New Nissan Qashqai family SUV takes the fight to the Skoda Karoq with improved tech, more practicality and a fuel-efficient hybrid option
This is the all-new 2021 Nissan Qashqai, the third generation of the best-selling family SUV in the UK. The new model gets a complete ground-up overhaul, which includes new styling, better practicality, upgraded in-car and safety tech, plus more efficient engines – including an all-new hybrid powertrain.
The 2021 Qashqai comes following Nissan’s recent announcement that it has sold over one million crossovers in the UK alone since the first generation Qashqai launched back in 2007. That model set the template for family cars over the next decade, making SUVs more popular and influencing buyers, tempting them away from conventional family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
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The new Qashqai’s exterior design evolves its predecessor’s styling with a look that’s more solid and substantial despite growing by just 35mm in length and 32mm in width. There’s also a longer wheelbase to create an extra 28mm of legroom in the rear.
The front gets an updated interpretation of Nissan’s ‘V-Motion’ grille, and it's flanked by slim LED headlights which cut a C-shaped slash into the fascia. The refreshed look is helped by a floating roof effect, made possible by a contrasting paint finish for the top. There are 11 exterior colour options available, five of which can be chosen with a contrasting roof for a total of 16 combinations. Wheel sizes range from 17-20 inches – that maximum is one inch larger than what was offered on the second-generation Qashqai.
Inside, the Qashqai’s cabin is a great leap forward in both design and finish. A horizontal dash architecture sees the infotainment screen positioned on top of the dash, with the vents and physical air-conditioning controls moved below.
Nissan Qashqai: new infotainment and connectivity
The infotainment system now uses a nine-inch touchscreen with a much sharper resolution than before, plus online services that include fuel prices, Google street view and speed camera information. Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are offered too.
While the previous Qashqai’s traditional analogue dials and low-resolution, slow infotainment system meant it lagged behind the best in the class for tech, the new model is brought right up to date thanks to a new digital instrument cluster.
The customisable 12.3-inch screen allows the driver to prioritise driving data, sat-nav, entertainment or vehicle information, all via controls on the new steering wheel. That new panel is backed up by a 10.8-inch head-up display – the largest of its type in this segment – on the highest trim levels.
There’s also more connectivity, as the NissanConnect smartphone app allows owners to remotely control the car’s locks, lights and horn, plus send destinations to the car’s navigation system.
Nissan Qashqai: hybrid engines and chassis
Another huge change for the Qashqai comes underneath the bonnet. The Japanese brand has dropped diesel engines from the line-up, so the bulk of the range is filled by an evolution of the old car’s 1.3-litre DIG-T turbo petrol unit, now with mild-hybrid tech. It adds 22kg in weight, but reduces CO2 output by up to 4g/km, Nissan claims.
The engine is available with either 138bhp or 156bhp and up to 270Nm of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard on base models, while four-wheel drive is optional for the most powerful mild-hybrid. A CVT automatic with artificially stepped ratios is also on offer.
The biggest change, though, comes in the form of an all new hybrid unit, called ‘e-Power’. It uses a variable compression ratio 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor that delivers a total of 184bhp and 330Nm of torque. The new system is front-wheel-drive only.
However, it differs from hybrid systems used in cars like the Toyota Prius because the combustion unit never drives the wheels directly. Instead, it acts as a generator, providing charge to a small battery, which then sends energy to the electric motor.
According to Nissan, this gives the e-Power unit characteristics we’ve come to expect from fully electric vehicles, such as instant torque delivery and seamless acceleration. Official emissions and economy figures are to be confirmed, but it should make this variant the most fuel-efficient model in the lineup.
Just like the Nissan Leaf, the Qashqai e-Power will be capable of one pedal driving. However, all-electric zero emissions running will be limited to around one mile only.
The latest Qashqai rides on an updated version of its predecessor’s CMF-C architecture. Nissan has used more high-strength steel, optimised the chassis’s bonding techniques and designed a reshaped floor structure to make the platform stronger and more rigid than ever.
Despite this, the body-in-white is 60kg lighter than before, while further weight has been saved thanks to an aluminium bonnet, doors and front wings, plus a composite boot lid. The wheelbase has grown by 20mm, helping boost room inside, while Nissan says that the suspension layout has also been redesigned.
At the front there’s an updated MacPherson strut set-up, while models equipped with four-wheel drive or those that ride on 20-inch wheels get a multi-link set up at the back. The rest of the range uses a torsion beam arrangement. Revisions to the steering setup aim to improve precision and increase feel around the straight-ahead.
