The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol model is best suited to town driving, because you have to work the engine hard to keep up with traffic on faster roads. 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, but it delivers its power smoothly and is gutsy from low revs, making it our pick of the engine range. The 1.6-litre diesel engine feels stronger still, which makes it useful if you regularly haul around your family and their luggage.
The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual, which has a direct, nicely weighted shift action, albeit one that is a little long. The automatic option is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is available on the 1.2-litre petrol and the 1.6 diesel. It’s one of the better examples of this type of gearbox, being smart enough to avoid the sort of sky-high revs that you often get when accelerating in a CVT-equipped car.
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 smoothes out nicely on motorways and A-roads, and feels beautifully controlled over speed bumps. It’s easily as well resolved as anything else in the class, and more than comfortable enough for everyday use as a family car.
One word of warning, though; the ride is overly firm if you go for a high-end model on 19in wheels. If you do want big wheels, test drive the car around town and on some pock-marked road surfaces to make sure you can live with it.
Nissan Qashqai handling
You might not expect an SUV to handle particularly well, but the Qashqai’s suspension set-up allows it to control its body movements nicely through corners; there’s not too much lean, even when you’re driving quickly along a B-road.
The steering isn’t quite a impressive, though, because it feels artificially heavy (especially in its Sport mode) and sluggish; ultimately the Qashqai feels less willing to change direction than a Seat Ateca. We also found that the stability control cuts in abruptly should the car get out of shape in the bends.
Nissan Qashqai refinement
No other small SUV matches the Qashqai’s outstanding refinement. The two petrols and the 1.5-litre diesel engine stay smooth and quiet, even at high revs. Road and wind noise are also well suppressed on the motorway.
Only the 1.6-litre diesel engine lets the side down; it’s noisier than the smaller diesel and transmits vibrations through the pedals.
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 manual or a CVT automatic gearbox.
1.6 DIG-T 163
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.
Our pick 1.5 dCi 110
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 refined, while CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km make it an appealing company car choice.
1.6 dCi 130
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 the 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 option if you don’t want a manual version.