Nissan has come a long way in the past couple of years. For a manufacturer which until two years ago could lay claim to the title of offering “the most underwhelming range of cars in the UK”, it’s now entering a brighter future.
And the reason is simple.
It has decided, quite rightly, that churning out lower and upper-medium models to rival the likes of Ford and Vauxhall wasn’t working, due to the bland fare it offered.
So it is now going after the niche vote by building cars which stand out from the crowd in a way the Almera and Primera never could.
The Note got the ball rolling with its supermini/lower-medium crossover nature, and now we have the Qashqai – an SUV which thinks it’s a hatchback, or is it a hatchback which thinks it’s an SUV?
Whichever way you look at it, the Qashqai is a refreshing alternative. It doesn’t have four-wheel drive (unless you choose a top-spec model) but it does have what SUV buyers covet most – chunky looks and road presence.
The end result is a car which looks like an SUV but which doesn’t come lumbered with the running costs and environ- mental guilt associated with such vehicles.
Nissan is focused on who it sees as the ideal buyer for the Qashqai – Volkswagen Golf drivers who are traditionally user-choosers.
In badge terms, Nissan has got a tough fight on its hands, but as a product the Qashqai ticks many boxes.
The styling is a big plus point – chunky looks, a raised ride height and some extra cladding around the bumpers lend an air of muscularity, yet its dimensions remain user-friendly, being slightly larger than the Golf.
The interior is equally successful, with a light, spacious cabin and a decent boot.
The design and feel of the dashboard are first rate, with a modern look and excellent quality materials.
Our test car was fitted with the entry-level diesel engine – the 1.5 dCi which offers 106bhp.
On paper, this doesn’t sound particularly exciting but with 177lb-ft of torque available from 2,000rpm it makes decent progress once you’re on the move.
Acceleration from standstill is fairly slow, but in-gear flexibility means that once on the move you can adapt to the speed of traffic without too much fuss and gearchanging.
As you’d expect from a car with a raised ride height, it doesn’t handle as tidily as something like a Ford Focus but it is by no means roly-poly when it comes to cornering.
Not that this should worry the typical buyer – the Qashqai is more about image than driving enjoyment. It seems as though Nissan’s new niche strategy has produced another fine car.
P11D value: £15,951
CO2 emissions (g/km): 145
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 19%
Graduated VED rate: £145
Insurance group: 5
Combined mpg: 52.3
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £5,125/32%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £347
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Unusually, the Volkswagen is the cheapest although it is in entry- level spec and with the least powerful engine here, offering 105bhp. The Nissan offers similar power but in slightly higher trim. The Focus is in high spec Zetec trim and offers 110bhp but the Civic leads the way with 140bhp from its diesel engine.
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
There’s very little to choose between the four here, with the Golf’s lower P11d price securing a narrow win.
It will cost a 22% taxpayer £52 a month in benefit-in-kind tax, compared to £53 a month for the Civic and Focus and £55 a month for the Nissan.
The Volkswagen’s variable service intervals mean it leads the way on SMR costs here, undercutting the second-placed Honda by £400 over three-years/60,000-miles. The Honda, Ford and Nissan all require a visit to the garage every 12,500 miles.
Golf: 2.71 (pence per mile) £1,626 (60,000 miles total)
With claimed combined fuel economy of 58.9mpg the Focus leads the way with a diesel bill of £4,200 over 60,000 miles. However, all four cars are closely matched: the Golf returns 56.5mpg, the Civic 55.4mpg and the Qashqai 52.3mpg.
Focus: 7.04 (pence per mile) £4,224 (60,000 miles total)
Golf: 7.34/£4,404 Civic: 7.49/£4,494 Qashqai: 7.93/£4,758
Due to the sheer volume of Focuses sold, the Ford lags well behind here, with CAP predicting that it will retain 29% of cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The Golf will retain 39% and the Honda 38%. The Qashqai will retain a low 32% – a hangover from the old Almera.
Golf: 15.42 (pence per mile)/£9,252 (60,000 miles total)
Civic: 15.75/£9,450 Qashqai: 17.37/£10,422 Focus: 18.73/£11,238
With their large advantage in depreciation terms, the Volkswagen and Honda are well in front here, with a two pence-per-mile running costs gap back to the Nissan in third. Lower SMR and fuel costs help the Golf seal victory. The Ford is £2,000 adrift of the Golf.
Golf: 25.47 (pence per mile) /£15,282 (60,000 miles total)
The Ford simply costs too much to run in this company and is the first to be discounted. Ditto the Nissan – although because of its size and styling it would represent a much cheaper option than a regular SUV. Which leaves the Golf and Civic. Both are appealing user-chooser models, but the Civic’s extra equipment levels and more powerful engine seal victory.