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Used test: Nissan Qashqai vs Seat Ateca vs Skoda Karoq
These family SUVs all sell in big numbers, so there are plenty of excellent used examples to choose from. But should you go for a Qashqai, an Ateca of a Karoq?...
Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DIG-T 158 Tekna
List price when new £31,565
Price today £27,000
Available from 2021-present
An ever-popular choice, but the Qashqai is the priciest SUV here
Seat Ateca 1.5 TSI Evo 150 Xperience Lux
List price when new £31,070
Price today £25,000
Available from 2016-present
As a former Used Car of the Year, the Ateca has an esteemed reputation to live up to
Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SportLine
List price when new £29,695
Price today £26,000
Available from 2017-present
Impressively competent, yet the Karoq doesn't leave luxury to an afterthought
*Price today is based on a 2021 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Think family SUVs have it easy? Think again. Picture family holidays, school runs, weekly shopping runs and even grimy trips to the recycling centre: they have to deal with it all, while keeping costs low. The Nissan Qashqai has had plenty of experience at all of this, having first arrived on the scene more than 15 years ago.
The Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq are more fresh to this line of work, but are far from rookie material. In fact, back when they were new, both respectively took on and bested the then-current 2014-2021 Nissan Qashqai.
Since then, the Qashqai has entered its third generation and become a much sharper package. And now, as a two-year-old used buy, it's around £5000 cheaper than its new car price as well.
Has the Qashqai put in the effort to become a class leader, or does it lack what makes the Ateca and Karoq such capable all-rounders? It's the clash of the workaholics.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
When the heavens open, it’s never easy to get representative performance figures, because (a) trying to launch a car in anger on a wet test track inevitably leads to wheelspin and (b) the road surface isn’t necessarily delivering consistent grip for all three cars. Still, that didn’t stop us from trying on a miserable day.
The Ateca was the easiest to get off the line and produced the quickest 0-60mph time – the only one to dip below nine seconds. The Karoq was the next quickest, but its traction control system, which you can’t turn off, kept thwarting every getaway. The Qashqai was slowest to 60mph, but only because it had the least traction on the slippery surface.
The Qashqai was slightly quicker than its rivals in the in-gear acceleration tests, mainly because its narrower band of gear ratios (the difference in the gearing from first through to sixth) makes life easier for the engine. The other two have wider-spaced gears that make their engines work harder – a bit like jumping from first to third on your bicycle.
However, the Qashqai’s 1.3-litre engine feels really languid below 1500rpm in any gear. This lack of low-end oomph compared with its 1.5-litre rivals is palpable and makes second-gear getaways nigh on impossible. Even when rolling, you need to drop a gear to accelerate with any verve if the revs are in this zone.
It’s the quietest engine of the three by some margin, though; rev it hard and it still doesn’t create a din. The engines in the Ateca and Karoq aren’t exactly coarse, but they are undeniably rowdier.
In our chosen trims, all the cars come with large, 19in alloy wheels, which generate more tyre roar at 70mph than you’d hear in, for example, a Range Rover Evoque. So, even the Qashqai, which suffers the least road noise, isn’t super-quiet, with the Ateca whipping up the most rumble. Mild wind noise is present in all three, and the Qashqai had an irritating gearbox whine – hopefully something unique to our car.
Our contenders all have good stopping power and brake consistently and smoothly to a standstill. The Ateca and Karoq have an easy-to-judge clutch pedal, too, while the Qashqai’s is somewhat vague. Along with its shortage of low-end grunt, this makes it the easiest to stall.
Historically, the Qashqai has had relatively soft suspension, and that’s still the case. As a result, it takes the edge off bigger and sharper bumps better than its two rivals. However, it has the most fidget and side-to-side sway, so it’s not the smoothest-riding SUV.
Overall, we prefer the better-controlled Karoq. It’s soft enough not to jar over the rougher stuff and maintains its composure over smaller imperfections. The Ateca is the firmest of our trio, so it’s not ideal for anyone after a cushioning ride, although we'd expect all three cars to ride better on smaller-diameter wheels.
Why is the Ateca’s ride deliberately firmer? To sharpen up its handling. It works, too. If you want a family SUV that’s ‘underneath’ you, dynamically speaking, then this is the one. It’s the most fun to hustle along, with accurate, well-weighted steering and great body control and balance.
On the wet surface of our test track, the Karoq edged the Ateca for cornering grip (likely due to its different brand of tyres), but only just. However, while the former steers almost as nicely, it isn’t as keen to dart into corners, and there’s a tad more body lean.
As for the Qashqai, it handles effectively but not enjoyably. Its steering is too light to begin with, then it weights up suddenly and excessively as you turn the wheel. It also has the most body lean and the least composure if there’s a mid-bend bump. Mind you, that doesn’t stop it from gripping gamely and carrying good speed through turns.
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