Plenty going for it
ALTHOUGH the Qashqai probably wasn't the innovation that Nissan would have us believe, it's still a very interesting and capable alternative to the usual family hatch. Throughout the line up, there are pragmatic choices that buyers can make.
Standard or Qashqai+ long wheelbase body styles? Petrol or diesel engine? All-wheel drive or front-wheel drive? The Qashqai's flexibility means that it's as pragmatic or as adventurous as you want to make it.
The Qashqai, in reality, is somewhere between an all-wheel drive-orientated Family Hatchback (like a Fiat Sedici or a Suzuki SX4) and a road-orientated compact 4x4 (like Toyota's RAV4 or Honda's CR-V).
And, like all of the current versions of these cars, it incorporates MPV-style practicalities on board. Like many rivals of this kind, the Qashqai offers the choice of a two or a four-wheel drive platform, the front-wheel drive model being perfectly adequate for 95% of customer's requirements.
There are two bodystyle choices, the standard model joined in the last quarter of 2008 by a Qashqai+2 seven-seater variant.
Here, everything behind the windscreen pillars has been modified. The wheelbase has been extended by 135mm and the overall length has grown by 211mm to 4,526mm. To make sure that rear seat occupants don't feel too hemmed in, the roof line has been reprofiled as well, adding 38mm to the car's height.
The doors have been redesigned and the side windows are now bigger, as is the rear tailgate window, making the back feel anything but claustrophobic. The middle row of seats splits 40/40/40 and the backrest reclines to no fewer than nine adjustment positions.
The Qashqai+2's back row of seats is designed for kids or adults up to 1.6m (5'3"), the seats fold 50/50 and can be folded away simply by pulling a strap. There's no need to go through the hassle of removing head rests first.
When folded down there's a massive 500 litres of stowage space, and the rear hatch is both wider and has a lower loading sill than the standard Qashqai model.
As with any compact car that bills itself as a 4x4, look for damage caused by previous keepers taking that claim a little too seriously. This means suspension and exhaust inspections and also a look at the wheel arch liners and front spoiler to check that nothing's hanging on with cable ties. The interior of the Qashqai is tough enough although the rear extremities can be tough to keep tabs on and can incur parking scrapes. All the engines are tried and tested units with the diesels being particularly robust.
Nissan makes no bones of the fact that the Qashqai is anything but an off-roader, citing its lack of ground clearance. What precludes it from tackling rutted tracks makes it a better car on the blacktop, the hunkered down centre of gravity giving the Nissan the driving dynamics of a typical family hatch.
The Nissan Qashqai positioned itself as the alternative to the everyday hatch but has become a bit of a victim of its own success. These days a Qashqai probably isn't the thing to have if you want to be different. If, on the other hand, you want a solidly engineered vehicle with a raised seat position but which doesn't attract the ire of militant greens, a used Qashqai has a lot to be said for it.