SUNDAY DRIVE: 2009 Nissan Qashqai - Mini SUV in Cascais
Published: Sunday | June 28, 2009
It has been a year since Automotives visited the historic streets of Cascais, Portugal - while we drove the entire line available to the Jamaican public at that time, there were a few choice vehicles that at that time did not come to these shores - and it looked like some of those cars never would. The entire Infiniti line was there for the asking, a couple of micro cars and, of course, the GTR - we had fun with a capital FUN.
One of these grey market SUVs was a little number they called the Qashqai, and it has broken the grey barrier and burst into the world of colour. Nissan's Sales Manager Ricky Georzoung has said that the Qashqai is Jamaican bound; the midget SUV should be available by late '09.
Named after a nomadic tribe in Iran, Qashqai is a crossover SUV fighting for market share with the Honda CRV, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, as well as Nissan's own X-Trail, which it beats on price. Nissan's upstart baby SUV was first released in 2007 with a sales target of 100,000 cars per year. Available in 4x4 and 2x4 models, Qashqai is based on the X-Trail but is 315 mm shorter while maintaining almost identical width (1780 mm) and height (1615 mm). Wheelbase is also shorter than its big brother - Xtrail has a 100 mm disadvantage at 2530 mm.
Rotary temp climate control knobs and digital readouts are the focal points of Qashqai's interior, its CVT tranny actuated by a pleasant feeling golf ball shifter. The vehicle comes with dual zone air at the base price of US$48,755. There is a long wheelbase version that is about eight inches longer but the jury's still out on that one as to whether it will be coming here. The overall feel is typical Nissan; bulky three-spoke steering wheel heavy with airbag - plastic dash, but with good tactile feel - and logically placed controls with expensive feeling travel. The car is also produced in left hand drive config, which we drove in Europe; both right hand and left hand drive have the E-brake position located in the same place, which is an over the console reach for the right hand drive.
We drove both the 2x4 and 4x4 versions through the streets of Cascais - which, by the way, is pronounced just like the subject of today's test drive - and we found the distinctive shape turning heads as we made our way. It is not marketed as an off roader; the 4WD drive system does deactivate, so mileage should be better in 2WD mode. The MR20DE engine pulled sweetly from rest - there is just the faintest whiff of induction noise that is allowed to permeate through the cabin, but engine noise on a whole is never intrusive.
Its 140 hp is blunted by the 3,000 lb it has to haul around. But the CVT does allow the engine to wind up, and some exotic rates of travel are available from this set up. Again, the side is let down by Nissan only allowing the discs-at-front-drums-at-rear config to come here. At a little more than $4.3 million a pop, Automotives thinks they are shooting themselves in the foot.
Ride was exemplary over the cobblestones resplendent in Cascais - the four-wheel drive really helped in the handling over uneven surfaces, and this is why it is shipped with it. Sure, it is good for mud and slippery stuff, but it really aids the handling during high-speed transient manoeuvres, like braking on wet asphalt while steering around obstacles. It adds to the safety of the unit.
Nissan's Qashqai is brought to market to give fans of the marque a cheaper, less versatile version to the Xtrail. The target of 100,000 sales in Europe its first year was met, so the top brass will think they are on to something here. Mileage is still an unknown factor - to be truthful, we were busy drinking in the flora and fauna - but in 2WD drive mode with CVT, the two-litre shouldn't be excessive.