Nissan Qashqai still

the one to beat

Nissan Qashqai, 2018, front
Nissan Qashqai, 2018, nose
Nissan Qashqai, 2018, side
Nissan Qashqai, 2018, interior
Nissan Qashqai, 2018, dashboard
Nissan Qashqai, 2018, rear
Nissan Qashqai, 2018, side, static
Nissan Qashqai, 2018, boot

WHAT makes a car not just good, but great?

What makes it stand out from the crowd especially in the fiercely competitive compact SUV sector? And what keeps it ahead of its rivals month after month, year after year?

We took an in-depth look at the Nissan Qashqai to find the answers to some of those questions.

It's without the slightest hint of any hesitation that we can state that the Nissan Qashqai is a class leader.

In fact, the Japanese manufacturer lays claim to inventing the crossover vehicle when the Qashqai was launched way back in 2007.

And now in its second generation and with more than three million sales under its belt, the British-built Qashqai is still the one other manufacturers are trying to keep in their sights, let along catch and beat.

Every month we receive official sales figures from the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders and like clockwork the Qashqai appears in the top 10 best-selling models - normally it's top five.

And it's head and shoulders above any rival crossovers in the sector.

The Qashqai is designed in London, engineered in Cranfield and built in Sunderland, so it's a very British success story despite the obvious Japanese influence.

And while other car manufacturers have watched sales slump in recent months especially with the onset of Brexit and all its uncertainty, the Qashqai remains strong.

Over the past five years, sales have increased from 50,211 units in 2013 to 60,814 in 2015 and up to a record 64,216 cars last year. So demand is still as strong as ever.

To get underneath the bare metal of the Qashqai we took the keys for an extended four-month spell and what an eye-opener it proved to be.

Our 2WD car was powered by a 1.6-litre 130ps diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It was in near-range-topping Tekna+ specification and priced at £31,575 - a panoramic glass roof added £450 to the cost.

So, the Qashqai isn't exactly cheap. But it is excellent value because for that outlay you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Our car came fully loaded with a wealth of high-end kit, including an eight-speaker Bose sound system, a new NissanConnect seven-inch touchscreen navigation system, Bluetooth with music streaming, full smartphone connectivity, a USB port, dual-zone climate control with pollen filter, rear privacy glass, a multi-function leather-trimmed steering wheel and part leather heated seats.

The exterior is equally impressive with a modern design incorporating athletic styling, LED light clusters with signature daytime running lights, body-coloured bumpers and door handles, a V-Motion front grille, rear roof spoiler, silver roof rails and 19-inch diamond cut alloy wheels completing the look.

The Qashqai started the family SUV trend so it needs to be practical and it's just that. The interior is really spacious with ample room in the back for two adults to sit comfortably or three if they don't mind rubbing shoulders.

There are ISOFIX fixtures so a child seat can be fitted without any fuss and the boot can easily accommodate shopping bags, golf clubs, a pushchair or suitcases.

We used the Qashqai for a short break to the coast and it was the perfect holiday companion. It wasn't too big to navigate the narrow country lanes, but it felt safe and sound on the busy motorways without been buffeted by 30-tonne juggernauts hurtling by.

The back seat was the ideal place for our cockapoo puppy to stretch out (seat cover, harness and safety belt in place of course) and the boot easily held our bags along with the aforementioned puppy's ever-growing supply of day-to-day essentials.

The Qashqai is a very simple car to get comfortable in with powered front seats and plenty of steering wheel adjustment.

The driving position is slightly elevated and that results in excellent all-round visibility. In addition, the readouts, controls and various system menus are all very simple to operate without causing any distractions and the touchscreen boasts clear and precise graphics.

The car could complete the 0-62mph dash in a respectable 9.9 seconds and topped out at 118mph.

It may not be the most dynamic crossover out there, but it's certainly an excellent all-rounder especially when you factor in the running costs.

Official figures suggested the Qashqai could deliver combined fuel economy of 64.2mpg with carbon emissions of 116g/km. After our four months and almost 2,500 miles we were seeing an average of 56.3mpg which isn't that far off the mark.

Out on the open road, the gear changing is slick and the diesel engine delivers all the power needed to overtake slower moving vehicles. In busy town centres, the Qashqai is beautifully agile, easy to manoeuvre and boasts all the parking sensors and driver aids to make parking a doddle.

So it would seem with styling, technology, practicality, pricing and performance in the bag, we are some way to discovering the success behind the Qashqai story.

But there is another factor and with it competing for sales in a family sector, it's a vitally important element to any compact SUV - safety. Once again, the Qashqai is kitted out with a comprehensive array of safety specifications and driver aids to help prevent accidents happening in the first place.

As well as the usual systems such as ABS, EBD and Brake Assist, our Qashqai featured Nissan's Safety Shield Plus pack that introduced intelligent driver alert, blind sport warning, rear cross traffic alert and moving object detection.

There is also lane departure warning, intelligent emergency braking, high beam assist, traffic sign recognition and plenty more besides. It was awarded the maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating.

The overwhelming success story of the crossover model that launched the fastest growing segment in the industry was perfectly summed up byKen Ramirez, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Nissan Europe, who said: "The British-built Nissan Qashqai is an outstanding ambassador for our innovative crossover range and a sales phenomenon.

"Through an intelligent combination of premium design, quality and driving dynamics, at a very accessible price point, the model has maintained a number one position in the segment.

"Qashqai customers also benefit from multiple Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies, such as Intelligent Around View Monitor and Intelligent Park Assist; and of course ProPILOT, our advanced driver assistance system, was introduced to the model for 2018."

So, after some four months with the car I realised that there are some excellent compact SUVs or crossovers out there but few, if any, match the all-round package that is the Nissan Qashqai.

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