Nissan Canada invited The Car Guide to drive the all-new Qashqai subcompact crossover at a media event in Montreal. Qashqai represents a major North-American product launch for the company particularly because they expect it to be the brand’s second-bestselling vehicle in a very short period of time—behind their Canadian sales leader which is the Nissan Rogue.
The Qashqai is actually a veteran of the Nissan global lineup, having been launched in Europe ten years ago. The success of the model overseas (2.5 million units sold in Europe and 3.5 million worldwide) along with the shifting demographics in favour of trucks and crossovers prompted them to start selling it on our shores.
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As with most crossovers, Qashqai is aimed at younger buyers who’d like to see a little more utility than the typical compact car has to offer. Available all-wheel drive, and almost as much cargo space as the larger Rogue in particular, are two of Nissan’s selling points. The other point which was emphasized during the event was the “class-above” interior design and quality, which is an accurate description.
The interior incorporates Nissan’s “gliding wing” design, featuring spatial symmetry and a wide-open feeling with adequate area for personal space. Seating includes a standard six-way adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks with available rear-seat centre armrest and heated front seats. Also available are a power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and heated steering wheel. Leather-appointed seating is standard on the SL grade.
We had the opportunity to test all trim levels to really get a feel for the options. Even the entry-level Qashqai S with the manual transmission was a delight for the senses. The materials are of quality, the buttons are firm to the touch and the layout is ergonomically sound. The only negative aspects were the lack of a decent surface to put your smartphone and the lack of a digital speedometer. The latter is something that is lacking not just on the Qashqai, but across much of the Nissan lineup and would be a welcomed addition.
The 2017 Nissan Qashqai resembles the Rogue quite a bit and onlookers might have a hard time telling them apart initially. It measures 12.1 inches shorter and 6 inches lower than the Rogue, making it easier for city driving. LED daytime running lights, available LED headlights, body-colour and heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals are all nice touches for this class of vehicle. What we really liked is the fact that it doesn’t look overly small. Some of the competitor offerings simply look like raised versions of tiny cars, but not the Qashqai. There is definitely a truck-y feel to it which is sure to please those crossover-loving urbanites Nissan is looking to woo over.
Powering all Qashqai versions is a standard 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine rated at 141 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. This engine is unique to the Qashqai in the Nissan lineup and can be had with either a manual or available continuously variable automatic transmission.
The engine is powerful enough to move the crossover as fast as anyone would need, and we didn’t have any trouble overtaking on the highway during our road test. Throttle response was noticeably extra smooth and very responsive. There is nothing worse than a jerky reaction or a pedal that is required to be pushed halfway down before it gives the engine any juice. Our only complaint was that during moderate acceleration with the automatic transmission, the engine revved higher than we expected quite often.
Handling is nimble thanks in part to the low centre of gravity and smaller dimensions. The front suspension is independent while the rear relies on a multi-link setup, and combined with twin-tube shock absorbers, make for a very comfortable ride. Even on the century-old cobblestone of Old Montreal, the Qashqai delivered as smooth of a ride as one could hope for. Our route took us outside of the city and into the country back roads where the Qashqai was equally at home. Seating is comfortable and adults have plenty of rear legroom and headroom—a testament to the designers’ ingenuity in working with the small dimensions.
The list of available safety features is extensive and includes blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, intelligent lane intervention, intelligent cruise control and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The 2017 Nissan Qashqai comes in three trim levels, S, SV and SL. While you can get a base S with a manual transmission for just $19,998 before freight and delivery charges, most buyers will probably opt for the mid-grade SV, which sells for $24,598 with front-wheel drive and $26,798 with all-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line SL Platinum will run you $32,198.
We expect the Qashqai to do well in this segment, which is also populated by the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR. It’s an aggressively priced, all-around solid package with an already-proven sales history. The question is why Nissan didn’t bring it here sooner!