First drive of Nissan's new Qashqai SUV as UK production begins this week


Beetling down a dual carriageway at a good rate of knots behind the wheel of the new third generation Nissan Qashqai helped me put the new SUV neatly into perspective.

And here’s the rub. If, over a couple of decades, you’ve effectively transformed the car market by creating a whole new popular class of car – the compact family SUV – how do you improve on the ingredients you already have?

Evolution not revolution is clearly the Nissan strategy with the newest incarnation, which arrives at a critical time for the Japanese car company making the motor in post-Brexit Britain.

Should you consider Qashing in? Ray Massey was among the first in the country to get behind the wheel of the new third-generation Qashqai. Here are his first impressions

Should you consider Qashing in? Ray Massey was among the first in the country to get behind the wheel of the new third-generation Qashqai. Here are his first impressions

It certainly has a bold and appealing ‘face’ with those dramatic V-shaped vector lines.

Inside and out it’s sharper, bigger, roomier, with some important tweaks to the design, tech and general usability.

But it won’t scare the horses – and the horsepower won’t scare you either.

I was coasting along at a decent pace but it’s clear that Nissan has prioritiesed practicality and convenience over scintilating performance. But frankly, unless you’re a dyed-in-the wool petrolhead, who cares? This Qashqai’s not aimed at you anyway.

The new Qashqai is a smooth, practical and comfortable operator – but operating in a much tougher market now that rivals have copied, caught up and, in some cases, overtaken – with the likes of the Peugeot 3008, Hyundai Tuscon, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Renault Kadjar snapping at its heels.

On sale now with first deliveries to showrooms imminent, prices for the new Qashqai range from £23,535 for the entry level Visia trim up to £37,835 for the top of the range Tekna+ Xtronic automatic. However, a special launch Premier edition is priced from £29,270 and all but sold out will be the first delivered.

Japan’s Nissan has hailed the new Qashqai’s arrival as a huge vote of confidence in post-Brexit Britain and has invested £400million to produce it in Sunderland. Bosses said Nissan’s 35 years of car-building in Britain meant it had become part of the UK way of life and was proud to celebrate its ‘Britishness’.

With the light flooding in from the panoramic sun roof, which made for a 'light and airy feel to the drive', Ray Massey casts his verdict on the new model

With the light flooding in from the panoramic sun roof, which made for a ‘light and airy feel to the drive’, Ray Massey casts his verdict on the new model 

Inside and out it's sharper, bigger, roomier, with some important tweaks to the design, tech and general usability

Inside and out it’s sharper, bigger, roomier, with some important tweaks to the design, tech and general usability

Third-generation Nissan Qashqai: What’s it like out on the open road? 

The new Qashqai is available both as a petrol-electric hybrid and mild-hybrid – but no diesel.

Initially, however, customers can choose only between a 1.3-litre four-cylinder mild-hybrid petrol version offered with two power outputs – 138hp and 156hp.

I was driving the more powerful of these two, linked to a smooth six-speed manual transmission.

A new Xtronic continuously variable automatic gearbox is also an option but with the 156hp version only. The Xtronic models also offer intelligent all-wheel drive with five driving modes: Standard, ECO, Sport, Snow and Off-Road.

Riding on 20-inch wheels, I was driving the Qashqai 1.3 litre Tekna+, which is well stocked with kit and priced from £34,175.

The light flooded in from the panoramic sun roof, which made for a light and airy feel to the drive.

The new Qashqai is available both as a petrol-electric hybrid and mild-hybrid ¿ but no diesel. Our first drive was in the former, with the higher of two power outputs

The new Qashqai is available both as a petrol-electric hybrid and mild-hybrid – but no diesel. Our first drive was in the former, with the higher of two power outputs

It’s got a decent amount of pace, accelerating from 0-to-62mph in 9.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 128mph.

But this is easy-listening music for pleasure territory for busy families, active singletons and lively empty-nesters, not head-banging rock.  

Sitting in the drivers’ seat does feel both comfortable and spacious. The extra body room is certainly noticeable. There’s also a decent bit of space between yourself and your passenger – handy in these covid-compliant social distancing times.

I also like the fact that although there’s a fair sized touch-screen, Nissan isn’t frightened to put in real twiddly buttons for key things like turning up the volume on the infotainment system or adjusting the temperature control on the air conditioning.

