New car review: Nissan Qashqai N Sport

Limited edition small SUV gets extra kit to stave off retirement.

If, as former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said, “a week is a long time in politics,” then six years is an absolute age for a model to maintain its popularity in Australia’s fiercely competitive small-SUV market. Witness Nissan’s Qashqai, first released here in 2014 and now officially a bit long-in-the-tooth, thanks to the arrival of newer category pace-setters like the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX30.

Of course, the Qashqai has been updated along the way, most recently in 2017 and is clearly still finding the mark with consumers since it regularly features as a category top-five seller. But with a new model not far over the horizon, Nissan has taken the opportunity to give the Qashqai a further upgrade before its retirement, this time adding new safety and infotainment equipment to sweeten the deal.  

Among the latest changes are two new grade-dependant infotainment head units, with smart phone mirroring via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now standard across the range. Twice yearly map upgrades for the navigation system are now complimentary during the first five years of ownership, and the new system doesn’t require a visit to a dealer like the previous SD-card based system did. The 7.0-inch touch-screen looks a little underdone compared to those of more recently released competitors, however, some of which now offer larger 10.25-inch screens. 

Nissan Q

Within the range, the mid-spec Qashqai ST+ gains a healthy serving of additional driver assistance features, while top-spec Ti models expand the existing safety arsenal by incorporating pedestrian detection up to 60km/h into the intelligent emergency braking system.

The limited-edition N Sport model tested here is essentially a marketing department ‘special’, comprising 600 units based on a Qashqai ST-L, with additional features that land it between that model and the top-spec Ti. The ‘extras’ include standard lane departure warning, intelligent emergency braking, forward collision warning, intelligent trace control, blind spot warning, park sensors front and rear, and rear cross-traffic alert. 

You’ll need to find an extra $1000 over the price of the donor model, but for the money you also get 19-inch alloys (in lieu of the ST-L’s 18’s) clad with Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, N Sport badging, and cosmetic enhancements such as body-coloured bumpers and wheel arch mouldings.

Under the skin the Qashqai N Sport retains the same 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder as the rest of the range, mated to a CVT auto that drives the front wheels. The combination delivers sufficient get-up-and-go to satisfy most buyers, while the gearbox is one of the better CVTs around, with stepped shifts on hard acceleration lending a more ‘natural’ auto transmission feel. There are no steering-wheel paddles, despite the N Sport designation, but pseudo-manual shifts can be accessed via the gear lever. 

Nissan Q

The N Sport retains a supple and comfortable ride, even on its larger diameter wheels and lower profile tyres, with handling that’s secure and competent. The steering can be adjusted to ‘Sport’ via a fiddly setting that’s buried in the digital menu cluster, but while the feature adds steering weight, there’s no extra road feel.

Space for occupants, oddments and cargo all rate well by small SUV standards. The cabin is neatly finished, with soft-touch surfaces to counter areas of harder plastic trim, and there’s detail stitching and sections of lustrous piano black to give the interior a quality look and feel.

Now nearing the end of its model life, the Qashqai remains a practical and well-priced package that offers easy-going motoring from a trusted and well regarded brand. The limited edition N Sport brings some useful features and attractive cosmetic enhancements that should be enough to tempt buyers who are looking for value beneath the top-spec Ti price point. 

Drive_MOTORING

KEY STATS

  • MLP: $35,000
  • ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • ANCAP CRASH RATING:  5 stars (2017)
  • TAILPIPE CO2 (g/km): 159

FOR:

Space, equipment upgrades to Qashqai range, practical and easy-going nature, nicely finished.

AGAINST:

Extra cost for N Sport’s largely cosmetic items, model starting to show its age, no USB or power outlets in row two.