Review of: 2018 Nissan Qashqai SL AWD
2017 Nissan Qashqai: Strange name for a good little ute
By Jil McIntosh
Dec. 7, 2017
Little is big. Compact sport-utes are among the most popular consumer choices right now, and automakers are scrambling to shrink their offerings. For 2017, Nissan introduces its all-new version, the Qashqai.
For the record, you say “cash-kai,” at least north of the border. In the U.S. it’s called the Rogue Sport, as a baby brother to the slightly larger model under which it slips (and shares its platform). It remains to be seen if Nissan Canada erred in keeping the car’s somewhat awkward European name, but there’s no question that this is going to make a splash in the segment.
The Qashqai comes in three trim levels, starting with the S, which clicks in at $19,998 with a manual transmission and front-wheel drive. It’s the only version that comes with a stick shift; adding a CVT is $21,998, and it’s $24,198 to upgrade to all-wheel. The mid-range SV is $24,598 in front-wheel and $26,798 in all-wheel, while the top-line SL, in all-wheel only, is $29,498. I had that, plus an optional $2,700 Platinum Package and a coat of extra-charge Nitro Lime paint for $135, bringing my tester to a total of $32,333 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + cargo versatility
- + Visibility
- + Handling
- - Active safety only in top trim
- - Unsupportive front seats
- - smartphone integration
The Qashqai is a fetching little thing, about a foot shorter than its Rogue sibling and not as tall, but with a very strong family resemblance. The proportions are right with a short front overhang and tucked-in tail, and just enough plastic lower cladding to give it that sport-ute look.
Sixteen-inch wheels are stock on the base S, but they move up the ladder to 17-inch on the SV, and 19-inch rims on the SL. All come with a tire pressure monitoring system and Nissan’s Easy-Fill, which checks on the tires as you’re filling them and honks the horn when the correct air pressure is reached.
The SV also includes fog lamps and a power sunroof, while the SL exclusively tacks on roof rails. My tester’s LED headlamps came with the Platinum Package.
Although it’s the low rung on Nissan’s SUV ladder, the Qashqai comes with some handsome styling cues, including chrome bezels around the fog lights and side windows and wraparound taillights. The cargo compartment’s liftover height is acceptable, too.
The Qashqai’s interior is as good-looking as its exterior, with a nicely-sculpted dash and console, and flat-bottomed steering wheel that’s heated on the upper two trims.
All trim levels come with heated seats, while the top-line SV adds leather upholstery, along with six-way power adjustment on the driver’s side. But while the chairs are bolstered, their cushions are very short. That can be common on smaller vehicles, since it makes the cabin look roomier, but it affects the seat’s support, and the Qashqai isn’t a comfortable car for a long-distance drive.
As its footprint would suggest, the Qashqai doesn’t offer up a huge amount of space in the rear chairs, although there’s sufficient room to slip one’s shoes under the front seats for a bit more comfort. Those seats flip down 60/40 and virtually flat for extra cargo room.
Small-item storage is good, including a front cubby, covered console box, and deep cupholders. But the cargo area really shines with the “Divide-N-Hide” panel, included on the SV and SL. The panel can be slotted low to carry tall cargo, higher to hide items under it, or folded in half to keep items from straying too far.
The stereo system on the S and SV has a 5-inch colour screen with four speakers, while the SL bumps it up to a 7-inch touch-screen display with six speakers. All include a USB port, Bluetooth streaming audio, text messaging assist, Siri, and steering-wheel-mounted controls. A rearview camera is included on all, but the SL adds a 360-degree function.
Satellite radio is included on the SV and SL, while the top-line trim also includes navigation. However, there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay phone integration.
My tester’s Platinum Package, available only on the SL, mostly adds electronic nannies: intelligent cruise control, forward collision warning and emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure intervention, and automatic high-beam headlights.
The Qashqai uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that spins out 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque, and on all but the very base trim, an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
A powerhouse it ain’t, especially if you slip it into the “Eco” driving mode, where you might as well walk. Still, very little in this segment is about exhilarating acceleration, and the Qashqai gets the job done. The CVT is better than most, engineered with artificial “steps” that make it sound and feel something like a conventional seven-speed automatic. You can toggle between them in manual mode as well.
Most of these baby-utes are nimble, and that includes the Qashqai. While it falls just shy of the Mazda CX-3’s quicker-response feel, this Nissan is a serious contender for fun-to-drive. It feels hunkered-down and well-planted but tall enough for cottage roads, the turning circle is tight, and the steering is well-weighted.
The published fuel economy falls short of some competitors, rated at 9.1 L/100 km in the city and 7.5 on the highway. In combined driving, I averaged 8.6 L/100 km.
Beginning at $19,998 and rising to $32,198, the Qashqai starts at the lower end of the segment’s pricing. Mazda’s CX-3 runs between $19,995 and $30,995, while Mitsubishi’s RVR is $19,998 to $29,898, and the Fiat 500X goes from $20,245 to $28,740.
Others start a bit higher, including Honda’s HR-V at $21,150 and Toyota’s C-HR at $24,690. Subaru’s Crosstrek begins at $23,695 but with all-wheel drive. Given the compact footprint of these models, buyers can also potentially cross-shop such hatchbacks as the Honda Fit, Hyundai Elantra GT, and Kia Rondo.
You’re not going to get the hockey team to practice in a compact SUV, but for young singles or couples, empty-nesters, or as a second car, they can be a great, easier-to-park alternative to a larger vehicle. The Qashqai isn’t perfect, but it’s a serious challenger in this segment, including not just its utility but its sportier handling. If small is big with you, take this one for a test.