Nissan Qashqai VS Mini Countryman
- 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
- More mature looks
- Safety overhaul
- Still fun to drive
- Ride can feel overly firm on standard suspension
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Inevitable price hikes
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|
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Mini Countryman Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S and Cooper SD All4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Canberra.
Mini's new Countryman is officially the least mini Mini ever made. So un-Mini, in fact, it now stretches over 4 metres in length for the first time ever. It's also taller and wider than the car it replaces, making it the biggest Mini ever produced by the brand.
But there's method to Mini's super-sizing madness, with the brand desperate to make sure its new Countryman isn't just big, but is also a big deal for the first time in its brief history.
The outgoing model makes up about 15 per cent of Mini's sales in Australia - despite playing in the most popular segment - and the brand's bosses reckon they know the problem. Internal surveys reveal more than 30 per cent of people who were considering a Countryman, but ended up buying something else, did so because it was too small and impractical to be used as a family car.
And so it's grown in every direction. Its now 20cm longer, 1.5cm taller and 3.3cm wider, and it sits on a 7.5cm longer wheelbase. And while those numbers might not sound massive, it makes a difference in the cabin, and adds an extra 100 litres of boot space.
So is a maximised Mini a good thing?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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?
Bigger is better for Mini's Countryman. More space, more technology and with a more mature styling treatment, the Countryman finally offers the right ingredients to appear on family shopping lists.
2017 Mini Countryman range specifications
Price: From $39,900
Fuel consumption: 6.0L/100km (Cooper), 4.8L/100km (Cooper D) 6.5L/100km (Cooper S), 5.2L/100km (Cooper SD)
Tank: 51 litres
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited
Service Interval: Condition based
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol, 100kW/220Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 110kW/330Nm, 2.0-litre petrol, 141kW/280Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 140kW/400Nm.
Transmission: 6-sp auto/8-spd auto
Spare: Run flats
Turning circle: 11.4m diameter
Dimensions: 4,299mm (L), 1,822mm (W), 1,557mm (H)
Would you prefer a Countryman to an X1 or a Q2? Tell us what you think in the comments 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.
Like an old-school Mini that's been stung by something flying and horrible, the Countryman has swollen in every direction, with Mini also smoothing out some of the design quirks of the outgoing model.
A redesigned grille and bonnet give the front end a calmer, more mature look, while the higher roof line and the fact the 18-inch alloy wheels have been positioned at the furthest corners of the car make the Countryman seem bigger but more well-proportioned than the car it replaces.
Inside, there's a half-premium, half-techy air to the cabin. All models get well-bolstered, leather-trim seats, a meaty steering wheel and some genuinely cool touchpoints including the bright-red switch that fires up the engine. The dash is still dominated by a huge and light-ringed (part of a more extensive illumination set up that also shines ambient lighting in the footwell) circular display that houses the multimedia screen, while the air-vents have now been placed vertically.
There's a new-found maturity to the cabin. Nicer materials, less in-your-face dials and a genuine sense of premium. The cabin lighting is hit and miss though, but the little Mini dial that lights up on the sidewalk as you approach and unlock the car will surely put a smile on some owner's faces.
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.
Growth is good for Countryman buyers, with more room for passengers and luggage. Shoulder room and leg room have both grown (albeit by about 5cm), and the interior never feels cramped no matter whether you're sitting in the front or the back.
Boot space has increased, too, growing from 350 litres to 450 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seat in place, and from 1,170 to 1,390 when it is folded flat.
Standard fit includes two cup holders for front seat passengers, plus room in the doors for bottles, but both the S and SD models also get a pull-down divider in the rear seat that houses another two. There's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
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.
The bad news first: there's pricing pain right across the streamlined Countryman line-up, with the like-for-like cost of entry into an automatic model climbing by $3,400, and the cheaper still manual option banished from the line up altogether.
The range now kicks off with the entry-level Cooper, now starting from $39,900, sitting below the Cooper D at $43,900. The first of the fun-flavoured variants arrives next, the $46,500 Cooper S, with the 2017 line-up topping out with the $51,500 Cooper SD (Sport Diesel) All4 - the only model to get all-wheel drive.
You do get a heap more kit for your money, though, even if some of the items really should have been included on the outgoing model, too. You get a reversing camera for the first time, for example, but you'll also find front and rear parking sensors, an auto-parking system, cruise control, 18-inch alloys and a powered boot you can open by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
Elsewhere, expect leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a 6.5-inch screen (still not a touchscreen, but you can option one) paired with a six-speaker stereo and an admittedly cool light system that illuminates the Mini logo on the footpath when you unlock the car.
But the big news is the standard safety equipment that makes an appearance even on the entry-level Cooper. But more on that under our Safety heading.
