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Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi review (2012 onwards)
Model: Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi Tekna
Bodystyle: Five-door crossover
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
Gallery: Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi
Read more Nissan car reviews
What is it?
We'll admit to having been doubters when in 2007 Nissan replaced its two boring family cars, the Almera and Primera, with the Qashqai. The new Nissan looked too dull to excite those who had drifted away from Nissan.
But the Qashqai has been an outstanding success; so much so that it's rare for rival manufacturers to avoid mention of the Qashqai as the main target when launching a new family model.
Why the success? The Qashqai offers space and practicality in a package no bigger or more expensive than a regular Focus, Astra or Golf. The key is the extra height, with the added benefit of an elevated driving position akin to a 4x4.
You can even get the Qashqai with four-wheel-drive, though the majority save £1,550 by choosing a Qashqai with just the front wheels driven.
Now there's a new diesel engine for 2012, a super-efficient Renault 1.6 that replaces the old two-litre, except in automatic form. It has stop-start for traffic-light savings.
Where does it fit in?
When it was launched you could buy a Qashqai for under £14,000, amazing value when compared with the Golf and Focus. No wonder so many bought into the idea of this roomy family machine.
Now it is more expensive, starting at £16,495 for a 1.6 petrol and running to close to £30k for the very top model. That most expensive Qashqai packs a punch, though.
The Tekna specification comes with a two-litre diesel, automatic transmission, four-wheel-drive and seven seats - the Qashqai +2. Yet though the Qashqai looks a little like a 4x4, most sales are of versions with front-wheel-drive.
It's an area where rival manufacturers are desperate for a slice of Nissan's pie, so there are many offerings around that combine this slightly off-road look with the choice of two- or four-wheel-drive.
Contenders are the Ford Kuga, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage and Skoda Yeti. In our view these all have more style than the Qashqai, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Is it for you?
It seems it probably is. Sales have been enormous, largely from people who value practicality at a reasonable price and don't want a small people carrier like the Renault Scenic. Just don't expect much in the way of excitement.
What does it do well?
If you are after a sporty drive in your family car you'd better look at something like the new Ford Focus, not this Nissan. But there's plenty still to admire about the way the Qashqai drives, and who needs a sports car for five people anyway?
The suspension is smooth, the body doesn't roll much in corners and the steering is light and precise. Many welcome the elevated driving position too, we know.
What doesn't it do well?
We have experienced this engine already in the Megane and Scenic so know what a refined, well-balanced unit this new diesel can be. Fine-tuned to balance economy with performance, it impresses mightily with its relaxed manner and ability to overtake without the need to drop down a gear.
There are times when some engine vibration gets through, but usually it's resolved by being in the right gear at the right time. It's easy enough for the driver to adjust.
The Qashqai could well merit the full five stars if it wasn't for one particular characteristic. The trade-off for the superb economy is that it can be a bit demanding at times.
The circumstances are very particular. At low speeds where any kind of uphill slope is involved, the engine simply can't cope with heavy demands in second gear. Unless you quickly change down into first gear, the engine can stall.
It's highly unusual to find any car where first gear is needed once you are on the move. The gearchange is swift enough to deal with the issue, but it is tiresome nonetheless.
What's it like to live with?
The driver's seat can be altered for height over a wide range, but on the passenger side there's just a single position that seems closer to the roof than necessary.
Still the seats are very comfortable in this top-of-the-range Tekna version, which comes with leather, sat-nav and the Around View Monitor. The latter is a first on a car of this class and lets you take a birds-eye view of the car from the (rather too small) sat-nav monitor on the dashboard.
The idea is to help with parking, aided by tiny cameras front, back and under the door mirrors. It's slightly weird to begin with but if you find bumping kerbs and the bumpers of other cars an issue, this should help.
Space inside of the five-seater is generous, a big advantage for those with gangly teenagers. Short rear seat cushions help the impression of space, though it's a pity that stowage space for oddments is no better than average.
The boot has a high sill, inevitable in a tall car like the Qashqai, but less understandable is the tailgate, which doesn't open high enough. In the Tekna version the underfloor area is filled with the upgraded Bose audio, which is nothing special.
The panoramic glass roof is a nice feature that also comes as standard on the top two grades of Qashqai. The seven-seater Qashqai +2 looks little different to the five-seater but in fact it's 200mm longer; it costs an additional £1,400.
The Qashqai gets the full five stars in the EuroNCAP crash safety assessment.
How green is it?
This is the big deal with the new engine. The mean fuel consumption figure is 62.8mpg, a figure we found easy to get within 10mpg of, which is extraordinarily good for a car of this size. 119g/km of CO2 puts you into a low bracket for the road fund licence too.
Would we buy it?
The appeal of the Qashqai remains as high as ever. Well built and answering pretty well every question a family might throw at it, no one has yet to better its execution.
This Tekna version is expensive, and you won't get into a Qashqai with the new 1.6 dCi engine for much less than £20K. And we do have reservations about the way this model drives. Check it out yourself before you commit.
Gallery: Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi
Read more Nissan car reviews
First drive: Nassan Qashqai (2010 onwards)
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