By Jonathon Taylor
I remember, in another life, getting a Japanese winter jacket. It was from a company whose name I can’t remember now and couldn’t pronounce then. Under the brand name, which read like a random assortment of linked vowels, was the phrase “For fine ski player” and all of a sudden the penny dropped — this was quantum mechanic English.
Now the trick with quantum mechanic English, just as it is with quantum mechanic anything, is to not even try understanding how it works; just accept that it does and enjoy the result — be it a jacket, a random name, or the wonder of existing so you can wear randomly named jackets.
The Nissan Qashqai is my new jacket. For a start, I can’t pronounce the name. I’m not even close. In fact every time I say it, it comes out different.
So I’ve been looking around the dashboard, in the boot and under the seats for nonsensical phrases I know I won’t find. Why won’t I find them? Because everything about the Qashqai, and yes, perhaps even its name, makes complete sense.
Nissan is labelling it a new breed of hatchback and from a target market perspective this might be pure genius, placing it squarely in the, for now, relatively barren niche where passenger cars morph with 4x4s.
It can muscle in on the SUV market, attracting buyers looking for a slightly more compact and less thirsty entity than your traditional SUV, while attracting hatch-backers looking for more space and utility, and all the while appealing to those already in the “standard family car” demographic.
So, it’s an off-roader for girls and a hatchback with attitude for the boys. Well that’s just not stupid! However you want to label it, this thing hit the road running. Within a month of its UK release Qashqai sales were double the anticipated number. It is now the fastest selling car in Nissan’s European history, prompting the nickname cash-cow in motoring circles.
The good news is you won’t need a similar nickname to afford one. It’s available in two models, the ST from $34,300 and the Ti from $37,300 with the difference essentially in the trim.
Under the hood sits a two litre inline 4 petrol engine producing 102kW of power and 198Nm of torque, yet delivering fuel economy of 7.89L/100km. Delivering this power is Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) which has a nifty 6-speed manual mode for those wanting a little more cog control from its front wheel drive.
The only problem here is the manual mode risks being redundant. I used it once then changed straight back to automatic where it stayed for the test’s duration, due to the truly impressive Xtronic transmission being smoother than Bill Clinton interviewing interns. No, I’m not exaggerating — it really is that smooth — all you hear are subtle changes of engine tone, opposed to feeling distinctive cog changes and, well, it’s brilliant.
The ride is relatively tight with suspension favouring the firm side for this kind of car. Where this pays off is on the open road as the Qashqai sits and swerves with accomplished verve.
Behind the wheel the first thing you that grabs your attention is the instrument panel’s centre LCD dial. It is rather orange. In fact, truth be told, it’s so orange I was initially concerned about not having lead-lined undies. But worry not — it fades to the background very quickly as you get accustomed to it.
Overall it’s a solid package with all the important ‘user friendliness’ boxes getting ticks; big boot, solid backseat legroom, good visibility, ergonomically friendly dash layout and more computing power than an Apollo rocket.
All fine and dandy then, but arguably the car’s greatest asset is it’s five star ANCAP rating — not something you’ll find given away for free in your cornies. Cue standard issue Electronic Stability Program (ESP), dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, EBD and BA braking systems, immobiliser and fog lamps.
Size wise the Qashqai sits considerably closer to SUVs than a hatchback, but with a tight turning circle, minimal front and rear overhang and trimmed of traditional 4×4 bulk, it’s an easy urban operator busting tight maneuvers in a snap.
So, it’s a nifty, zippy, safe and roomy greenie. Something there to keep everyone happy — I know I certainly was.
>> Qashqai is pronounced ‘cash-kai’ and named after a nomadic tribe from Iran