The entry-level 1.6-litre petrol engine develops 115bhp and the 1.5-litre diesel 104bhp. Both need to be worked quite hard, but they're up to the job. Our favourite engine, the 128bhp 1.6 diesel, is much stronger and smoother, and if you want more punch, there's a 138bhp 2.0 petrol or a 148bhp 2.0 diesel that's only available with an automatic gearbox.
The Qashqai has chunky tyres and supple suspension, so it floats serenely over poor surfaces at any speed. The downside of this bias towards comfort – and of the lofty stance – is that there's quite a lot of body lean through bends, although the Qashqai doesn't feel untidy because the lean is progressive and the steering weighty and direct.
This is one of the Qashqai's strengths. You do hear some wind rushing past the oversized door mirrors on the motorway, but road- and suspension noise is well contained, even over rough surfaces. The smaller diesel is grumbly around town, but it quietens down once you've settled to a steady cruise.
The Qashqai's list prices are competitive when compared with those of similar rivals, and it will be worth more than most of them when you come to sell it. Running costs are also affordable, whichever model you choose, but the 1.6 diesel is the most frugal of the bunch. It return almost 63mpg and emits just 119g/km.
While the hard black plastics in the cabin look a little dated, the fit and finish are superb, and all the switchgear is solid and well weighted. Nissan has a decent reliability record, and the Qashqai finished 12th overall in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey, which contained 118 cars.
The Qashqai has lots of kit to keep you safe, including stability control, front, side and curtain airbags and active front head restraints that move forward in a rear-end shunt to minimise whiplash. Deadlocks, a visible VIN and marked parts make life difficult for thieves.
You sit high in the Qashqai, so get a commanding forward view, while two-way steering wheel adjustment and a driver's seat that can be cranked up and down make it easy to get comfortable. The seats are squishy, but reasonably supportive, and the dashboard is logically laid out. However, the thick rear pillars restrict over-the-shoulder vision.
The Qashqai has plenty of room for four, and enough for five if those in the back are prepared to snuggle up. That said, rear headroom isn't as generous as it is in some rivals. The boot is big and well shaped, but the rear seats lie at an awkward angle when folded.
All Qashqais are well kitted. Entry-level Visia cars come with air-conditioning, alloy wheels, a CD player, four electric windows and a Bluetooth hands-free telephone kit. Step up to Acenta trim for climate control, a CD changer, parking sensors, cruise control, and automatic headlamps and wipers. The n-tec trim gets sat-nav and a panoramic sunroof. Range-topping Tekna models have full leather upholstery and xenon headlights.
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The best engine in the range, combined with the best-value trim. That makes the Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi Acenta our favourite.