Pronounced ‘Cash-Kai’, the Qashqai is one of Nissan’s one-two punch in the rapidly growing SUV segments. While no knockout, it does fend for itself pretty well.
Car Class: Enterprise/National/Alamo – Compact SUV; Avis/Budget – Intermediate
Availability: All major rental car agencies
Alternatives: Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek
|Drive off||Walk away|
|Cargo flexibility (Divide ‘n’ Hide)||CVT drone|
|Fuel economy||Passenger space|
|Interior materials||Outdated infotainment system|
First introduced in 2017, the Nissan Qashqai (Rogue Sport in the USA) is one of the latest new nameplates launched by the Japanese marque to satisfy consumer demand for SUVs. Essentially a rebadged version of the same vehicle in Europe and Asia, the Qashqai slots in between the tiny Kicks and bigger Rogue in Nissan’s crowded SUV lineup. Straddling between the subcompact and compact SUV segments, is the Qashqai the best of both worlds or a master of none? Join us as we take an in-depth look at the 2018 Nissan Qashqai SV AWD.
All Qashqais, regardless of trim are motivated by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine producing 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is optional on all trims except the top of the line SL. Like all other Nissans, the engine is mated to the company’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has a continuous range of gear ratios to maximise fuel economy while ensuring the engine is always in its powerband. Having previously experienced the transmission in the flagship Maxima sedan, we were not surprised by its operation. However, the engine drone under hard acceleration is much more pronounced in the Qashqai (owing to its less powerful engine and lower price tag). That said, the powertrain combination is surprisingly responsive. While acceleration is anemic (and normal for the class), the vehicle feels spritely even in Eco mode. On the move, we achieved 10.1L/100km, which is not as impressive as we thought it would be. Nonetheless, we were mostly in stop and go city traffic. Longer jaunts on the highway will most likely yield better fuel economy.
Around town, the Qashqai’s feathery light steering made maneuvering around tight spots a cinch. And while we would have appreciated a little bit more heft at highway speeds, we never found ourselves consistently making adjustments in order to track straight. Coupled with the compliant suspension, the Qashqai makes for a nimble runabout in the city that remains composed out on the open road. In addition to the CVT drone, the Qashqai also exhibits significant road and tire noise on all but the smoothest road surface, which is expected given the low entry price point. Like many of its stablemates, the Qashqai’s driving experience slots right in the middle of its competitive set. It’s neither going to set the world alight nor leave drivers feeling unsafe either.
Owing to its classification as a car and not a SUV, the Qashqai do not have feature privacy side glass from the factory. As a result, visibility to the sides are clear even in low light conditions. However, the rising beltline may create blind spots. Elsewhere, the low hood aids the view of the front and a standard back up camera helps with reversing. Too bad the images are grainy and projected on a small 5-inch infotainment display. Moving object detection, which alerts the driver of moving objects around the vehicle, is standard on the top SL trim.
Comfort and Convenience
As the mid-level SV trim, our rental Qashqai is relatively well-equipped for its class. Standard features include a 5.0-inch infotainment display with a single USB port, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push button start, heated cloth 6-way manually adjustable driver seat (4-way for front passenger), heated steering wheel, sunroof and fog lights. With regards to active safety, our SV rental is fitted with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. Lane departure warning, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control are only available on the top variant. While we applaud the inclusion of these important safety features on most Qashqais on rental lots, we found the autonomous emergency braking to be overly sensitive and braked hard when we were travelling down a parking ramp with no frontal obstructions whatsoever. There should be a method to reduce the system’s sensitivity but we have yet to find out how during our time with the vehicle.
Compared to other entries in the segment, the Qashqai’s cabin can be considered a step above. Sharing essentially the same dashboard layout as the larger Rogue, the upper dash and front door panels are made up of soft touch materials just like its bigger brother. It is only lower on the dash and doors do we find harder plastics. A highlight of the interior is undoubtedly the steering wheel. Heated, wrapped in leather and featuring a flat bottom, it is one of the more attractive steering wheels out there, period. In addition, the seats are also a high point in the Qashqai’s interior. Despite being clad in the cloth and only featuring 6-ways of manual adjustment, the zero-gravity seats provided support in all the right places and we never once felt fatigued or sore on hour long drives. Sadly, these zero-gravity seats is currently only exclusive to Nissan but we hope more manufacturers will take note and adopt similar seat designs.
