Many Canadians may not realize it, but the Nissan Qashqai (“Cash-Kai”), debuting at this year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has been around for quite some time.
Not here, mind you, but it’s been around – and been a reliable “Qash-Qow” – in Europe and Japan since 2007, having sold some 2.5 million examples worldwide.
It appears those markets were ahead of the curve in the compact crossover game, as it’s only a decade later that Nissan finally felt comfortable bringing the vehicle into the segment here.
It’s a segment that continues to grow at astonishing rates, as manufacturers learn how to provide all the comfort and practicality of a larger SUV but the fuel economy and style provided by compact sedans and hatches.
“The original Qashqai filled a void we didn’t even realize existed at the time [in Europe],” said Christian Meunier, vice-president of sales & marketing operations at Nissan North America.
“But the niche for that car was in Europe. Nissan North America didn’t realize how much of an impact this segment would have in those markets.”
Fast-forward to 2017, and after a labour of love from Meunier and his team, the Qashqai is arriving on our shores.
Proportionally, the Qashqai sits comfortably between the Rogue and smaller Juke; touches like a roof-mounted spoiler and short overhangs behind the rear wheels do a good job of lending a bit of the funky from the very funky Juke.
If you think the Qashqai looks a lot like the Rogue, however – it so does – then you won’t be surprised to learn it’s badged the “Rogue Sport” in the U.S. After all, when a vehicle is selling like the Rogue is – that’s 40,000 units in the U.S. in December 2016 alone – you don’t mess too much with that nameplate.
“It’s the fastest-growing nameplate in the industry over the last two calendar years,” said David Reuter, VP of Nissan Global Communications Operations. “There’s so much brand recognition in the Rogue name.”
So we get the Qashqai here in Canada, named after a nomadic Persian tribe that continues to exist in Iran today. That’s the etymology, but Nissan is betting the real attraction to the name for Canadians will be that we have more of an affinity for Europe, and so are a little more interested in what springs from the Old Country.
As far as the Rogue is concerned: the Qashqai’s wheelbase is pretty much the same as the Rogue’s is, but it’s in the overall length that we see the biggest difference, with the Qashqai giving up 307 mm to the larger car.
Most of the sacrifice comes in the cargo area, but that loss is tempered a little by the Qashqai’s adjustable cargo floor, which features optional removable panels that allow for the fitting of taller objects. The rear seats, meanwhile, fold completely flat with the tug of a single lever.
While the Rogue is a perennial bestseller for Nissan in Canada, the manufacturer felt that there is still a group of younger buyers that want something a little sportier, that makes more of a statement than the Rogue can.
Hence the Qashqai’s lower cost of entry—pricing has not yet been revealed, but it will be “extremely competitive in the compact segment,” according to Meunier.
And he means the compact car segment, not the compact crossover one, as Nissan is hoping Qashqai will lure buyers away from stuff such as the Corolla iM and Mazda3.
If you look at the base MSRPs of the most popular compact sedans and hatches in Canada, it stands to reason the Qashqai will start somewhere in the $17,000 to $20,000 raneg; it’s hard to imagine it luring people away from their beloved compacts for much more than that.
Then again, the Qashqai does come well-equipped, even at base, with standard features like heated front seats, rear-view monitor, LED DRLs, and heated outside mirrors. Buyers will also be able to choose from between front- or all-wheel-drive cars and a six-speed manual or Xtroninc CVT automatic, with the latter being standard fitment on AWD-equipped Qashqais.
That’s the standard stuff; available options run the gamut from dual-zone climate control; to heated steering wheel; leather-appointed interior; and Nissan’s fantastic Around View 360-degree monitor. On the driving aid front, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, forward emergency braking, lane departure warning and prevention, and adaptive cruise control are all available.
Power, meanwhile, comes from one engine choice: a 2.0-litre four-banger good for 140 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque. Those are fine figures, but you will have to give it the beans, as peak horsepower comes at 6,000 rpm, with peak torque arriving at 4,400 rpm. May have more than a few people opting for the manual transmission, then.
Will Canadians flock to the Qashqai as our European contemporaries have? Considering just how popular crossovers are in this country, an affirmative bet is likely a good one.
If Nissan is right – and considering the time and thought it’s put into finally bringing the Qashqai here, there’s a good chance it is – and younger families are willing to make the jump from the Corollas and Elantras of the world (as well as subcompact crossovers such as the Mazda CX-3 or Nissan’s own Juke) then it could really have something, here.
Of course, we won’t be able to fully gauge the potential for customer conquest until pricing is released, which should be sometime soon, as the Qashqai will start arriving on dealer’s lots in summer this year.