Spring for the Cooper D and you'll find the same kit, but add two gears to your automatic gearbox, now an eight-speed. The Cooper S adds a sports transmission, a rear centre armrest, LED headlights and the steering wheel from the John Cooper Works models. You also get a drive-mode selector, but adjustable dampers are a cost option. The SD model gets the same as the S, only with all-wheel drive.
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.
Things kick off with a less-than-exciting three-cylinder engine housed within the entry-level Cooper. The 1.5-litre power plant produces 100kW at 4,400rpm and 220Nm from 1,400rpm, fed through a six-speed automatic before being sent to the front wheels. It'll squeeze a 9.6sec zero-to-100km/h sprint out of the cheapest Countryman.
Step up to the Cooper D and you'll find a 2.0-litre diesel under the bonnet producing 110kW at 4,000Nm and 330Nm from 1,750rpm. It will reduce the sprint time to 8.8secs, using the first of the eight-speed automatics in the Countryman line up.
The sporty Cooper S squeezes 141kW at 5,000rpm and 280Nm from 1,350rpm from its 2.0-litre petrol engine, channeled to the front wheels via an eight-speed sports automatic, which is enough to produce a 7.4sec sprint to 100km/h.
Finally, the Cooper SD All4 gets a 2.0-litre diesel donk producing 140kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 400Nm from 1,750rpm, fed to all four wheels through an eight-speed sports automatic. The 100km/h sprint takes an identical 7.4 seconds, however.
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.
The entry-level Cooper will sip a claimed/combined 6.0 litres per hundred kilometres and produce 138g per kilometre of C02. The Cooper D is the most miserly of the Countryman family, returning 4.8 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, and will produce a 126g per kilometre of CO2.
The sportier models will predictably cost you more at the pump, with the Cooper S drinking 6.5 litres per hundred kilometres (claimed/combined) and emitting 149 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the Cooper SD need 5.2 litres on the same cycle, while emitting 138 grams of C02 per kilometres.
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.
There's s reason F1 cars don't offer much boot space, and that's because bigger is rarely better in the slippery world of aerodynamics and performance. So the model we were most excited about driving - the overgrown Cooper S - was also the one we approached with the most trepidation.
Happily, it still feels the most urgent of the current crop (a JCW version is still en route) with a zero-to-100km/h time that doesn't set the world on fire, but equally doesn't feel anything resembling slow. The optional variable dampers ($700) make a different on rougher road surfaces, with the harsh and jarring ride of old banished in favour of something a little more smooth, but no less connected.
Equally important, though, is that its weight gain hasn't hurt it in backroad hillclimbs. While the tired old "like a go-kart" description can't be applied to something now the the genuine size of a small SUV, it still feels constantly planted to the road, with direct steering and plenty of feedback fed through the meaty steering wheel.
Step up to the range topper, the diesel-powered SD All4 and things take a turn for the weirder. On paper, the all-wheel-drive model should kill it. A mere kilowatt less power than the Cooper S, but a bucketload more torque, along with the ability to channel that power though a clever all-wheel-drive system should see it devour the sprint. But with that extra kit comes extra kilos (1530kg versus 1460kg), and so the offical time is bang-on that of the petrol-powered S.
But it never feels as quick in the real world. It lacks some of the free-revving fun of the petrol, instead choosing the next gear early in the rev range in automatic mode, and flat-out refusing to shift down a gear as you approach a corner should you take over the shifting via the manual paddles. It feel no less planted than the Cooper S, and it grips and sits beautifully on the twister stuff, but the fun factor just isn't the same.
While we didn't sample the Cooper D, we spent some time in the fun and frugal Cooper. Its three-cylinder engine offers enough power to keep you entertained in the city, but things get a little less fun out on the open road where the climb from 80km/h to 100km/h can feel eternal. The ride, too, feels rougher, with the suspension set to a sportier ride which allows harsher bumps into the cabin.
But all of that stuff will fade into obscurity when you're off the twisting roads and back in the city - and let's face it, that's where the Countryman will spend the bulk of its time. And it's here where Mini's changes make the most sense. The cabin feels light and airy, you can fit more stuff in the boot, the interior treatment is first-class and the addition of crucial driving aids will make day-to-day driving so much easier.
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.
The Countryman has gone from one of the worst in show (no reversing camera?) to one of the strongest standard safety performers. The now-standard reversing camera joins front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parking system that will take over the steering for you when manoeuvring into a tight spot.
But you'll now also find Mini's Driver Assistant Package, which includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and AEB, and street-sign recognition that reads the signs as you pass them and displays that info on the in-car screen. You can add to that active cruise that will come to a complete stop with traffic before accelerating to speed again, and five airbags (dual front airbags, a side airbag for the driver and two curtain airbags covering both rows of seats).
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.
The Mini Countryman is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires what BMW calls "condition-based servicing", meaning your car is serviced when it needs to be, rather than after a predetermined amount of kilometres. Owners can prepay their maintenance costs for five years or 80,000km for $1,240.