Mid-size sedan sales may be on a downward trend, but the once dominant market segment still makes up a significant portion of most mainstream brands’ sales volumes, so therefore they remain a critically…
Mid-size sedan sales may be on a downward trend, but the once dominant market segment still makes up a significant portion of most mainstream brands’ sales volumes, so therefore they remain a critically important ingredient for overall success.
To put this in perspective, Nissan sold 16.7 percent more Altima mid-size sedans than Sentra compact four-doors in the U.S. last year, with 254,996 examples of the former and 218,451 of the latter delivered. Here in Canada the numbers are reversed at 6,626 for the Altima and 13,883 for the Sentra, but the larger, pricier car is more profitable, so it nevertheless remains an important model in the lineup.
Like many in this segment, Altima numbers have taken a hit in recent years. In fact, they’ve been steadily sliding for decades, the mid-size Nissan having lost 64.2 percent in sales volume over the past decade and a half, 36.8 percent of which was only in the last five years.
That’s almost as long as the current fifth-generation Altima has been with us, its production starting in May of 2012. The mid-size four-door received a dramatic facelift for the 2016 model year, adapting the brand’s new Vmotion grille and other stylish improvements, but three more years of availability means the time for change has come once again.
Enter the 2019 Nissan Altima, a much bolder looking mid-size four-door sedan that should please fans of the nameplate that have been looking forward to an update. It now wears Nissan’s Vmotion 2.0 grille, which is a reshaped version of the now trademark Nissan grille design. Basically the “V” shape of the new Altima’s grille has been flattened on the bottom to form more of a “U”, just like other recent Nissan redesigns. Also, following current trends that grille has grown to epic proportions, giving the car a grander, more premium look.
Additionally, new LED headlamps and taillights look sharper and more sophisticated, while the rear C-pillars feature a narrow glossy black strip for a floating roof effect, similar to that on the brand’s flagship Maxima luxury sedan. From front to back the new look is hardly subtle, but it was tastefully penned so should be widely accepted by Altima owners and newcomers alike.
The updated model is 25 mm (1.0 in) longer, 23 mm (0.9 in) wider and 28 mm (1.1 in) lower than the car it replaces, giving it a sportier stance all-round, while its wheelbase has grown by 48 mm (1.9 in). The sleek sheetmetal helps Nissan achieve a slippery 0.26 coefficient of drag, improving highway fuel economy while reducing wind noise, plus its larger dimensions provide more interior room all-round. Additionally, the wheels have been pushed farther to each corner, adding to its athletic appearance while theoretically providing more stability at high speed and a better ride, but we’ll have to wait for a test drive before confirmation.
That should happen shortly after the updated Altima arrives this fall, at which point we’ll also be able to advise on its reportedly quieter, smoother and more efficient 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, now 9 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque stronger than the outgoing engine at 188 horsepower and 180 lb-ft; its revised Xtronic CVT that gets an expanded lock-up area for improved fuel economy, plus available paddle shifters; and its standard all-wheel drive.
Yes, for the first time ever the 2019 Altima won’t be available with front-wheel drive, at least not in Canada. This is a bold move for the brand’s Canadian division, but it certainly separates it from most competitors that don’t offer AWD at all.
Dubbed Intelligent AWD, it features an advanced torque split design that automatically distributes power from 100 percent up front and zero at the rear, all the way to an even division of 50 percent front to rear. The bias depends on road conditions and resulting wheel slippage, with the default being front-wheel drive to save fuel. Nissan says the new AWD system works seamlessly with the Altima’s standard limited-slip differential too, plus its Hill Start Assist system.
Currently, Ford offers AWD with its 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine, found optionally in its near-premium trimmed Titanium and Platinum non-hybrid models, plus standard on its performance-oriented Fusion Sport, a 325 horsepower beast that’s a bit of an anomaly in this mostly fuel-efficiency focused segment, while the Subaru Legacy is the only mid-size sedan entrant to provide standard AWD, and it’s a minor player in Canada’s market with last year’s volume sitting at just 2,451 units compared to the Altima’s 6,626, let alone the Honda Accord’s 13,504 deliveries and the Toyota Camry’s 14,574.
The Subie actually brings up the rear in this 10 model strong segment, but Nissan no doubt isn’t feeling too proud about besting its fellow countryman, because it only sits sixth in sales, with the (soon to be cancelled) Ford Fusion in third with 9,736 deliveries in 2017, the Chevrolet Malibu in fourth with 8,152, and the Hyundai Sonata in fifth with 7,827. Amongst the stragglers is the Kia Optima with 4,496 down the road last year, Volkswagen Passat (and CC) with 4,145, Chrysler 200 (no longer available) with 2,842, and Mazda 6 with 2,541. Time will tell if all the changes made to the new Altima will push it further up the sales chart, but a quick tour of the interior makes its prospects look promising.