At the same time, if you have an Apple iPhone you can take advantage of wireless Apple Car Play connection – as well as wireless induction charging. Android Auto phones still need to connect.

Access is also made much easier with rear doors opening wide by 85 degrees – almost at right angles – to make it much easier for passengers to get in , or for parents to fit child seats without too much struggle.

Even with the rear seats in place, the boot can swallow a lot of sports kit. And sub dividing it up with flexible ‘luggage-boards’ is great if you need to keep smaller shopping nags in place.

Push the rear seats down and the available load-lugging space expands to 1,379 litres – enough for those trips to IKEA for the DIY furniture.

Coasting along at a decent pace, it's clear that Nissan has prioritised practicality and convenience over scintilating performance

Coasting along at a decent pace, it’s clear that Nissan has prioritised practicality and convenience over scintilating performance

Fuel economy is good for the family budget averaging 43.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 146g/km

Fuel economy is good for the family budget averaging 43.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 146g/km

Steering is precise with good feel and feedback and it’s pretty nimble around town. I didn’t feel at all boaty on cornering, though is clearly not as sharp as a sports car.

And I did a fair bit of close-quarter manoeuvring, and it was all in order.

The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth – to the extent you really don’t have to think about it too much. It’s sufficiently intuitive.

It’s long-legged on dual carriageways and three-lane motorways and didn’t show any signs of lacking pace.

I sat in the back and felt very at ease and not squashed. And it is comfortable. 

As well as increasing shoulder-room – the bit people really notice when it comes to space – up front, leg room has also been improved.

Fuel economy is good for the family budget averaging 43.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 146g/km.

I hear residual values are decent too – keeping over 50 per cent of value over three years, and there are some eye-catching finance deals to be done – but as ever, read the fine print. For those acquiring their vehicles through finance, this should translate to relatively low monthly outgoings.

For long journeys there’s lumbar support and a seat massager for the front seat driver and passenger. 

The third-generation Qashqai is packed with technology, including a head-up display and high-definition instrument cluster and large infotainment screen

The third-generation Qashqai is packed with technology, including a head-up display and high-definition instrument cluster and large infotainment screen

The boot door has the option of power opening and a flexible floor
The maximum loading capacity with the back seats in the fixed position is 504 litres - though this will expand significantly with the backrests laid flat

The boot door has the option of power opening and a flexible floor. The maximum loading capacity with the back seats in the fixed position is 504 litres – though this will expand significantly with the backrests laid flat

The car we tested has a decent amount of pace, accelerating from 0-to-62mph in 9.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 128mph.

The car we tested has a decent amount of pace, accelerating from 0-to-62mph in 9.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 128mph.

Getting behind the wheel the week Qashqai production begins in Sunderland 

Production of Nissan’s new third generation Qashqai family crossover is now underway at the Sunderland plant ahead of their imminent arrival in showrooms and on UK roads.

So the new Qashqai has grown in size, gained bolder looks, been fitted with softer touch fabrics, and has the option of new green petrol-electric hybrid power.

Nissan says it is targeting ‘downsizers’ by offering business class comfort and tech at economy class prices – with up to a quarter of sales (25 per cemt) expected to come from drivers switching from bigger cars into the more compact Qashqai.

The new Qashqai was conceived at Nissan’s European design centre in Paddington, West London, and engineered at its European technical centre at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, before being manufactured in the North East of England.

Will it fit in my garage? New Nissan Qashqai 

Model tested: Nissan Qashqai 1.3 litre Tekna+

Tested car price: £34,175

Range price: from £23,535

Length: 4,425mm

Width: 1,838mm

Height: 1,635mm

Wheelbase: 2,666mm

Kerb weight: 1422kg to 1466kg

Engine: 1.3 litre 156hp four-cylinder mild-hybrid petrol (other option is 138hp)

0-62mph: 9.5 secs

Top speed: 128 mph

Boot volume: 504-litres (+74 litres on previous generation)

Fuel economy: 43.5 mpg

CO2 emissions: 146g/km

The full hybrid is expected to follow next year. The hybrid’s ‘e-POWER’ system uses a 1.5-litre 154 horsepower petrol engine to generate electricity – like an on-board mini power station – and can travel for up to just over a mile on electric power only. Motorists can chose to drive in ‘e-pedal’ mode – pressing down on the accelerator to proceed and taking their foot off the same pedal to slow down and brake.