Nissan Qashqai: improved practicality and safety
The growth in size of the platform has helped boost the level of flexibility on offer – all-important for a family SUV. Focus has gone into increasing the impression of width inside, helped by the way the dash cuts into the door trim. However, that feeling is also thanks to a physically wider cabin, which has given front occupants an extra 28mm of shoulder room.
Practicality has improved elsewhere, too. The Qashqai’s boot space has grown to 504 litres, which is 74 litres more than the previous model offered, and close to the 520-litre Skoda Karoq. The two-piece false floor is reversible with a wipe clean side, while extra lighting and a 12-volt socket make the space more usable than on the outgoing car.
The door cubbies are larger than with its predecessor, the cup-holders have been repositioned so that they don’t get in the way of gearchanges, and Nissan says that a new wireless charging pad can charge a smartphone device faster than similar setups in any of its rivals. Access to the back seats is made easier thanks to doors that now open up to 85 degrees, which could prove useful if you’ll be strapping children into their child seats.
The latest Qashqai benefits from a range of new and updated driver assistance systems. Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control has been enhanced for the latest Qashqai and can adapt to road conditions, such as speed limit data provided through a link to the sat-nav.
The blind spot warning system can now intervene and make a steering input so you don’t move into traffic in an adjacent lane, while the car can automatically brake if the driver reverses towards oncoming vehicles. There’s also the usual level of tech when it comes to autonomous emergency braking.
The new Qashqai is set to go on sale this summer. Prices are still to be confirmed, but the introduction of mild hybrid powertrains and increased tech means that price will likely climb beyond the outgoing car’s £23,550 entry point.
Q&A with Matthew Weaver
Vice President, Nissan Design Europe
Q: It must be tricky designing a car that’s as popular as the Qashqai. How do you decide what must change and what details should be carried over?
A: I think we’ve hit on a golden zone with the new Qashqai. People need to recognise that it’s a Qashqai straight away, as Qashqai has become a household name. But at Nissan we try to push quite hard and evolve the segment. We have 20 competitors in Europe in this segment, so for the design we wanted quite a big jump from the current generation – I think we’ve done that, yet we’ve kept that DNA.
We have certain things around the car so that you can identify; the V-Motion grille, which from the first model to now has slowly become more of a priority. With the Qashqai it’s always the silhouette that is key. The previous car was just the right size so we didn't completely change that for this car, it didn’t grow massively or become a much harder outline. Particularly the rear screen and the A pillars are very ‘Qashqai.’
The package is very similar so we’ve got a good stance.
Q: You’ve changed the C-pillar design quite a bit from previous models. What was the aim there?
A: We’ve got a two-tone roof, firstly, and the thing with a two-tone is that you don’t want masking lines. So we use the quarterlights or the panel splits, and we’ve gone super flush with really tight panel gaps. The two-tone is good for lowering the gravity of a car [making it look lower], so it takes a sporty shape and lowers the gravity a bit more without compromising head room.
Q: From side-on the boot lid looks almost like it’s angled backwards. Is that to boost boot space?
A: It’s a few things. The sloping window detail is very much Qashqai, as is the angle to the screen to the badge. It’s also good for aerodynamics, and of course we wanted to increase boot capacity.
So overall, without expanding the car too much we’ve found space. And it actually stretches the cabin, so if you look from the side, the car looks a bit faster, so we’re trying to get this very dynamic look to the car.
Q: It’s obvious that the interior is completely different from the previous one. What was your aim inside?
A: We wanted to give an uplifting feeling to the interior. It is wider overall, but actually with the new instrument panel we wanted to emphasise this width, so the chrome strip you see across the dash really pulls your eyes out to the door. We wanted to pull it super wide.
The heating controls are quite slim, and you’ve got the nine-inch screen on the top. And we’ve tried to use more wrapping on the doors, so everything feels like it’s upshifted in spec.
We’ve got the 12-inch TFT digital display as well. We’ve also got ambient lighting, around the gearshift there's a chrome trim and there’s ambient lighting through there. There’s a precision to it – rather than just having loads of light flooding in, it’s just these really nice pin stripes – I really like that because it’s subtle.
Q: And there’s been a focus on improving practicality, too…
Nissan is always right on that, we have to make things look as good as we can make it, but it also has to all work.
The steering wheel is new to Qashqai, and it will be going across the Nissan range, so that will be rolled out onto other models at life cycle updates.
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