Nissan promises a sporty yet sophisticated cabin that replaces traditional chrome embellishment with matte chrome accents and satin finishes, while there’s a bit less of each than with previous Altima models for a more modern look. This said it’s not a breakthrough design, but instead features a lower dash top resulting in an airier, more open ambience, the entire instrument panel tastefully minimalist, seeming to naturally flow from one element to the next.
Likewise it’s almost completely devoid of clutter, with most centre stack controls housed in a large 8.0-inch fixed tablet-style infotainment touchscreen protruding upward from the dash top, this complete with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera, and more. A nicely sorted dual-zone automatic climate control interface sits on its own just below, while the driver gets a dedicated full-colour 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster.
Nissan says it put special emphasis on giving all of the Altima’s switches and controls “an intuitive, effortless feel and natural operation,” so we’re looking forward to experiencing the result of this concentrated effort, while the NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats have our curiosity piqued as well. Nissan claims these are especially good at providing long driving range comfort thanks to dual-density foam, plus some extra bolstering is said to improve support while driving around town.
Something else that sets the Altima apart from key rivals is Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving technology. To be clear, ProPilot Assist doesn’t turn your Altima into a self-driving autonomous vehicle, but instead helps to keep drivers in the middle of a chosen lane by adjusting the steering automatically, has the ability to navigate stop-and-go traffic, and maintains set speeds and distances to vehicles ahead, simply by pressing two buttons. Basically, all you need to do is activate the system and then set the adaptive cruise control, at which point the Altima will steer itself as long as your hands are still touching the wheel.
Of note, Canadian Altima buyers won’t yet have the option of Nissan’s new variable compression turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, or VC-Turbo that can vary its compression ratio from 8:1 to 14:1 through an innovative system that can alter the piston throw inside the cylinder, resulting in 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque when fuel with premium unleaded. Why the negative news? Because this highly advanced engine is only mated to the model’s front-wheel drivetrain, and so far no AWD option is available outside of Infiniti’s new QX50. As you may have guessed it’s available as an Altima option south of the 49th, as is AWD, their base model being our 2.5-litre four mated to FWD.
Both markets will receive the same standard front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, plus identical electric power steering systems, featuring new dual steering pinions for improved precision, while an upscale set of monotube rear shocks improves damping.
We won’t know about standard features, trims and pricing until closer to launch, or for that matter anything to do with options and packages, but we can expect the same eight-way powered driver’s seat as offered to our American friends, plus standard fabric and optional leather upholstery, heated front seats, LED headlights, a Bose audio upgrade, available navigation, a powered moonroof, and more, while a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems will likely include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blindspot monitoring, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and more.
Stay tuned for a more detailed report as the fall of 2018 draws near.
When Q2 of 2018 came to a close, Nissan Group certainly had reason to celebrate thanks to its Canadian division achieving its best June ever. Sales increased to 16,330 units nationwide last month, which…
When Q2 of 2018 came to a close, Nissan Group certainly had reason to celebrate thanks to its Canadian division achieving its best June ever. Sales increased to 16,330 units nationwide last month, which represents a 2.0-percent year-over-year increase as well as an all-time monthly sales record.
Breaking that total down by brand, the automaker’s namesake Nissan division sold 14,932 units, providing a 0.9-percent increase, which left the Infiniti luxury brand with 1,398 new model sales, this being a 16.3-percent improvement over June of 2017.
The top-selling Nissan model remains the ever-popular Rogue compact crossover SUV, which found 4,342 new owners in June, whereas the smaller Qashqai crossover achieved a new all-time record of 2,150 sales during the same 30 days, helping it continue forward as the second best-selling model in Nissan’s Canadian lineup.
Also impressive, the all-new, all-electric Leaf EV set a June sales record as well, with 492 units down the road. Additionally, Nissan has found 2,408 new Leaf buyers during the 2018 calendar year-to-date, building on one of the Japanese brand’s most significant success stories.
A newcomer to the Nissan family got off to a good start in June as well, with the 2018 Kicks subcompact crossover SUV selling a total of 609 units during its first full month, while at the other end of the size spectrum the Titan full-size pickup truck recorded its best June ever at 684 units, a gain of 61.3 percent when compared to June of 2017.