Other premium kit on the Qashqai includes a large 10.8-inch head-up display, massage seats, high definition displays, wireless smartphone charging, a powered hands-free tailgate, a bigger 504-litre flexible boot, 11 body colours and five two-tone combinations, creating 16 variations.

Designed, engineered and built in Britain, the pioneering crossover represents one in five cars made in the UK since its launch in 2007.

So far nearly 4 million Qashqais have been built at the North East factory since the first generation of the popular model – which Nissan claims created the flexible family ‘crossover’ segment – was launched 14 years ago at the beginning of 2007, with the second generation version following in 2014.

With around seven out of ten exported to mainland Europe, wags have dubbed it the Nissan ‘cash-cow’.

More than 3.5 million Qashqais have now been produced in Sunderland – about a third of the plant’s all time total. That represents one in five of all cars built in Britain since its launch 14 years ago in 2007 – making it the highest-volume car made in Britain.

Nissan in its UK facilities, support more than 7,000 jobs in Paddington, Maple Cross, Cranfield, Lutterworth and Sunderland, as well as a further 24,000 with UK suppliers and about 5,000 in UK dealerships.

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The current generation Qashqai is Europe’s most popular crossover with 3 million sold across the Continent and 5 million sold globally.

Following the £400m investment, the new production is helping the plant celebrates 35 years of manufacturing in the UK. Other new investments include 117 new robots for the plant’s Body Shop, working with both aluminium and new ultra-high tensile steel.

With five new two-tone colour combinations available, four new robots apply a fine layer of the latest sound-deadening technology inside the vehicle, resulting in lower cabin noise for the driver.

To celebrate the new generation model, Nissan is offering every schoolchild in North East England the opportunity to take part in a Nissan Skills Foundation event – the company’s programme of activities designed to excite youngsters about careers in manufacturing and engineering.

School children were invited to take a closer look at the new Qashqai this week to mark the beginning of assembly of the new model

School children were invited to take a closer look at the new Qashqai this week to mark the beginning of assembly of the new model

The event was part of Nissan's Skills Foundation ¿ the company's programme of activities designed to excite youngsters about careers in manufacturing and engineering

The event was part of Nissan’s Skills Foundation – the company’s programme of activities designed to excite youngsters about careers in manufacturing and engineering

The Qashqai has been described as the automotive vote of confidence in Britain and the North East workforce making it

The Qashqai has been described as the automotive vote of confidence in Britain and the North East workforce making it

Alan Johnson, Nissan Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK, said: ‘More than 3.5m customers have chosen a Qashqai made in Sunderland since it went on sale in 2007, and the third generation model delivers the new levels of technology, design and performance that people have come to expect from the original crossover.’

Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which also builds the quirky Juke crossover and the all-electric LEAF, is also the largest car factory in UK history, with one in three of all cars made in Britain rolling off its production lines.

Andrew Humberstone, managing director of Nissan Motor (GB) said that in the wake of Brexit: ‘The Qashqai represents a great vote of confidence in Britain and in the British workforce here. 

‘People want to buy British. And in terms of Britishness, the new Qashqai resonates. It was designed in London, engineered in Cranfield and built in Sunderland. It has credibility.’

Mr Humberstone said he had always been ‘quietly confident’ that a Brexit deal would be struck and is pleased that the ‘clarity’ means Nissan can now forge ahead in the UK: ‘I’m very optimistic about what’s ahead of us,’ he said. 

‘We’re here for the future,’ he added.

Nissan's Sunderland plant, which also builds the quirky Juke crossover and the all-electric LEAF, is also the largest car factory in UK history

Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which also builds the quirky Juke crossover and the all-electric LEAF, is also the largest car factory in UK history

Around one in three of all cars made in Britain are produced at the Sunderland car factory - and it's the Qashqai that's the biggest product

Around one in three of all cars made in Britain are produced at the Sunderland car factory – and it’s the Qashqai that’s the biggest product

Nissan Motor (GB) director, Andrew Humberstone. said he had always been 'quietly confident' that a Brexit deal would be struck and is pleased that the 'clarity' means Nissan can now forge ahead in the UK

Nissan Motor (GB) director, Andrew Humberstone. said he had always been ‘quietly confident’ that a Brexit deal would be struck and is pleased that the ‘clarity’ means Nissan can now forge ahead in the UK

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