WATCH: New Nissan Qashqai arrives with a point to prove
Petrol-powered only line-up will be supplemented in March next year by the electrified e-Power model.
Styling a massive departure from that old the Qashqai
At the time of its reveal fifteen years ago, the Nissan Qashqai was viewed as either a brave step by the Japanese automaker, or a pending failure it could ill afford to have.
Risk that payed off
Afterall, the compact SUV/crossover segment hadn’t yet been invented as such and sedans and hatchbacks were still setting sales charts alight with MPV’s playing a strong supporting role.
As such, Nissan’s move to replace both the Primera and Almera with a high-riding pseudo-SUV brandishing a name very few could pronounce derived from a nomadic tribe in Iran seemed like a death sentence from the start.
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However, as history has shown time-and-again, the opposite often happens and having gone on to become a massive smash-hit globally with sales of well over three-million units and counting, the still British-built Qashqai effectively created a segment viewed today as one of the most important in a similar way sedans and hatchback once was.
Worth the wait?
Even more intriguing is that its success came by after only two generations with the second dating from 2013, followed by a one and only mid-life update four years later.
In truth, Nissan taking its time to unveil the third generation Qashqai didn’t come as a surprise as the rigours of new vehicle development and prevailing global challenges often results in a manufacturer playing it safe than being sorry with a rushed product despite demand increasing with each month.
Forced to ultimately delay the premiere of Qashqai until last year due to the pandemic, the wait for the newcomer’s South African market arrival officially ended last week when Nissan showcased arguably one of its important products in Cape Town.
Completely redesigned from the ground up, the Qashqai not only jumps platforms to the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CMF-C, but measures significantly longer dimensionally and with a more striking design heavily derived from the all-electric Ariya.
In addition to being stiffer, more rigid and a reported 60 kg lighter than the old model, Nissan has also addressed the interior that received extensive panning for looking and feeling dated as the internally designed J11 Qashqai aged.
Arguably capable of rivalling the exterior for attention, the design takes inspiration from the new X-Trail South Africa will be getting from early next year.
Sporting not only a much more premium feel but also up-to-date tech, the still functional but minimalistic interior houses a series of features depended on three trim levels.
As with the two previous generations, the Visia kicks the Qashqai range off with standard items consisting of 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, folding electric mirrors, push-button start, front and rear armrests, cruise control, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a four-speaker sound system and one-touch electric windows all around.
The equally comprehensive safety and driver assistance spec sheet comprises a reverse camera with rear parking sensors, six airbags, ABS with EBD and EBA, Hill Start Assist and a tyre pressure monitor.
Upping the ante, the Acenta, which can be had with either a mono-tone or bi-tone exterior, swaps the 17-inch wheels for 18-inch alloys, while also getting adaptive LED headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, six-speaker sound system, automatic air-conditioning and the brand-new 12.3-inch infotainment system with embedded satellite navigation.
Added safety comes in the shape of an improved surround-view camera system, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Nissan’s ProPILOT that allows for Level 1 autonomous driving.
The subject of the national media’s introduction to the Qashqai though was the flagship Acenta Plus, which, apart from incorporating the two-tone paint option as standard, also comes equipped with 19-inch alloys, Nappa leather seats with the fronts being heated, electric and with a massaging function, gloss black mirror caps and door handles, a ten-speaker Bose sound system and memory function for the front chairs.
As impressive as the specification sheet reads, the real surprise was reserved for the trek around the Cape coast around Chapman’s Peak, Simon’s Town and ultimately the end stop at the V&A Waterfront.
In a first for South Africa, the Qashqai offers an all-petrol line-up with the sole unit being the 1.3-litre turbocharged unit co-developed with Mercedes-Benz.
For the Visia, the unit produces 96kW/240Nm fed through a six-speed manual gearbox, while in the Acenta and Acenta Plus, it delivers 110kW/250Nm to the ground via a brand-new Xtronic CVT.
Despite being front-wheel-drive only and without the 48-volt mild-hybrid system offered in Europe, the biggest interest will be the new 1.5-litre e-Power drivetrain confirmed for South Africa from March next year.
Until then, the 1.3 takes centre stage and despite being seven kilowatts and 20 Nm down on the equivalent European tune, it feels lively and eager to impress by delivering a constant flow of surging grunt that makes it feel faster than what the outputs suggest.
Despite the hate relationship many of the motoring media have with CVT’s, the unit in the Qashqai is one of the better options currently available. While still prone to droning, it quietens a lot quicker and omits, to a degree, the usual elastic-band feel common of a CVT.
Along the winding roads of the Cape peninsula, some surprisingly badly tarred, the Qashqai exhibited not only a very compliant ride, even on its 19-inch alloys, but a lovely weighted steering feel that inspired confidence when showing it a few corners.
At the same time, the noise levels were kept well dampened at the national limit and the seats supportive and comfortable.
Additionally, Nissan has added a drive mode selector with three driving settings; Eco, Standard and Sport and well-positioned paddle shifters being standard fare on both CVT models.
As much as Nissan has taken its time in launching the Qashqai, the wait has been worth it. Not only a styling revolution outside, it also feels more plus inside and with a willing drivetrain capable of taking on the established opposition.
Despite attention being focused on the e-Power, which is expected to up Nissan’s projected monthly sales tally of up to 300 units per month, the Qashqai is a welcome return to form, albeit with a significant task ahead of it at a more premium price than ever.
In total, eleven mono-tone colours are offered; white, red, Black Metallic, Silver Metallic, Burgundy Metallic, Dark Grey Metallic, Ink Blue Metallic, Pearl White, Ceramic Grey Pearl, Fuji Sunset Red Pearl and Magnetic Blue Pearl.
Five two-tone hues meanwhile can be specified; black with a grey roof and black a roof contrasting the Pearl White, Ceramic Grey Pearl, Fuji Sunset Red Pearl and Magnetic Blue Pearl body colours.
Included with each Qashqai’s sticker price is a six-year/150 000 km warranty as well as a three-year/90 000 km service plan.
- Qashqai 1.3 DIG-T Visia – R568 200
- Qashqai 1.3 DIG-T Acenta CVT – R639 300
- Qashqai 1.3 DIG-T Acenta Plus CVT – R670 600