Continuing on the XXL theme, the Armada full-size SUV had a solid month of sales too, achieving its best June ever thanks to 156 deliveries, which represents an increase of 16.4 percent from the same month last year.
In other positive June news, the 370Z and GT-R sports cars grew their sales by 14.3 and 20.0 percent respectively, while the NV200 and NV commercial vans experienced 13.0 and 13.6 percent growth.
All in all, cars have seen stronger year-over-year growth since the beginning of 2018, with year-to-date Nissan car sales having increased by 16.3 percent, and YTD SUV and truck deliveries decreasing by 5.9 percent.
I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice…
I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice I didn’t say Trump… oops), but rather how the Nissan Rogue managed to speed into the compact SUV segment’s top sales position.
Tops in the U.S. means it’s also the best-selling compact SUV in North America, its U.S. and Canadian combined sales reaching 237,606 units over the first six months of 2018 compared to 224,996 for last year’s sales leading Toyota RAV4. While many factors can play into market success, another week with a Rogue SL Platinum AWD reminded me of a number of very likely reasons it’s doing so well.
First of all, the Rogue remains a great looking crossover SUV despite this second-gen model having been with us since 2013. Of course, it had a stylish mid-cycle update just last year, which saw Nissan’s broader more “U” shaped “Vmotion 2.0” grille add a bit more masculine ruggedness to the otherwise sleek design, while its headlights received more sophisticated inner complexity thanks to quad beams and standard signature LED daytime running lamps. Additionally, full LEDs were made available to the previously tested and currently reviewed SL Platinum, while a reworked lower front fascia was included with all trims, receiving a narrow strip of LED fog lights with both SV and SL Platinum models. Less dramatic modifications were made down each side and at the rear, yet the result is a much more assertive looking compact SUV.
This said the 2017 update did more than just refresh Rogue styling, it also improved interior refinement, modernized some technologies, and made a bevy of advanced driver assistance features available. Safety has even been strengthened further for 2018, with Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert now standard across the entire Rogue line, while you’ll still need to step up to SL Platinum trim to have Pedestrian Detection added to the Forward Emergency Braking system, plus Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Moving Object Detection, automatic high beam headlights, and adaptive Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range and hold.
Last year this gear earned the Rogue a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS when the SL Platinum trim’s standard LED headlamps with Smartbeam were factored in, but being that the U.S. government organization keeps moving the goalposts further away in order to raise safety standards it now only garners Top Safety Pick status.
Even bigger news this year is the addition of Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system to SL Platinum trim. The top-tier model is actually called SL Platinum ProPilot Assist on Nissan Canada’s retail website, and it’s a good thing it’s not a pricey option as buyers might feel shortchanged once the initial wow factor wears off.
Yes it will certainly impress the uninitiated, thanks to its ability to almost completely take over driving functions on the highway, even coming to a full stop in bumper-to-bumper traffic or changing lanes after you signal a desire to do so, but imagine for a moment the need to place both hands back on the steering wheel every eight seconds in order to prevent a warning chime from sounding off and red dash light from flashing, which gets a lot more annoying if you don’t, and it soon becomes evident this future technology is not ready for prime time.
To be fair (and not rile the Nissan PR reps that are very clear about what ProPilot “Assist” can and cannot do), this is a hands-on system, not designed to work while your hands are on your lap, behind your head with the driver’s seatback reclined, and certainly not holding a smartphone, tablet or book. That’s the stuff of a fully autonomous driving future (or brave Tesla owners), the Nissan system alternatively providing steering assistance that some find helps to reduce fatigue over a long distance.
And don’t worry about falling asleep, as the constant beeping that occurs when veering too close to a lane marking will keep you fully awake and alert, and possibly annoyed. I’m not one for incessant beeping, sometimes causing me to turn off overly sensitive parking sensor systems, so therefore this ProPilot setup wouldn’t work for me, but I can appreciate why some drivers would like it.
So go ahead and have some fun with it, because it’s really cool to watch the steering wheel turn on its own while your Rogue remains safely within its lane, and it only needs you to turn on the adaptive cruise control, set a given top speed, and press a blue button on the steering wheel to initiate.
Also notable, ProPilot Assist will change lanes automatically just by flicking the turn signal. After analyzing the adjacent lane and finding a safe entry point it quickly moves to the right or left as per your signal indication. I could really see this feature assisting new drivers that are sometimes intimidated to change lanes at highway speeds. This said make sure to check your mirrors, as this technology is in its infancy and therefore can’t yet be relied upon 100 percent.
