Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
We reckon the entry-level 138bhp 1.3-litre petrol (badged DiG-T 140)engine is the best choice for most buyers. Outright acceleration is brisk enough, but it is this engine’s flexibility – the ease with which you can build speed from low revs in any given gear – that really impresses. It’s so good that the 158bhp DiG-T 160 version of the same 1.3-litre engine doesn’t seem worth the extra outlay. That is, unless you tow a caravan; the extra oomph could prove useful. You’ll also need to choose the more powerful engine if you want an automatic gearbox – you can’t have one with the 138bhp version.
The 113bhp 1.5-litre diesel (badged dCi 115) is worth a look if you’re a high-mileage driver. It isn’t particularly quick but delivers its power smoothly. It’s also pretty gutsy from low revs, so it never feels frustratingly tardy. The 148bhp 1.7 dCi 150 tops the diesel range and is the only variant available with four-wheel drive. It's certainly punchier than the 1.5, but needs working harder than similarly powerful 2.0-litre diesels in rivals such as the Skoda Karoq; something to bear in mind if you want extra flexibility for towing. It also suffers from noticeable turbo lag, which hinders progress when trying to gain speed.
Suspension and ride comfort
Qashqai ride quality depends a lot on the size of the wheels fitted. Entry-level Visia comes with 16in steel wheels, while Acenta Premium gives you 17in alloy wheels as standard, and the ride is reasonably smooth with either size. Road imperfections and potholes are dealt with deftly in town, and things stay neatly controlled at motorway speeds; it’s certainly a more supple ride than you’ll experience in the Seat Ateca, but the rival Skoda Karoq is an even more comfortable.
Move up to 18in wheels (standard with big-selling N-Connecta trim), though, and ride quality suffers. Thus-equipped, the Qashqai jostles you around on broken roads and isn’t especially settled on the motorway, either – even compared with the firmer, sportier Ateca.
The ride of the Tekna, with its standard 19in wheels, is far too firm and unsettled for us to recommend that trim level.
You might not expect a family SUV to handle particularly well, but there are cars in this class that do – namely the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq. The Qashqai is a bit softer by comparison, with plenty of body lean in bends and slightly vague steering that doesn’t communicate much about the grip that's available. In real world driving, though, the Qashqai is safe and secure along a twisting country road, and is light and easy to manage in town.
As we mentioned earlier, if you want the extra traction of four-wheel drive, you’ll have to order the 1.7-litre diesel engine. Its extra mechanical parts add about 45kg of weight, so it feels slightly more cumbersome, but it does repay you with a little more traction when pulling away in damp conditions. This will be mostly appreciated for those who plan to regularly tow.
Noise and vibration
The 138bhp 1.3 petrol is a tad gravelly at low revs, but is still smoother and quieter overall than the equivalent engines in the rival Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca. The 1.5-litre diesel, meanwhile, is remarkably hushed – even when you’re working it hard. As for the 1.7-litre diesel, it sounds quite clattery around town and when accelerating, but does settle down when cruising on the motorway. In fact, it’s no noisier than the 2.0-litre 148bhp diesel that’s found in the Karoq and Ateca.
Whichever engine you choose, there’s plenty of suspension noise to spoil the peace along rough roads. Opt for 18in or larger wheels and the Qashqai also generates noticeable tyre roar at higher speeds. Overall, it isn’t as peaceful a cruising companion as the best cars in this class.
The dual-clutch auto ’box that’s available on the higher-powered petrol Qashqai is a little jerky at slow speeds, but changes very smoothly up and down through the gears once you're rolling.
Those who want an automatic gearbox will find the 158bhp petrol engine's optional dual-clutch ’box a little jerky at slow speeds, but that it changes smoothly up and down through the gears once you're rolling. Meanwhile, the Qashqai’s manual gearbox has quite a long throw and doesn’t snick into gear as sweetly as the Seat Ateca’s, although the light action of its shift means very little elbow grease is required.