Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110 N-Connecta
List price £25,555
Target Price £25,555
Our 2014 Car of the Year gets a facelift in an effort to improve interior quality and refinement
Seat Ateca 1.6 TDI 115 SE Technology
List price £24,330
Target Price £23,546
The Ateca may be the young upstart, but it’s more powerful and cheaper as well
Make sure you’re sitting comfortably; we’re going to tell you a story. Once upon a time in a world not too dissimilar to ours, people with families drove forgettable hatchbacks and estate cars. To get away from this tedium, they started to buy big 4x4s.
The problem was that those 4x4s were greedy, gobbling up fuel and costing their owners lots of money. But then a knight in shining armour called Qashqai came along to give people a high driving position and tough looks with the running costs of a small hatchback. And they all lived happily ever after. Well, almost.
In the past year, the Qashqai has started to feel a little old, so Nissan has sprinkled some magic dust onto it in an effort to improve perceived quality and refinement. To see if the spell has worked, we’re putting the Qashqai up against our current Small SUV of the Year, the Seat Ateca.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
We’ve selected the most frugal diesel versions of both cars. But while they have similar power outputs, the Ateca’s 1.6-litre engine gets you from 0-60mph nearly a second faster than the Qashqai’s 1.5-litre motor.
The Ateca also pulls harder from low revs, so you don’t have to change gear as often, and that makes it a more relaxing car to drive – especially when you’re carrying several people.
To make matters worse, the Qashqai driver has to make do with a gearshift that feels a bit ponderous, whereas the Ateca’s has a short, precise action.
True, the Seat’s engine is the noisier of the two under acceleration, having a grittier edge. However, you feel more vibrations through the Qashqai’s pedals, and it’s the Ateca that’s the quieter motorway cruiser, primarily because it’s better at shutting out wind noise.
The Qashqai has the softer suspension, so it soaks up most lumps and bumps better than the Ateca – no matter what speed you’re doing. The Ateca is by no means uncomfortable, though, and its better body control means it recovers composure quicker after dips and crests. In both cases, we would recommend sticking with the standard 18in wheels; bigger alloys reduce comfort.
The upside of the Ateca’s firmer set-up is taut handling; its body leans less than the Qashqai’s in corners. This superior control is combined with steering that’s quicker to respond and more precise. The Ateca isn’t quite hatchback good, but you’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have in it on a twisty road.
The Qashqai feels soggy in comparison, pitching and swaying about, although it needed less distance to come to a stop from both 30 and 70mph in our tests. Both cars are available with front-wheel drive only. If you want the added traction of four-wheel drive, you’ll need to upgrade to a more powerful diesel engine.
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