What’s more, don’t attempt to use its change lane feature to exit a highway, because once in the exit lane ProPilot Assist won’t slow down or turn to follow the off ramp. In fact, if I hadn’t taken over the controls it would’ve driven straight off the exit lane into the ditch. Granted, Nissan says only to use this system on a limited access highway, but being a curious journalist I just had to find out where that highway ends with respect to ProPilot Assist. Now I know, it ends in the exit lane, or before, if you really want to be cautious.
So kudos to Nissan for being the first mainstream volume brand to bring semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving to market. I’m sure it will improve with each new application, something Nissan has promised as it rolls out more autonomous capability in the future, including its ability to be used in city traffic.
Additional standard SL Platinum features not yet mentioned include 225/55R19 all-season tires on 19-inch alloys, an electromechanical parking brake (lesser trims get a foot-operated one), memory for the side mirrors and front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel, a leather shift knob, leather upholstery, dual-zone auto climate control, an Around View parking monitor, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, NissanConnect with mobile apps, a really good Bose audio system with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, and a motion-activated powered liftgate, plus it’s the only trim in the line that comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Take note the four-way powered front passenger’s seat has been deleted from SL Platinum trim for 2018, and I would’ve liked to see ventilated front seats and heatable rear seats added to the top-line features list, but nevertheless this top-line model still provides a significant load of high-end features for $37,098 plus freight and dealer fees, that number representing an $800 increase over last year’s non-ProPilot Assist equipped version, or so I found out at CarCostCanada.com, your best source for new vehicle pricing, dealer invoice pricing, and important rebate information.
There’s just one factory upgrade available with the SL, but the Platinum Reserve Interior package appears worth the extra $500 if you like rich appearances. It adds unique Tan leather-appointed seats with special quilted leather inserts. Alternatively, my tester’s Pearl White exterior paint makes no-cost Almond leather available, an interior treatment that would no doubt look good with Magnetic Black or Caspian Blue too if it were made available (it’s not, despite being offered south of the 49th along with a host of other exterior colours), although probably not with Gun Metallic grey.
Just so you know, you’ll only need to have the proximity-sensing key fob in your pocket or purse to access either front door or rear liftgate, which is also power operated. Nissan’s Intelligent Key comes with pushbutton ignition in $28,598 SV trim, with other features from this mid-range model including fog lamps, LED turn signals on the side mirror housings, roof rails, rear privacy glass, remote engine start, an eight-way power driver’s seat including two-way powered lumbar, a retractable cargo cover, and more.
Notably, you can also choose a special blacked-out Midnight Edition, a nice upgrade for those wanting a sportier looking Rogue. While based on the SV, it also includes that trim’s otherwise $2,600 Technology package, which adds the dual-zone auto HVAC, Around View monitor, navigation, leather, powered liftgate, Moving Object Detection, and more from other trims, all for $34,198.
Features pulled up to my top-line SL Platinum model from $26,298 base S trim include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, variable intermittent wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, LED map lights, mood lighting, overhead sunglasses storage, micro-filtered air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, hands-free text messaging, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with satellite radio, USB and aux ports, Quick Comfort heated front seats (they heat up really fast), four cargo tie-down hooks, a rear seat pass-through, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.
Once inside I’m sure you’ll appreciate the care and attention Nissan has given to the cabin. It actually comes close to matching some premium brands, and while it’s missing upper crust compact luxury segment accoutrements like fabric-wrapped roof pillars, fully configurable digital gauges, and soft-touch rear door uppers, the entire dash-top and front door uppers are made from a nice soft padded synthetic.
What’s more, Nissan also finished the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger with padded and French-stitched leatherette, while the driver gets a leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel with aluminized spokes, plus a leather metal and glossy black shift knob, a leatherette shift boot, and plenty of piano black lacquered surfacing around that shifter and across the centre stack. The door panel trim looks more like carbon fibre, but it matches nicely and dresses up the look well, while the armrests at each side and at centre feature stitched padded leatherette to match the instrument panel bolster and the same treatment on each side of lower console, this last feature not only looking good, but also preventing chafing of the driver and front passenger’s inside knees.
Analogue gauges with excellent backlighting are joined by a large colour multi-information display directly in front of the driver, providing easily accessible information on key functions, including the aforementioned ProPilot Assist system.
