It hasnít been the easiest start for the Qashqai, arriving in a rainy October, just before temperatures plummeted and we were treated to freezing conditions and snowy roads. Still, one of the reasons SUVs have become so popular, is for their confidence-inspiring feel in bad weather ñ even if an increasing number send power only to the front wheels. Our Qashqai, and the vast majority sold in the UK, fall into the two-wheel-drive camp, but the Qashqai does have some tricks up its sleeve for winter motoring. In last monthís report I mentioned that the Nissan is fitted with the Heat Pack, adding a ThermaClear heated windscreen and heated front seats for £295. Both have proven their worth, with the heated seats switched to High for almost every journey the car has been on. The heated windscreen has impressed too, because even though at first it doesnít appear to be having much effect, a sweep of the automatic windscreen wipers sees ice swept away as it melts. I was left cursing the very same wipers on one particularly snowy morning, though, as my bright idea to quickly start the engine to warm the cabin saw snow flung through the door as the wipers sprung into action.
In wintry conditions, the Qashqai might only be as capable as a family hatchback, but its raised seating position helps. Thereís a great view of whatís happening ahead, and you feel elevated slightly above the constant spray of road grime from trucks and other traffic. If you were to encounter small snow drifts, the Qashqaiís added ground clearance should help negotiate them too. When the weather is above freezing, Iíve been impressed by the Nissanís chassis and its smooth steering. The latter might not be overly endowed with feel, but itís well-weighted and accurate, with almost no ëdead-zoneí, and it also helps that the new D-shaped steering wheel is good to hold. The suspension can be slightly firm at times, mostly in town where it can be felt working hard to deal with poor tarmac, but as the speed picks up it comes into its own, taking most bumps in its stride. Its firmness also means thereís very little body lean, and for an SUV it deals with sudden direction changes quite well.
So far, its 1.5-litre dCi engine has impressed and frustrated in equal measure. In the positive camp, Nissan has achieved really impressive refinement levels, with hardly any diesel clatter or vibrations entering the cabin or being felt through the controls. Even at higher revs, the engine is smooth and hushed. On the flipside, the fact the Qashqaiís modest 192lb ft of torque doesnít arrive until 1,750rpm, means it can be easy to get caught without enough power. Once you get used to it, this means youíll be revving the engine while pulling away to avoid stalling and holding on to gears for longer than you might expect if youíve come from another diesel car, possibly with a larger engine.
Date arrived 23rd October 2017
Fuel economy 74.3mpg (combined) 46.5mpg (on test)
Arctic weather means the Heat Pack has proved essential.
The 1.5-litre dCi engine is smooth, but it’s no powerhouse.