COULD this be the comfiest, most refined affordable family car on the road today?
The short answer is that quite possibly Yes, because the latest incarnation of the Nissan Qashqai tops the bill in virtually every category.
From the outside its looks little different from the second generation model that received a mid-life facelift two years ago, but continual development, tweaking of the suspension and improvements to the cabin have made the ubiquitous Nissan easier to drive, safer and quieter.
The car that became a template for copycat crossovers when it was introduced some 13 years ago, received a brace of new engines this year including the 1.7-litre diesel we drive here.
A development of the old 1.6dCi version, it now pumps out 148bhp, a 20bhp increase. While it doesn't exactly turn the five-door into a hot hatch, it does put a serious spring in its step and allow it to hit 62mph in a brisk nine seconds.
The extra power has done little to harm its frugal nature and a long run I averaged 52mpg which compares favourably with the official combined figure of 50.2mpg.
If you haven't been in a Qashqai for a few years, the quality and ambience of the cabin will come as a pleasant surprise. Soft-touch plastics, deep seating and easy to operate switchgear and screen make it a convivial place to spend time.
Space in the front is ample with more legroom than most require and a good vision point thanks to the high seating position and deep glass area. Rear seat passengers are slightly less well catered for and may require those in the front seats to compromise on their legroom.
Stowage space is reasonably good with a deep central bin, door pockets and a usefully large glove box. The pockets in the back of the rear seats expand only a little so fitting in even a flask is tight.
The hatchback boot can carry 460 litres of luggage which is about the class average. Cleverly, dividers allow cargo to partitioned off - a boon when carrying loose shopping.
In Tekna form there are stacks of kit on board, including sat nav, glass panoramic roof - although this fixed rather than opening - roof rails, electric folding door mirrors, heated front seats, rear privacy glass and dual zone climate control.
The Qashqai isn't the sort of car bought for its dynamic performance of handling prowess. Nevertheless, the ability of the latest model to travel quickly and comfortable over long distances is one of its major strengths.
Cornering roll is nicely controlled, yet not at the expense of its excellent ride quality. The diesel engine is among the quietest of four-cylinder units available. Little sign of harshness and plentiful torque which allows it to pull strongly in high gear.
The six-speed manual gearbox is light and pleasing to use - an automatic is available as an extra cost option.