Third generation high spirited

In mid-2014, Nissan sent out the second-generation of the high-riding hatchback with a badge change to Qashqai, as elsewhere in the world; apparently the real Qashqai are a collection of Middle Eastern tribes.

Anyway, there’s now a third generation of this front-drive SUV which slots between Nissan’s individualistic, bug-eyed Juke and the more pragmatic X-Trail.

The Qashqai is the one more for couples, young or old, and while previous versions have been one of Nissan’s most popular offerings on the local market, this one is better yet again.

It will best suit those who appreciate a bit of a drive for this is no mush-mush machine; rather the Qashqai for 2018 is one of the more spirited SUVs in this ever-crowded part of the market.

The extra dollop of character is served up by reworked chassis, suspension and steering, well-complemented here by Nissan’s electronic controls which brake wheels, with the deftest of touches, to help correct steering and suspension indiscretions.

This is an SUV which doesn’t mind being hustled along over good and bad roads. And in all this, whether pottering down the highway or punting down a back road, the Qashqai is surprisingly comfortable and compliant. 

Excellent ride comfort, low noise and vibration levels plus that responsive steering and competent chassis below combine to give the impression of a much larger vehicle.

It is a sharp and solid SUV, well-sorted for all manner of roads.

Along with the upgraded engineering dynamics, the third-generation Qashqai takes on some exterior style changes including new bonnet, grille and headlights.

It’s a classier look with a range of premium body colours offered.

(The body’s also now a tad longer at 4.3 metres though it remains the same height at 1595mm and 1806mm in width.

The Qashqai cabin has also had a little tidy up, most notably with a new D-shaped steering wheel.

That may appear an affectation to some, but in a compact SUV the flat bottom to the steering wheel makes accessing and exiting the driver’s seat that little easier.

The wheel’s rim is also thicker than before, again a minor detail but one which enhances driver comfort and confidence in the Nissan’s steering.

The base Qashqai, from $26,490, can be had with a six-speed manual. The other grades, through to the $37,990 Qashqai Ti, run with Nissan’s Constantly Variable Transmission.

And while CVTs can be annoying – too much droning without enough forward progress in many – this is one of the best with a manual mode to step through the variable ratios, making it feel more like a conventional automatic.

All are powered by a two-litre petrol engine with 106kW and 200Nm of power; driven with attention, fuel consumption could be under 8 litres per 100km.

The 2018 Nissan Qashqai should continue to attract a deal of interest in its corner of the market. 

It is a well-sorted, well-built SUV with smart style and sharp road dynamics.