2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T review - price, specs and release date

Nissan has killed two birds with one stone by replacing its two current petrol engines with a more frugal yet more powerful 1.3-litre unit...

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Neil Winn
11 Oct 2018 19:56 | Last updated: 12 Oct 2018 17:35

2018 Nissan Qashqai cornering

Priced from £19,595 | Release date Now

Evolution rather than revolution. It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard countless times regarding products that have been improved incrementally over time rather than completely overhauled; think Coca Cola or the Apple iPhone.

Although the Nissan Qashqai might not spring to mind, perhaps it should. Despite having been on sale since 2014 – an eternity in the family SUV class – the second-generation Qashqai still remains one of the best-selling cars in the UK. In fact, more than 64,000 were sold in 2017 alone, with Nissan generating this success by, you guessed it, evolution.

First came a facelift in 2017, which was quickly followed by the addition of semi-autonomous driving technology in early 2018 and now the introduction of an all-new 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

It will take the place of the old 1.2 and 1.6-litre petrol engines and will be offered in two states of tune, with a 138bhp version taking the place of the former and a 158bhp unit replacing the latter. Both engines get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and send their drive to the front wheels.

If you fancy an automatic gearbox, there’s more good news to be had: the sluggish CVT of the old 1.6 has been replaced with an all-new seven-speed dual-clutch auto, the first time such a system has been used in a Nissan – apart from the supercar-rivalling GT-R, that is.

2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T side2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T dashboard

2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T on the road

It’s fair to say the old 1.2-litre lump has proved to be a bit of a weak link in the Qashqai. Performance may not be of utmost importance in a family SUV, but with just 113bhp and 122lb ft of torque, it simply isn’t strong enough to deliver the kind of gutsy performance you expect from a load-lugging SUV.

However, the new engine means the entry-level Qashqai doesn’t feel gutless any more – a good thing, because Nissan reckons the 138bhp version will be the most popular with buyers. Packing an extra 37lb ft over its predecessor, it feels particularly gutsy from low revs, delivering its power in a smooth and predictable manner.

This is most noticeable around town and on tight and twisty B-roads, where you often find yourself leaving the car in much higher gears than you would have done in the previous model. That means it’s less stressful to drive and less wearing for your passengers, because the engine isn’t screaming its head off.

In fact, so good is the new entry-level 1.3 that we can’t really see the point in upgrading to the 158bhp unit. It's quicker on paper, but in practice we found the two to be almost inseparable when driven back to back. Indeed, the only valid reason we can see for you opting for the more powerful variant is that you can have it with the new automatic ’box.

Compared with the old CVT gearbox, which would send the revs flaring at the slightest touch of throttle, the new auto is a big step forward. It shifts gears snappily and smoothly pulls away from a standstill. It’s not quite perfect, though, being a little too indecisive on more demanding stretches of road, delivering ratios that are either too high or too low for the situation at hand. It’s not a major annoyance, but factor in the extra cost of the more expensive engine (around £1500 in range-topping Tekna Plus trim), plus the cost of the gearbox itself (which is yet to be confirmed), and we’d stick with the entry-level manual.

So, what about the mechanical changes to the chassis, we hear you ask? Well, put simply, there are none. That means the Qashqai still remains a little behind the pack dynamically. Where the Seat Ateca, Skoda Karoq and Peugeot 3008 offer almost car-like agility, the Qashqai still feels like a traditional SUV, with vague steering and plenty of body lean in corners.

The upside is that the soft suspension delivers a supple ride over broken urban road surfaces. Just remember to avoid the big, 19in wheels that come as standard on high-end models, because these cause the Qashqai to crash and wallop over larger imperfections.

2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T interior

When the Qashqai was facelifted in 2017, the interior was treated to some plusher materials and higher-grade leather, but the centre console and the rather dated infotainment system went untouched. Thankfully, this time around Nissan has seen fit to incorporate a new touchscreen.

Well, we say ‘new’, but if you currently own a Qashqai, you won’t actually find a massive difference in the functionality of the system. It’s still 7.0in wide, remains the same resolution and the sat-nav operates in a similar fashion to the previous unit. Indeed, the only changes of note are the addition of 3D maps, voice recognition, single-line search for sat-nav destinations and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

So, in effect, Nissan has brought its system up to date with rivals such as the Seat Ateca and Peugeot 3008 – cars that have offered these features from launch. Still, we can’t help but wish the designers had gone further. Compared with those aforementioned rivals' systems, the Nissan unit’s poor resolution, confusing menus and general reluctance to respond to commands leave it feeling somewhat low-tech. It's a missed opportunity.

In terms of the rest of the interior, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ seems to be the motto of the design team. To find out more about how the Qashqai’s interior fares compared with rivals', make sure to visit our full 16-point review.

2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T verdict >