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Review: 2017 Nissan Qashqai is a crossover with plenty of utility

road test

Nissan cashes in on the cute-ute craze

Named for a nomadic tribe in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, Qashqai enters the Nissan lineup between the quirky-but-space-challenged Juke and the mainstream Rogue.

The 2017 Nissan Qashqai is designed in Europe, with a name from Persia, and just right for Canada

Just to be clear, there is no "u" after "Q" in the spelling of Qashqai. Which is somewhat ironic considering that u-tility is a key attribute of Nissan's new subcompact crossover utility vehicle.

Named for a nomadic tribe in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, Qashqai enters the Nissan lineup between the quirky-but-space-challenged Juke and the mainstream Rogue. That also places it in the growing-like-Topsy subcompact CUV category – a genre that Nissan Canada alternatively refers to as MAV, as in multi-activity vehicle. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies the Rogue Sport, as it's called in the United States, as a small station wagon. Go figure.

However you categorize it, the Qashqai challenges the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi RVR. But Nissan also cites the Mazda3 Sport and Volkswagen Golf as potential sources of conquest sales; people defecting from compact cars are, after all, a major factor in the growth of the CUV segment.

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Although new to Canada, the Qashqai has a 10-year history of sales success in Europe (some wags pronounce the name "cash cow"). Indeed, the Qashqai is the model of modern globalization: a product of a Japanese auto maker owned by a French parent (Renault), designed and built in Britain and christened with a Persian name.

Although new to Canada, the Qashqai has a 10-year history of sales success in Europe.

In case it's a concern, Canadian Qashqais will not be built in Britain. That was Plan A when Nissan Canada first explored importing it, but when Nissan USA later said, "Us, too," more capacity was needed than Britain could provide. North American versions are therefore built in Japan.

The Qashqai is based on the same architecture as the Rogue, and although significantly smaller, it occupies the larger end of its immediate peer group. Its interior volume is doled out to give it class-average passenger space, above-average cargo room behind the rear seats and best-in-class room with the seats folded. Official cargo measurements do not include hidden compartments, so those rankings are for the base trim, which lacks the false floor of the other trims.

Pricing starts at $19,998 for the S trim with front-wheel drive and six-speed manual transmission, with a CVT automatic optional. The grade walk progresses through S AWD, SV FWD or AWD, and SL AWD, all with CVT. Pricing tops out at $32,198 for an SL AWD with a platinum package that features a comprehensive suite of driver alert-and-assist safety technologies. The top seller is expected to be the SV, which asks $24,598 in FWD or $26,798 in AWD.

Pricing starts at $19,998 for the S trim with front-wheel drive and six-speed manual transmission, with a CVT automatic optional.

Only one engine is offered, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder rated at a 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque – numbers that suggest it was appropriately tuned more for low-end torque than high-end power. The available AWD automatically varies front/rear torque distribution between 100:0 and 50:50, but also has an AWD Lock feature to handle rough or slick terrain at low speeds.

Qashqai's target audience – namely, city-dwelling youthful singles and couples – likely won't often need the AWD Lock. But whether in the city or the open road, Qashqai is an attractive, nice-to-drive package. And regardless of the u-challenged name, this CUV has plenty of "u" where it matters.

Tech Specs

  • Base prices: $19,998
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual or CVT automatic/Front-wheel or all-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.0 city, 8.1 highway
  • Alternatives: Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Hyundai Tucson, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3, Mazda3 Sport, Mitsubishi RVR, Toyota CH-R, Volkswagen Golf

Segment-leading driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, are standard on the top trim, though not an option on the rest.

Ratings

  • Looks: Longer and lower than many rivals, the Qashqai has a good stance and a handsome, toned shape, yet all told, it doesn’t markedly stand out from other small CUVs.
  • Interior: The dashboard nicely blends style and function, though the materials look plusher than they feel (many hard surfaces). The available seven-inch touchscreen is par for the class (base is a five-inch screen) and leaves room for plenty of real knobs and buttons. Seat adjustment is limited to six-way but we found a decent combination of comfort and visibility (though the door mirror is a vision-blocker when making left turns). Rear-seat room is respectable.
  • Performance: The best thing about the powertrain is its refinement. Although built for the city, the Qashqai is serene on the open road. Around town, you hardly hear the rpm surges typical with a CVT; and when the hammer is down, the CVT mimics the stepped upshifts of a conventional automatic. Fuel economy isn’t best in class, but it’s close.
  • Technology: Segment-leading driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, are standard on the top trim, though not an option on the rest. Bluetooth and a rear-view camera are standard on all trims. A seven-inch touch-screen with NissanConnect navi, voice-recognition and subscription-based traffic info comes in at the SL level.
  • Cargo: Impressive cargo-volume numbers – 649 litres seats up, 1730 seats folded – are based on the S trim. The SV and SL numbers are lower (though still competitive) because they don’t include the space below the false floor that is part of the Divide-and-Hide cargo system.

Verdict

7.5

A compelling package that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

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The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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