There have been some changes in Nissan’s Qashqai line-up since last year: an additional 1.2-litre turbopetrol model named Acenta Plus CVT, a new Acenta Plus diesel (our test car) and a 1.5 dCi Tekna that replaced 1.6 dCi Acenta automatic.
There was a facelift: Outside changes include new alloy wheels that reduce drag, reshaped front bumper, revised grille, and changed headlights with “boomerang” DRLs. The rear bumper skirt was reworked too.
Inside the car a flat bottomed steering wheel features upgraded controllers; interior door handles and vents are made of higher quality materials; single touch up and down for all windows is standard throughout the range; redesigned front seats have tapered shoulders for added support; a shark fin antenna improves reception and the hands-free microphone was moved to the overhead lamp unit for better performance.
More sound deadening material, plus thicker glass on rear windows, makes things quieter, retuned dampers and stiffer anti-roll bars improve handling and something called Active Ride Control uses engine and braking interactions to reduce front-to-rear pitching.
That’s all very well, but we wondered what happened to the 1.6-litre diesel that was still available just a few months ago? It appears that the bigger, K9M engine has been reserved for the larger and heavier X-Trail. Guess we’ll just have to adjust. Mind you, when comparing figures, the 1500 is only six-tenths of a second slower to 100 km/h, achieves 1 km/h less at the top end and is noticeably lighter on fuel.
Driving impressions: Performance is brisk and smooth, interior fittings look more expensive, the car feels solider and quieter and it rode excellently over the nasty ripples and short, sharp bumps out past the veggie farms. The motor turns over at about 2100 rpm in sixth at 120 km/h with decent roll-on ability.
Unfortunately, letting speed drop to below about 100 km/h means that it just misses its sweet spot, so you need to grab fifth for quick results. The torque curve climbs steeply to 1750 rpm and then flattens out until 2500 before dropping off somewhat less briskly than it climbed. It’s a small engine so you expect to stir the box a bit don’t you? On that note, this is one of few cars with a gearshift indicator that actually suggests you change down occasionally.
The loading bay is neatly rectangular with small bins on each side, a light, four lashing rings and two bag hooks. The 215/65R16 steel spare and its tools are kept below the floorboard although Tekna offers only a puncture kit. That’s because its big Bose amplifier occupies most of the space. You can reach seat-top backrest releases from behind, provided you unhook the luggage cover first. They fold 60:40 to lie almost flat, expanding cargo volume from 430 litres to 860 (VDA).
When our 6’1” tester tried out the rear seating area he awarded nine points out of ten for headroom and eight each for knee space and parking for feet. Facilities include three full belts with head restraints, a second courtesy lamp, grab handles, two ISOFix anchor sets with top tethers, an armrest with cup holders, twin seatback pockets, a couple of stash boxes and tiny door bins.
Moving forward, pilot and co-pilot get wrapped snugly in supportive seats, there are plenty of storage spaces and the short gear lever is easy to reach. It works smoothly and positively and there’s a proper resting pad for an idle clutch foot. The self-setting electric parking brake has one annoying quirk; it cannot be released unless you put your foot on the main brake first. That interrupts one’s take off rhythm and smacks of unnecessary mothering.
Although there’s no touch screen at this trim level, all necessary electronic aids and functions can be accessed via scrolling buttons on the steering wheel. Controls for music and HVAC (automatic, twin channel aircon) are easy to use, with separate buttons for front and rear speed defrosters. Five-star EuroNCAP safety kit includes six airbags, ABS brakes with EBD and BAS, hill start assist and the baby chair anchors mentioned earlier.
Qashqai for 2018 is much the same as it was before, only different. And better. We liked it.
Test car from Nissan SA press fleet
Price: R407 000
Engine: 1461 cc Renault K9K, four-cylinder, SOHC eight-valve, turbodiesel
Power: 81 kW between 3100 and 4000 rpm
Torque: 260 Nm between 1750 and 2500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 11.9 seconds
Top speed: 182 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 6.0 l/100 km
Tank: 65 litres
Luggage: 430 – 1585 litres (gross)
Warranty: 6 years / 150 000 km with roadside assistance
Service plan: 3 years / 90 000 km at 15 000 km intervals
**Article by The Meander Chronicle’s motoring contributor, “Motormouth” – Gordon Hall