Over on the centre stack, a 7.0-inch touchscreen provides most everything someone buying into a premium-level compact SUV could want. Its resolution is good, albeit not the clearest or crispest in the industry, and being a matte finish the depth of colour and contrast isn’t quite as rich, but fewer fingerprints will be a positive for many, while the infotainment interface is very good. It includes easy connectivity for your smartphone and streaming audio, plus the audio section gets bright and colourful thanks to album graphics when using satellite radio, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the line.
The navigation system is also impressive, with accurate directions via clear, detailed mapping. It even took us via the quickest route, and by so doing reminded me of alternative choices I hadn’t used for a long time. The upgraded parking camera was equally impressive, as it features a split screen that shows the usual rear view with active guidelines, as well as a top view with 360-degree surround visuals.
Just below the touchscreen is a nicely sorted dual-zone automatic HVAC interface, with large well-made chrome-trimmed knobs and tight fitting buttons, plus a sizeable display screen.
The driver’s seat controls provide plenty of adjustment, but I could have used a bit more reach from the telescopic steering column in order to set myself up for better comfort and control, a common problem due to having longer legs than torso. The seat itself is very supportive, cupping the small of the back nicely and providing ample side bolstering for this class of vehicle, while headroom and side-to-side spaciousness won’t likely be a problem for most body types.
It certainly wasn’t for my regular sized five-foot-eight, medium-build frame, and with the driver’s seat positioned as ideally as possible I climbed into the back to check rear roominess, only to find that I still had loads of space to move around, with about eight inches ahead of my knees, plus plenty of space under the seats for the big boots I was wearing, allowing my legs to almost fully stretch out. Likewise, there was about three and a half inches left over above my head and three next to my shoulder and the window, plus about the same from my hips to the door panel.
Other than the hard plastic door upper, that rear door panel is finished just as nicely as the one up front, while incandescent reading lamps for each outboard passenger, and large vents on the backside of the front console was about it for extras. And no I’m not forgetting to mention the rear centre armrest because there isn’t one in the traditional sense, the Rogue instead giving rear passengers the option of folding down the centre pass-through that includes dual cupholders and enough room to each side for resting arms, but its hard plastic surfacing isn’t very comfortable. Most competitors that offer both an armrest and pass-through provide a separate door for the latter, but I’d take a pass-through over a rear armrest any day, so I can hardly complain.
Another positive is the panoramic sunroof that really opens up the rear compartment from a visual perspective, while I should also point out that back seat visibility is excellent, as the side windows are tall and extend quite far toward the rear.
As accommodating as the Rogue is for passengers, it’s a cargo hauler’s dream thanks to 60/40 split seatbacks that open up the rear storage area from 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) to 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet), making it one of the more capacious compact SUVs available. The rearmost portion is also quite flexible, its standard two-piece adjustable Divide-N-Hide shelving system starting off down on the floor, capable of being moved up in tandem to make a flat loading area when the seats are lowered, or alternatively set up higher for a shelf above a larger load below. It’s a smart, innovative cargo system that really sets the Rogue apart. This said, when the need to lower the rear seats presents itself you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors, as Nissan doesn’t provide levers on the cargo walls to do this automatically like some others in the compact SUV segment.
Back in the driver’s seat, the Rogue gets positive marks for its excellent ride quality, overall comfort and impressive quietness. This is just another way it feels like a premium compact SUV, while its drivetrain is one of the smoothest operators in the category too. On that note, it’s probably not the ideal compact SUV for performance enthusiasts, as its sole 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes just 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while the continuously variable transmission (CVT) it comes mated to was primarily designed for smooth, silky operation over snap-to-it get-up-and-go. Nissan does include a manual mode via the shift lever, but I only used it for testing and wasn’t amused.
Just the same, the Rogue moves away smartly from stoplights, has no problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway and is a relative miser with fuel, its Transport Canada rating an estimated 9.7 L/100km in the city, 7.4 in the city and 8.7 combined with as-tested AWD, or an even thriftier 9.2 city, 7.0 highway and 8.2 combined with FWD models.
Similar to the Rogue’s straight-line performance, its comfortable suspension setup isn’t optimized towards sport, so it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride. Don’t get me wrong as it can snake through a set of fast-paced corners quickly enough, holding on commendably, but it just doesn’t feel as secure doing so as some others in the compact SUV segment. I don’t believe this will be much of an issue for most buyers, as all the big sellers in this class are similarly biased toward comfort.
And to tell you the truth, that’s exactly how I like my family haulers. It’s a very rare moment that I get to put a vehicle through its paces when not searching out a suitable road or track for testing purposes, as life behind the wheel is more often than not experienced amid thick, congested traffic, or at best a cruise up the highway for a weekend getaway. Therefore comfort takes priority over sport in this category, hence why the Nissan Rogue is finding so much success.
