The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol model is best suited to town driving, because you have to work the engine hard to get up to speed on faster roads. However, once you’re there, it will sit at a 70mph cruise relatively comfortably. The 1.6 petrol is much quicker, although it still needs a fair few revs to deliver its performance.
The 1.5-litre diesel, by contrast, isn’t particularly quick in outright pace, but it delivers its power smoothly and is gutsy from low revs, making it less stressful to drive and our pick of the engine range. The 1.6-litre diesel engine feels stronger still, making it useful if you regularly haul around your family and their luggage.
There’s the option of a CVT automatic on the 1.2 petrol and the 1.6 diesel, but for the best performance you should stick to the standard six-speed manual gearbox.
Nissan Qashqai ride comfort
The Qashqai was developed at Nissan’s engineering base in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, hence its ability to ride battered British roads so well. Yes, the ride can be a little jittery over the worst surfaces around town, but it smooths out nicely on motorways and A-roads, and feels beautifully controlled over speed bumps. It’s certainly one of the better-riding cars in the class, although not as good all round as the Skoda Karoq.
One word of warning, though: the ride is terribly firm if you go for a high-end model on 19in wheels, so we’d avoid these at all costs. Stick to versions with 17in or 18in wheels instead.
Nissan Qashqai handling
You might not expect a tall SUV to handle particularly well, but there are cars in this class that do – namely the almost car-like agility of the Seat Ateca and the tidy-handling Karoq. The Qashqai feels a bit softer by comparison; with a lot more body lean in bends and rather vague steering that doesn’t tell you a great deal about what grip you have available, it’s not much fun.
That said, if you’re not bothered about sporty driving, you’ll find the Qashqai safe and secure, thanks to plenty of grip. It’s also light and easy to manage in town.
Nissan Qashqai refinement
Not many family SUVs can match the Qashqai’s refinement. The two petrols and the 1.5 diesel engines stay smooth and quiet, even at high revs. Road and wind noise are also well suppressed on the motorway.
Only the 1.6 diesel engine lets the side down; it’s noisier than the smaller diesel and transmits vibrations through the pedals.
The more powerful diesel engine brings stronger performance than the 1.5, but it’s neither as refined nor as efficient. This is the only engine that’s available with four-wheel drive (all others come with front-wheel drive) and is the only diesel that comes with the option of an automatic gearbox. The Xtronic automatic ’box is a CVT rather than a traditional auto, but it works well enough to be a viable choice if you really don’t want a manual.
This diesel is our pick of the engine range. It’s gutsy enough from low revs so, while it never provides quick acceleration, you can make relaxed progress without having to work it too hard. It’s also very refined and very efficient; CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km make it appealing for company car drivers, while our tested real-world combined fuel economy of 51.9mpg should appeal to all.
This is by far the most powerful engine in the Qashqai range. Performance is brisk at medium and high revs, but it doesn’t feel particularly gutsy at low ones. It also doesn’t really suit the Qashqai’s easy-going nature and is the least efficient engine in the range.
The entry-level engine is a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol. It needs to be worked hard to make swift progress out of town, but it has enough performance for urban use. If you don’t do many miles a year, it’s definitely worth considering. It’s available with a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic gearbox.