Tuesday, 20 March 2018

New Nissan gives decent lift-off

AN unlikely — even difficult — name need not be a handicap when marketing a new car. We are now,

AN unlikely — even difficult — name need not be a handicap when marketing a new car. We are now, in Britain, as multilingual in car names as we are multicultural in our national identity.

Every carmaker in the world — with the exception of some obscure marques — has a stake in this country, be it in manufacture, assembly or distribution of vehicles.

Makes and indeed names of cars that would have once been considered as distinctly foreign as the word “curry” are accessible and accepted with hardly a blink of the eye.

With a marvellous faith in the British understanding of fair play, Japanese, Korean and European carmakers have therefore come up with some uncompromising tongue-twisters for English-speaking car buyers.

One such is this week’s drive, the Nissan Qashqai. For a while I did have a problem with its pronunciation and spelling (the name defies the English language rule I was taught at school that a “u” follows a “q” and is pronounced “Cash Kai”).

For all that, I find seemingly dyed-in-the-wool Englishmen who are so British they still might otherwise be driving a Rover, singing the praises of the Qashqai. In fact, I do not think I have yet met an owner of a Qashqai who has had a bad word to say about the car.

It is easy to see why. This car has developed into a comfortable, compact crossover that has matured into an established model in Britain. Indeed, since its launch in March 2007, the Qashqai has become the “fastest selling model in the history of Nissan Europe”, according to the Japanese carmaker.

The test car, a 1.6dCi Qashqai, provided good evidence of this growing appeal. The smart, light-coloured leather interior was offset nicely by the car’s white paint finish. I particularly liked the new powerbase.

The 2012 range saw the introduction of a new Pure Drive version of the Qashqai powered by a new 1.6dCi engine coupled to the Stop/Start system already introduced on the 1.6-litre petrol model. Nissan says this advanced new engine “lets drivers enjoy the best of both worlds — greatly reduced emissions with improved in-gear performance”.

Replacing the 2.0dCi unit in the manual version, the 1.6-litre diesel returns CO2 emissions of an impressive 119g/km, without compromising on the level of performance of the bigger engine it replaced.

There is a distinctive “lift-off” when the driver touches the accelerator. I am a big fan of this willingness of an engine to perform: too often engines are good in size and alleged power yet somehow reluctant to perform on tap.

This is definitely not the case with the Qashqai. For a 1.6-litre it goes to the top of the class: top speed is 118mph, with 0 to 62mph taking 10.3 seconds (2WD model). Acceleration in the 30 to 50mph bracket is also quicker — only 6.29 seconds.

However, as one would expect from any car being produced in 2012/13, this performance gain has been achieved with the car’s “green” credentials intact. Combined fuel consumption is 62.8mpg as against 47.9mpg for the 2.0dCi, a 31 per cent improvement.

There’s also a 4WD version for tricky British winters, which is one of the lowest CO2-emitting crossovers on sale here (135g/km). With the arrival of this new 1.6dCi engine, the range line-up now encompasses two petrol and three diesel units. The entry-level 1.6-litre petrol develops 117PS while the 2.0-litre petrol produces 140PS. The entry-level diesel is the 110PS 1.5 dCi, while the 150PS 2.0-litre dCi unit remains to power the automatic 4WD version only.

As before, the range runs through Visia, Acenta and Tekna specifications with the special version n-tec+ featuring a high level of equipment.

So what’s in a name? The British, by accepting good cars such as the Qashqai with equanimity — simply because their ultimate desire is to buy a well-made, reliable car — proves that the name of the game is quality. Nissan also proves with the Qashqai that that particular requirement is in abundance at a reasonable price, ranging from £16,595 to £25,895.

lNissan has just launched a new addition to the Qashqai range, the 360, and hopes this will be the bestselling crossover so far. The 360 sits between the Acenta and Tekna trims, replacing the n-tec+ but offering more equipment for the same £19,945 starting price.

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