Clearly, car manufacturers are running out of names. We haven’t reached the “Utopian Turtletop” or Mitsubishi “Active Urban Sandal” phase yet, but with all the legible names pretty much taken, carmakers are just alphabetizing their models…HR-V, CH-R, CX-3, etc, etc. None of these designations make much sense, but they don’t have to. As long as buyers recognize the model, end of story.
And then there’s Nissan, who have resisted the alphabet soup trend, sticking with names like – oh – Rogue, Leaf, Murano, and, my personal favourite: Armada. Not to mention Qashqai, yet another compact SUV, and Nissan’s most affordable SUV/CUV/crossover.
Introduced as a 2017 model, and described by the company as an “ultimate urban crossover”, the Qashqai is powered by a 2.0 litre four cylinder mated to either a CVT or six-speed manual transmission. But before we get into it, what, exactly, is a Qashqai? According to Nissan, and pronounced “Kash-Kye”, the name is not that of a breakfast cereal, but was taken from, and I quote: “A people living in mountainous Southwestern Iran.” Apparently, it also can mean “a horse with a white forehead.”
OK then. Moving right along, the Qashqai comes with front-drive as standard, but all-wheel-drive is also available. Other standard issue features include a hill-start assist, traction control, an active ride control system, and a drivetrain “Eco mode”, which monitors driving conditions and adjusts the engine’s performance accordingly. The engine also features a continuously variable valve timing control system, and fuel economy is around 7.5 L/100 km in the city and 9.0 on the highway….depending upon the model.
One note here. In other markets – Europe, for eg – you can get the Qashqai with a Renault-built diesel engine. That would be a nice combination, but at this point, it’s not destined for North America.
Despite its wonky name (Iranian mountain people? Really?), the Qashqai is a pretty orthodox compact SUV. Nothing particularly innovative or noteworthy, except perhaps the starting price, which is less than $20,000….if only by a whisker. That said, for the money, the Qashqai is a well-equipped automobile, and very driveable….exactly what is required in this market. Standard equipment includes heated outside mirrors, rear view monitor, heated front seats, and 16” wheels and tires. Larger – 17” – wheels and tires are also available.
Inside, you can access some 61 cubic feet (1727 litres) of interior cargo space, with the back seats folded down. This is about the same as the Hyundai Tucson, while the Toyota RAV4 has 73 cubic feet (2067 litres), and Honda’s HR-V has 59 cubic feet (1670 litres). Five adults will fit into the Qashqai……even if they come from the mountainous regions of southwestern Iran.
Aside from one gripe, I thoroughly enjoyed the Qashqai. It’s driver-friendly, reasonably lively, and roomy enough for most urban duty. My usual cargo capacity test is a full set of drums, and the Qashqai can handle that, no sweat.
But I just can’t show any love for the CVT. Nissan – and most other carmakers - is committed to this drivetrain technology, and it ruins an otherwise very driveable SUV. When you need quick power while overtaking, for example, it just lacks the snap of a conventional gear-type transmission, and unless you give it some welly, it takes its own sweet time accelerating away from stoplights. Were I in the market for this vehicle, I’d have a long hard look at the manual gearbox model. Kudos to Nissan for offering it, BTW.
And the name. I’m sorry, but I could never own a vehicle named after tribal hill folk. Why not call it the Ozark or Uyghur or Kazakh? Makes about as much sense.
Still, if you can overlook the name, the Qashqai represents pretty good value. It’s a nice package and may turn out to be a nice - er - cash cow for Nissan.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder
Transmission: CVT / Six-speed manual
Horsepower: 141 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 147 ft. lb @ 4400 rpm
Price Range: $19,998 - $24,598
Fuel Economy: 8.1 L /100 km (city) & 10.0 (hwy.) CVT/FWD model. Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Honda HR-V, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Chev Trax, Buick Encore, Mitsubishi RVR.