Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: August 9, 2020
Up there on the list of perplexing automotive names sits the Qashqai. It’s correctly pronounced cash-kai, and represents Nissan’s entrance into the compact SUV segment, an area where the discerning buyer finds a mid-size SUV too large for their lifestyle, but the smaller subcompact to be too limited for their daily lives. The Qashqai aims to solve that conundrum by blending a healthy mix of urban-optimized sizing and Goldilocks amenities and features, but is its porridge at the right temperature for Nissan to walk to the bank with this, erm, Qash-cow?
Nissan’s familial V-motion grille is present and is flanked by a pair of LED boomerang-shaped headlights, giving the SUV a handsome chiseled front fascia. Its silhouette lacks the floating roof design found in almost every other Nissan but the profile is set off by attractive 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels that resemble a windmill in motion. Draped in a clean and safe shade of Pearl White metallic paint, this specific Qashqai doesn’t represent the playful side of its colour palette which includes unique hues like Monarch Orange, Nitro Lime, and Scarlet Ember.
Plopping down onto the leather-appointed seats, an exclusive to the top of the line SL model, we found the cabin to be spacious and ergonomically sound. All driver controls are within close reach and simple to operate. I appreciate the ease and simplicity behind the climate controls, and the D-shaped steering wheel, a staple in the Nissan family, offers access to a plethora of vehicle functions organized in a well-thought out and logical way: adaptive cruise regulations on the right, media and car telemetry adjustments on the left. As is the case with the Kicks, the 7-inch NissanConnect infotainment screen can be difficult to read under harsh sunlight, which admittedly happens more often in the Qashqai than the Kicks as a power sliding sunroof is standard on SV and SL models. Additionally, it’s disappointing to see driver and passenger auto up/down windows in the cheaper, sub-compact Kicks, while only the driver side auto up/down switch is available in the Qashqai. A discrepancy buyers will surely notice in cross-shopping within the lineup.
And cross-shop they certainly will, as the Qashqai’s drivetrain is one of the primary reasons prospective buyers will evaluate this, over a top-trim Kicks. Available in all three trims (S, SV, and standard in SL) is Nissan’s Intelligent AWD, which dynamically spreads the power across all four corners depending on the situation, adding a considerable amount of sure footedness for families living in the snowbelt. For example, on a snowy day and when picking up speed off a light, the system will divert torque to both front and rear axles for better traction and smoother pick up. In cruising situations the system will send power primarily through the front axle, effectively becoming two-wheel drive to help fuel efficiency.
A particularly anaemic 141-hp is produced from the 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder and it’s routed to the asphalt via an xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Put your foot to the floor and the CVT buzzes in protest as it wrings out every Japanese horse available to muster a pass on the highway. Likewise, the steering feels muted and uncommunicative, but is very responsive to inputs - an iconic Nissan trait. The chassis also balances a complaint ride without feeling overly damped. What’s important here is that in tight urban environments the Qashqai feels at home: maneuverable, nimble, and just the right size.
Make no mistake however, as the Qashqai won’t be the fastest on the block. Though I highly suspect would-be owners would be happy to make the trade off for the vast number of safety features available. And though both the Kicks and Qashqai come standard with Nissan’s SafetyShield 360 (a suite of safety monitoring systems), the latter can ratchet up the ante with ProPilot Assist, a batch of technologies that enables semi-autonomous driving capabilities.
Base pricing starts at $31,948, while this particular SL model comes equipped with the Platinum package ($2,150), adding a 7-speaker premium Bose audio system, LED headlights, fog lights, memory driver seats and mirrors. The Pearl White metallic paint option adds $300 to the sticker for an as-tested price of $34,398, almost $9,500 above the sticker price of a loaded Kicks. In this regard the Qashqai does offer a justified amount over the Kicks, including more interior space, safety technology, AWD, and performance. It may be larger, but the responsive steering makes the vehicle a breeze to plot through tight spaces. If it were my money, the front-driving SV trim would be the sweet spot here, offering just the right number of creature comforts while letting me pocket an extra $2,000 over the AWD model.
Model: 2020 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
Paint Type: Pearl White
Base Price: $31,948
Price as Tested: $34,398
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,380 / 1,838 / 1,587
Curb weight (kg): 1,530
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 141 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 147 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 9.0 / 7.7
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.8
Tires: 225/45R19 All Seasons