To that end the 2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum is a wonderful all-round people pleaser, providing performance that’s more than adequate, impressive economy, a comfortable, fully featured, spacious interior that’s big on luxury, and some pretty cool new tech. It should definitely be on your shortlist.
Nissan knows a thing or two about SUVs. In fact, the Japanese brand offers more sport utilities than any other mainstream volume brand. Nissan currently offers six unique SUV models to Canadian new…
Nissan knows a thing or two about SUVs. In fact, the Japanese brand offers more sport utilities than any other mainstream volume brand.
Nissan currently offers six unique SUV models to Canadian new car buyers, which amazingly is one model more than Toyota, Ford, Chevy or even Jeep currently had available at the time of writing, plus many more than other rivals. What’s more, its experience building SUVs goes back nearly seven decades. Therefore it only makes sense they’d come up with a solid entry-level model to back up that good name.
If you previously perused my 2017 Qashqai SL AWD road test you’d already know I’ve become a fan, and I must say this 2018 Qashqai S FWD had me even more enamoured. It’s the Nissan Micra of SUVs, and I mean that in plenty of good ways. The Qashqai is inexpensive, comfortable, solidly built, reasonably well equipped, economical, and plenty of fun to drive, which is exactly the type of small SUV that first-time or fixed-income buyers need.
Proof of this is in the pudding, or more specifically in sales numbers that do a fairly good job of showing a vehicle’s popularity, providing dealers in respective markets can allocate enough to sell. I’m guessing that Nissan Canada’s retailers haven’t experienced much in the way of Qashqai shortages as the new model has quickly jumped into first place with 3,748 units sold over the initial three months of 2018. That number makes it 414 examples more successful than the Subaru Crosstrek, plus a shocking 993 deliveries more impressive than the longtime bestselling Honda HR-V that was down 16.7 percent over the same quarter, which as you can see was also eclipsed by the little Subie SUV that saw its Q1 2018 year-over-year sales rise by a shocking 121.4 percent. Not a bad start to the year for either SUV.
The numerous keys to the new Qashqai’s success include attractive styling, strong performance, an efficient powertrain, interior comfort and quality, practicality, and generous features for the money, that last point especially true being that the Qashqai S FWD being reviewed here starts at just $19,998 plus freight and fees, as found on CarCostCanada.com (where you can access the most accurate retail pricing including invoice pricing and rebate info), making it the most affordable SUV in Canada—at least until the $17,998 Nissan Kicks arrives this summer. See what I mean about it being the Micra of SUVs?
Of course, the Kicks will soon take over that mantle in both price and size. The Qashqai is actually a bit larger than the class average despite its value proposition. It measures 4,379 millimetres (172.4 inches) from nose to tail, with a 2,647-mm (104.2-inch) wheelbase in between, while it spans 1,836 mm (72.3 inches) in width and reaches 1,587 mm (62.5 inches) from the base of its tires to the uppermost point of the roof.
As you might imagine that extra size creates more space for driver and passengers, plus it provides the most cargo space of all when the seats are laid flat at 1,730 litres (61.1 cubic feet). Its 648-litres (22.9 cubic-foot) capacity with the seats upright is impressive as well, albeit only second in the segment behind the aforementioned HR-V.
Changing gears, both figuratively and literally, a key reason my Qashqai S FWD started below $20k was its standard six-speed manual transmission. You can get the same SUV with a fully automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), but it pushes the price up $2,700 to $22,698. The CVT comes standard in the Qashqai’s two upper trims, SV and SL, so if you want the manual you’ll need to stick with the bargain basement S FWD model. Alternatively if you want AWD you’ll need to accept the CVT, that model starting at $24,898.
The SUV I just spent a week with is the base Qashqai S FWD, optioned out with $135 Gun Metallic grey paint. Dealer added accessories aside, that’s it for extras. Still, the Qashqai S was quite livable thanks to a healthy list of standard features that includes heated power-adjustable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, air conditioning, a 5.0-inch colour infotainment display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, text message read and response capability, Siri Eyes Free, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio, heatable front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, six cargo area tie-down hooks, tire pressure monitoring with Easy Fill Tire Alert, all the expected passive and active safety features, plus more.
