noise seems lower. Part of that comes from additional sound-deadening and some thicker glass in the rear. The wing mirrors still whistle faintly, but it's nothing the stereo can't handle, and you'll really only hear it at speed.
Switch to the 19s as fitted to the N-TEC (and Ti), and all those efforts seem defeated - there's some tyre roar at highway speeds, attributable to both the lower profile of the tyres and their extra width. The ride doesn't seem to suffer though, and it's a pleasant place to be in suburban and city traffic, soaking up the bumps quietly and smoothly.
Unladen ground clearance measures 186mm, which is among the higher-riders in the class and it was quite at home on a deeply-potholed back road. It was perhaps a little firmer than expected over the gravel, but the surface was very poorly-maintained and resembled the Ypres battlefield. Despite only driving the front wheels, it felt secure, the torque vectoring system helping keep it on the straight and narrow. The turning circle is usable if not tight at 10.7 metres.
It rides well, but what's the engine like? I won't lie, I'd like a bit more horsepower, but in a drag race, the Qashqai is going to be pretty much neck and neck with most of the cars in the segment.
In the cruise it's a quiet engine and the CVT keeps the revs low until you floor it for an overtake, which you will need to do. Then the engine winds up with the CVT keeping it on the boil to make the most of engine specs. Around town both engine and gearbox are unobtrusive.
Again, I shouldn't like the 500X but I really don't mind it. It's flawed, which might be why.
The dual-clutch transmission is dumber than a box of loose cogs, lurching from start and looking the other way when you expect it to shift. We know the engine is a good one and I think part of the reason it's so thirsty is the confused way the transmission goes about its business. I'd love to drive a manual to see what it's like.
The 500X initially feels worse than its Jeep Renegade sibling-under-the-skin, which is quite an achievement. Part of that is to do with the ride, which is very choppy below 60km/h. The first 500X I drove wallowed about but this one is a bit tauter, which would be good if you weren't punished with this bounciness.
The seats themselves comfortable and the interior is a good place to hang out. It's reasonably quiet, too, which is at odds with the old-school silliness of its conduct. It feels like Labrador let out of after day kept inside.
And that's where the car I shouldn't like is a car I do like - I really like that it feels like you're on Roman cobblestones, the type that make your knees hurt when you walk on them for a day. The steering wheel is too fat and is at a weird angle, but you kind of square up to it and drive the car like your life depends on it. You have to take it by the scruff, correct the shifts with the paddles and show it who's boss.
Obviously, that's not for everyone. If you drive it really gently, it's a very different experience, but that means going slowly everywhere, which is no fun at all and not at all Italian.
All Qashqais leave the Sunderland UK factory with at least six SRS airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, reversing camera, forward auto emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors and lane departure warning.
You can fit a baby car seat for your child using either one of the three top-tether anchor points or two ISOFIX points.
ST-L buyers pick up around-view cameras with moving object detection.
The N-TEC adds to the safety list with rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, park assist and drowsiness detection. Finally, the Ti's specifications include 'Intelligent Lane Intervention', which helps keep you in your lane if you drift towards the edge.
The safety rating is five ANCAP stars, regardless of model. It was last tested in 2014.
Out of the box, you get seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, high and low speed AEB, active cruise control, rollover stability, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot sensor and rear cross traffic alert. That's not bad for a $30,000 car full stop, let alone a Fiat.
There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for baby seats.
The 500X scored a five-star ANCAP rating in December 2016.
Nissan offers a three year/100,000km warranty and your dealer will almost certainly try and flog you an extended warranty.
Those worried about service costs will be pleased to note that the MY18 Qasqhai capped price servicing regime is the same price as the previous year's. Service intervals remain at 12 months or 10,000km, with service prices bouncing around from $224 to $532 and averaging $307 over 12 services.
The Qashqai's resale value appears to be performing well and is as good as any in the compact SUV class. A good guide is to expect around 60 percent of the car's value to be retained over three years.
Owners seem to score it well for reliability, with few common faults reported. Searching for gearbox problems, clutch problems, cruise control problems or injector problems produce few results. As there is no longer a diesel option, searching for diesel problems is redundant.
Service intervals arrive once a year or 15,000km. There is no fixed or capped-price servicing program for the 500X.