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Driving Impression: Nissan Qashqai 1,5 DCI Acenta

18 May 2015

The new Nissan Qashqai has been around for a few months, but we’ve only now driven the entry-level diesel, which we’d always suspected would be the best in the range.

In the September 2014 edition of Leisure Wheels, colleague GG van Rooyen conducted a thorough road test on the then all-new Nissan Qashqai. There were some minor issues with the ride quality on gravel, mostly due to the rim/tyre combination being more suited to inner city driving.

Not that it mattered really, because Nissan’s marketing strategy, which calls the car “the ultimate urban experience”, makes it quite clear that the Qashqai is aimed at city dwellers rather than adventurers. This made us wonder why a potential customer would go the all-wheel drive route in the first place? Surely, if a vehicle will be mostly city bound, it would be a better bet to spend R50 000 less on the entry-level diesel model?

I recently spent a week with the 1,5 DCI Acenta and I can indeed confirm that it’s the pick of the bunch. All things considered, it is the best all-round car in the range and is, in some respects, even better than its more expensive brothers.

First up, let’s get some of the minor niggles out of the way. I was a huge fan of the previous Qashqai, but the new model is just too generic for my taste. The previous model had its own unique funky design, whereas the new one strikes me as a smaller copy of the X-Trail, which is a smaller copy of the new Murano.

That’s as negative as I’m going to get, because the rest of the package is superb. It continues to build on the qualities that made the first generation such a success.

The most impressive thing about this model is the engine. It’s one that I know fairly well, because it also does duty in our long-term Renault Duster.

For its small size, it delivers a decent punch. There is some lag at first, but the full 260Nm of torque is available from only 2500rpm. This makes it particularly good on the highway, where it’s rarely necessary to gear down from sixth gear to overtake slower moving traffic. It’s frugal as well, with Nissan claiming a combined fuel consumption figure of 4,2 l/100km. While we doubt that figure would ever be achievable in the real world, our test unit seemed to sit rather comfortably at 6,5 l/100km, which isn’t half bad for a car of its size.

The Acenta specification comes with everything one could possibly want in the cabin. It has a decent sound system with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite controls on the steering wheel, cruise control, dual zone climate control, electric windows all round and automatic lights and wipers.

The overall quality of the interior is very high and there is more than enough room for a family of four and their luggage. The Qashqai comes as standard with a five star Euro NCAP rating, scoring in the eighties for both adult and child occupants.

I enjoyed driving it very much, as it’s deeply comfortable during the day-to-day grind. I also tried this particular model on a gravel road and can report that it felt as stable as is mechanically possible in a front-wheel drive car.

The Qashqai is a very hard car to fault. Apart from it being less interesting than its predecessor, there really isn’t anything wrong with it. It’s a decent soft-roader, built properly by a reputable manufacturer.

It’s not even that expensive compared to cars like the Mazda CX-5, Mercedes GLA, Hyundai iX35 and Kia Sportage. In fact, the only thorn in its side is the car it shares its engine with – the Renault Duster, which has all-wheel drive and costs a lot less.

But those two cars are aimed at completely different people and at the moment the Qashqai ticks all the right boxes for anyone who’s in the market for a frugal front-wheel drive SUV.