Walking around this stylish little SUV shows that Nissan only skimped on the wheels, 16-inch steel rims on 215/65 all-season rubber being normal for base models in this class. Nevertheless the silver metallic covers look surprisingly convincing from a distance, while I was even more impressed by the bright chromed grille and side window surrounds, the equally dazzling LED daytime running lights within the projector headlamps, the ultra-slim LED turn signals integrated into the body-colour side mirror housings, the body-colour door handles, body-colour rooftop spoiler, and the SUV’s overall classy appearance in its aforementioned coat of metallic grey.
Click the substantive switchblade-style key fob, open the door and you’re immediately greeted by a higher level of refinement than anyone could possibly expect for this pauper’s price. The front door uppers are padded and covered with high-quality premium leather-like synthetic, this premium-like surface treatment finishing off the entire dash-top as well. Additionally, the door and centre armrest get comfortable, padded, woven cloth armrests featuring contrast grey stitching, while the seat upholstery receives a similar treatment for the bolsters and an attractive wavy pattern in black and grey for the inserts.
The front and rear doors open nice and wide, making access easy. The little SUV’s height advantage over a car helps in this respect too, and I have to say Nissan does driver’s seats better than a number of others in this class as well. Despite being a base model without the SL’s powered actuation or adjustable lumbar support it was inherently comfortable, with good lower back support and excellent side bolstering.
Setting up a good driver’s position was easy, and while this might be expected this day and age, peoples’ varying body types are often overlooked. For instance, my longer legs and shorter torso means that I need more telescopic reach than some others, and a few brands aren’t too generous in this respect. Such is not a problem with the Qashqai, allowing me to fit in ideally.
The steering wheel isn’t wrapped in leather, but it’s comfortably thick and padded just the same, plus it’s shaped as if it’s pulled out of a sports car with nicely carved thumb spats and a flat bottom no less, while a cool looking metallic silver trimmed dual lower spoke flows up to visually support the two spokes just above, the one on the left side filled with high-quality audio and multifunction display buttons, and the spoke on the right receiving a simpler assortment of phone controls.
Framed behind the steering wheel is highly legible chrome-trimmed electroluminescent primary gauge cluster centered by a large colour TFT multi-information display, which once again is something only expected on a higher trim level, while a quick glance over to the piano black lacquer surfaced and chrome-adorned centre stack shows a small yet useful display audio system. It’s not a touchscreen, which made it a bit difficult for navigating between smartphone playlists and podcasts, but it was serviceable enough.
The same can be said for the nicely laid out manual HVAC interface that sits just below, while the knobs and buttons here and everywhere else were tight fitting and well damped. Still, if this example’s heater wasn’t broken the Qashqai has the worst heating system I’ve experienced in a very long time. You’ve got to crank the temperature dial all the way to the three o’clock position to even make the cabin lukewarm, and if you twist it one notch more it’ll get uncomfortably hot. There was no happy medium.
Nissan provides a USB charge port, aux plug and a 12-volt charger at the base of the centre stack, just above a tray for your cell phone, which sits right next to a chrome-trimmed electromechanical parking brake. Two-way seat heater rocker switches are positioned toward the rear of the lower console, flanking a deep bin that’s ideal for a larger smartphone. Of course, dual cupholders are integrated within the lower console too, as is a storage compartment under the centre armrest, and once again it’s all put together well and looks more upscale than the Qashqai’s entry-level price should allow for.
Nissan also houses a handy console overhead, featuring a felt-lined sunglasses holder and LED reading lights for both front occupants. Even the sunvisors are finished nicely, including the lidded vanity mirrors.
It’s normal for taller, larger drivers to shy away from the subcompact SUV class, but I think they should give the Qashqai a try, as there’s a lot of room available in every direction. The same goes for front and rear passengers, with the back compartment providing more than enough space for my medium-build five-foot-eight frame when sitting behind a driver’s seat that was set up for my height. In fact, I had about five inches remaining ahead of my knees plus loads of space to move my feet around while wearing boots. Additionally, there was about four inches left above my head and another five or so next to my shoulder and hips. I’m not going to say the rear seats were as comfortable as those up front, because that would be difficult to match, but they certainly were supportive, and even provided some side bolstering.
Back in the driver’s seat, the six-speed manual transmission lever is as nicely finished as the previously noted steering wheel, with a black lacquer trimmed shift knob, a leather-like boot, and a satin silver and black lacquered surround. Again, this could be in a premium sports car, let alone a bargain-basement subcompact SUV.