Fortunately, our SV rental is fitted with a heated steering wheel and front 2-level heated seats, which are very much appreciated as temperatures approach freezing mark. Rear seat passengers, however, have to make do with cold bottoms as no heated rear seats are available in any trim.
Ease of Use
Standard on the base S and SV trims is a basic 5.0-inch infotainment display without any form of smartphone integration with the exception of Bluetooth connectivity. Given the rapid proliferation of touchscreen infotainment displays and smartphone mirroring, the setup in the Qashqai is downright disappointing. While the system itself is easy to use through the well-labelled buttons and knobs, the lack of factory navigation (in S and SV trims) and ability to project navigation on the screen is a significance inconvenience especially for drivers who are new to an area. We really hope Nissan would incorporate one of their current head units in the Qashqai for the 2019 model year. Like the Volkswagen Tiguan we drove a week earlier, the lack of multiple USB ports is another gripe that we have. For a vehicle targeting the younger generation, the Qashqai’s infotainment options is desperately in need of an update.
On the contrary, the gauge cluster of the Qashqai is much better executed. With a 5-inch (same size of the infotainment display) Advanced Drive-Assist Display nestled between the tachometer and speedometer, drivers can view various vehicle and trip information as well as change most vehicle settings using a D-pad on the steering wheel. However, one piece of information that is missing is a digital speedometer, which is becoming ubiquitous in many vehicles today. Furthermore, most of the info screens do not take up much of the display area at all. As such, we think Nissan could have incorporated a summary page with snippets of information from various vehicle systems. A traditional PRND shifter controls the Xtronic CVT and a manual mode is available to stimulate a conventional automatic transmission. Personally, we never understood the need to have simulated gears for a CVT but to each their own.
Given its tidier dimensions compared to larger SUVs like Nissan’s own Rogue, the Qashqai may not be the optimal choice for taller drivers and passengers. While the front seats have ample headroom, legroom is merely adequate for a 6 ft tall driver after moving the seat all the way back in its tracks. Drivers taller than 6 ft may have trouble getting comfortable in the front seats. Owing to the limited width, the rear bench is best left for 2. Legroom is tight and even more so with the front seats adjusted for taller adults. That said, most passengers should be able to fit in a pinch for shorter trips. To aid in rear passenger comfort, a centre armest and rear seat air vents are standard on our SV rental.
With all seats in the place, cargo capacity, at 20 cubic feet, is average for the segment. Fold down the 60/40 split rear seats and the space expands to 53 cubic feet. Despite not boasting class-leading cargo space, cargo flexibility is second to none thanks to the innovative Divide-N-Hide cargo system. Featuring two separate floor panels in the cargo area, the system allows the cargo area to be configured multiple ways including splitting the area into 2 compartments and lowering the cargo floor for extra space.
As the second smallest SUV offering in Nissan’s lineup (the smallest being the Kicks), the Qashqai offers more room than most compact SUVs on rental lots. Coupled with a substantial list of features in higher SV and SL trims, the Qashqai is a compelling choice in the newly christened compact SUV rental category. For drivers looking for a smaller vehicle to travel around town but still prefer the driving position and cargo practicality of a SUV, the compact SUV category, in particularly the Qashqai is a good fit. On the other hand, traditional intermediate sedans do still maintain an advantage when it comes to fuel economy and passenger accommodations (larger options such as the Volkswagen Jetta).
Avis/Budget/Enterprise/National/Alamo: Similar to our rental, most Qashqais with these agencies are of the mid-level SV trim. However, we have also spotted several SL trims in the rental lots, which adds additional equipment such as a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with in-built navigation, leather seats, adaptive cruise control, 360 degree surround view camera and a power driver’s seat, Spot these high trim variants by their larger 19-inch alloy wheels.
Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty: Interestingly, we have only spotted the larger Nissan Rogue in the rental lots of Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty.