As I drove into Botha Kelders, the turn-off is on the R33 before you get to Worcester, a Nissan Qashqai pulled up alongside me. It was the first generation model , which, since its launch in 2007, has sold more than two million worldwide, and 20 000 of them to South Africans. My ride was the second generation all-new Qashqai. The new model has had a complete makeover and the test car, the 1.6dCi Acenta with CVT, was impressive. It is a compact Crossover with the practicality of a passenger car and the fun element of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). Sequels, as we know from the movies, are not always as good as the first edition, but the new Qashqai which still has the old DNA is a winner. It is built on the Renault/Nissan Common Family Modular Platform (CMF) and is longer, wider, lower and lighter than its predecessor. Looks can be deceiving, and despite the lower roofline there is more room in the front and rear. The Qashqai features the new face of Nissan, including the prominent V-grille as well as LED daytime running lights. The tail gate is flanked by wraparound tail light clusters with LED elements and improved aerodynamics, which give the Qashqai a drag coefficient of 0.33.
Inside, it has a completely new look with the use of quality materials. The fuss-free and ergonomically-designed layout ensures that the controls are easy to use. The facia layout is clean and in the centre is a user-friendly seven inch touchscreen – the Nissan infotainment system. It includes surround view cameras; heated door mirrors; SatNav; Google search and a Facebook application. But these are not standard and the Techno Pack, if you want all these goodies, will set you back about R16 000. There is also a capacious boot: 430 litres which increases to 1 585 litres with the rear seatbacks folded down.
There are five models in the new range with three engine variants: a 1.2-litre direct injection turbocharged motor, two 1.2T models available in Vista and Acenta trim and the range-topping turbo-charged diesel vehicles, the Qashqai 1.6dCi Acenta Xtronic CVT and the 1.6dCi Acenta AWD. An interesting feature on the new Qashqai is the Active Trace Control that governs brake pressure on each wheel to make cornering smoother. Power output on both turbodiesels is 96 kW at 4 000 rpm, with torque of 320 Nm. However, what’s it like to drive? In a word, excellent. It is an extremely comfortable car. It provides a satisfying ride and more than enough oomph to overtake when you need to. Steering is precise with good feedback. Although many petrol-heads pooh-pooh the CVT (which works like a scooter’s gearbox), I don’t have a problem with it, even if the car takes a while to get going. But the Qashqai is not for the boy racer who wants to burn rubber at the off. It takes 12 second to reach 100km/h. Fuel consumption is good too (the CVT helps). I recorded figures of 6 litres/100km. It took seven years for the new Qashqai to get here but the wait was worth it.
The base price of the new Qashqai is R382 900. The Qashkai comes with Nissan’s 6-year/ 150 000 km warranty and a 5-year/ 90 000 km service plan which includes roadside assistance as standard.