Even more importantly it’s a well-sorted gearbox too, complemented by a free revving 16-valve, DOHC, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. Off-the-line performance is pretty good if you get deep enough into the throttle and let the revs climb before shifting, but of course that’s not the best way to save fuel. Go easy and it’ll pay you back with a claimed 10.0 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 9.2 combined, which seems pretty decent until seeing that the same FWD setup with the CVT gets an estimated 8.8 city, 7.3 highway and 8.1 combined. Even the AWD CVT combination does better at 9.0 city, 7.5 highway and 8.4 combined, but I certainly couldn’t complain despite Vancouver’s high pump prices.
Once the Qashqai gets up to speed it’s thoroughly engaging and fun to fling through the corners, feeling a lot more like a compact hatchback then anything traditionally SUV-like. Of course, it’s aforementioned ride height advantage and subsequent good view of the road ahead and surrounding area reminds that it’s indeed an SUV, while its expansive greenhouse leaves almost no blind spots at all, but it still drives like a little sports car in comparison to most utilities.
With such a willing engine that’s certainly fun to take to its limit, and a shifter that slips so easily into each gear, plus clutch take-up that’s just as easy and light yet positive and engaging, speed can ramp up quickly. Fortunately the Qashqai’s steering is direct and responsive too, while the little SUV’s high-speed stability is actually very good for such a small vehicle thanks to that relatively long wheelbase mentioned earlier. Likewise, braking is excellent, the Qashqai coming standard with ABS-enhanced four-wheel discs that only had to stop 1,425 kilos (3,142 lbs) of as-tested curb weight, resulting in good all-round performance that delivers way more enjoyment then its paltry price should.
That last point pretty well sums up the entire vehicle too, being that the 2018 Nissan Qashqai delivers way more of everything expected of an SUV priced so reasonably. No wonder it’s leading its class in sales.
Nissan Canada just announced that its semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” ProPilot Assist technology will be added to its popular Qashqai subcompact SUV later this year, likely as part of its 2019 package. …
Nissan Canada just announced that its semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” ProPilot Assist technology will be added to its popular Qashqai subcompact SUV later this year, likely as part of its 2019 package.
“Nissan continues to democratize technology, bringing our most advanced systems to our highest volume models, rather than reserving them for our most expensive vehicles,” said Bert Brooks, senior manager, product planning, Nissan Canada Inc., last year when introducing the technology to the larger compact Roque. “Customers are delighted when they realize they can afford technology usually reserved for high-end, expensive luxury vehicles. Bringing unexpected value is core to the Nissan brand and our Nissan Intelligent Mobility mission.”
ProPilot Assist controls acceleration, braking and steering during single-lane highway driving, but take note you’ll be required to remain totally alert and involved during the process, with your hands on the wheel (at least most of the time).
ProPilot Assist is well tested, with Nissan having driven more than 320,000 kilometres of North American roads using the semi-autonomous technology, the automaker stating that it was specifically designed to respond to North American road markings and driving situations.
Nissan also claims ProPilot Assist is more intuitive and user-friendly than other driver-assist technologies, and furthermore that it can help reduce driver fatigue and allow for a more confident driving experience, especially for drivers that regularly experience heavy highway traffic.
Those looking for even more autonomy from their future cars can take heart that Nissan will be evolving ProPilot Assist to include increasing levels of autonomy in future updates, with the ability to navigate city intersections and more.
The news of ProPilot Assist on the 2019 Qashqai comes hot on the heels of January’s milestone announcement of 75,000 global ProPilot Assist sales, when Nissan USA executive vice president Daniele Schillaci added, “ProPILOT is a breakthrough technology and an important building block for fully autonomous vehicles under our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision. It delivers a much more exciting drive, so it’s no surprise that it has received such strong, early customer acceptance. ProPILOT is another example of how we’re delivering exciting technologies today through Nissan Intelligent Mobility that will move everyone to a better world.”
Nissan plans to make ProPilot Assist available in nine more Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance models by 2020, with North America, as well as the European, Japanese and Chinese markets, benefiting from the investment.
As noted in an earlier quote, ProPilot Assist is part of a larger technology suite dubbed Nissan Intelligent Mobility, which the automaker previously described as a “blueprint for transforming how cars are driven, powered and integrated into society.”
“The world is facing serious challenges such as climate change, traffic congestion, road fatalities and increasing air pollution,” said Brooks. “Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility, we are committed to addressing these challenges by making transportation safer, smarter, and more enjoyable. The new ProPilot Assist technology is a perfect example of how we can make drivers feel more confident and more connected to their vehicles.”
Along with the 2018 Rogue SL Platinum, ProPilot Assist is also available with the redesigned 2018 Leaf.
To find out more, check out this short explanatory video that accompanied the initial ProPilot Assist announcement as part of the 2018 Leaf: