Nissan Qashqai DIG-T

163 Tekna

Nissan Qashqai, front static
Nissan Qashqai, front action
Nissan Qashqai, side action
Nissan Qashqai, rear action
Nissan Qashqai, dashboard
Nissan Qashqai, boot
Nissan Qashqai, rear seats

WHO would have thought nine years ago that the strange sounding Nissan with a name few people could pronounce would scramble its way up the sales charts to dizzy heights?

Not me, for sure. But that's exactly what happened - last month the Qashqai was Britain's second best seller to the evergreen, and much cheaper Fiesta.

Nearly a decade ago Nissan had the foresight to dump the Primera - a sort of Mondeo lookalike - and go the SUV/crossover route to family motoring. The gamble paid off and the rest is history.

Now on the second generation version, I tried out the recently introduced 1.6-litre petrol model which knocks out 160 vigorous horsepower, making it the quickest Qashqai on sale, if not the most frugal.

Where the smooth petrol, four cylinder really scores is in terms of refinement and smoothness. But there's less torque, so you have to use the gears that bit more to tap into the power band for eager acceleration. Fortunately the six-speed gearbox is light and smooth with a short-throw action so it's no hardship.

Press on through the gears and the five-seat Nissan will hit 62mph in just over nine seconds and go on to a maximum of 124mph.

All this is achieved in serene silence with barely a murmur from the engine.

One of the big attractions of the Nissan SUV is that it drives so like a car, and the smooth running petrol emphasises this quality further.

Whereas the diesel makes itself heard, the petrol is a distant murmur. Of course, fuel consumption isn't quite as miserly.

I managed to squeeze an average 47mpg from the 1.5-litre diesel last year, but could only manage 38mpg from the more powerful petrol. The official combined average is 47.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 138g/km.

The Qashqai comes in either four or two wheel drive and this car was purely front axle driven which has proved by far the most popular choice.

With quite a bit more power than the diesel, there's a tendency for the front tyres to scrabble for grip under hard acceleration, but generally the road manners are near perfect with safe predictable handling and not too much body roll.

Ride standard is up there with the best, being poised and well balanced with little trace of harshness even over poor surfaces.

Families will love the everyday usefulness and practicality. The hatchback boot swallows up 430 litres of baggage and the ‘luggage board' system allows 16 combinations to suit almost every requirement. The rear seats split 60-40 and fold to expand carrying ability and there are copious cup holders, cubbies and storage spaces.

The Tekna 163 version - price £25,300 - comes with colour touch screen sat nav and reversing camera, heated front seats, automatic folding door mirrors, height adjustable driver and passenger seats, cruise control and speed limiter.

Built in Sunderland, and having clocked up more than a million global sales, the Qashqai is Nissan's most successful model.

FAST FACTS

Nissan Qashqai DIG-T 163 Tekna

Price: £25,300

Mechanical: 160bhp, 1,618cc, 4cyl petrol engine driven by front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 9.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 47.1

Insurance Group:14

C02 emissions: 138g/km

Bik rating: 22%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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