Don’t let looks deceive you. Even though the Qashqai’s design has remained exactly the same throughout its first three model years, especially when seen in its official launch colour of Monarch Orange, this 2019 model received plenty of important new upgrades.
The list of improvements starts with advanced driver assistive systems such as Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Nissan’s smart Rear Door Alert (RDA) system, that latter reminding if something or someone has been left in the back seat, while other additions include a new standard NissanConnect infotainment touchscreen that grows to 7.0 inches across the line, and boasts standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, live navigation, plus mobile apps and services. The latest entry-level Qashqai also features a second USB port within the centre console, plus Nissan’s convenient Divide-N-Hide cargo system in back. If that news isn’t good enough, take note that Nissan managed to add all of this content while only increasing the price by $200, to $20,198.
That increase in price isn’t responsible for the Qashqai no longer being the most affordable subcompact SUV in Canada, however, the blame for that clearly laid on Nissan’s own $18,298 Kicks. Now the Japanese automaker has more small utilities in its lineup than any mainstream rival, all three of which are amongst their segments’ top sellers.
The Qashqai’s low base price doesn’t mean that it comes up short on features either, its standard menu filled with goodies like projector headlights, LED daytime running lamps, heatable powered door mirrors with LED turn signals, powered windows and door locks, the latter connected to a switchblade-style remote, an electronic parking brake (which strangely reverts to a foot-actuated type on S CVT and SV CVT trims), a tilt and telescopic steering column, a colour TFT multi-information display (MID), variable intermittent wipers, sun visors with extensions and vanity mirrors, sunglasses storage in the overhead console, micro-filtered air conditioning, a backup camera that’s now easier to view due to the bigger infotainment display, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, text message reading and responding capability, Siri Eyes Free, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with illuminated steering wheel buttons, speed-sensitive volume, Radio Data System (RDS), two-way Quick Comfort heatable front seats (that truly heat up quickly), a rear-seat centre armrest, a cargo cover, six cargo tie-down hooks, tire pressure monitoring with Easy Fill Tire Alert, all the usual passive and active safety and security features, and more.
Just like before, the Qashqai continues into 2019 with three trim lines, including the previously noted entry-level S model, plus the SV and SL, the former two offering optional AWD and the latter making it standard. That top-tier trim is how my test model was dressed up, replete with an even more upscale Platinum package, but before I unwrap all this upgrade entails I should point out that the $26,198 SV might be an even better option for those not willing the pay for the premium-like features in my SL.
The SV boasts sharp looking 17-inch alloy wheels, these replacing the base set of 16-inch steel rims with covers, plus automatic headlamps, fog lights, remote start, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, auto high beams, rear parking sonar, illumination added to the vanity mirrors, a powered glass sunroof, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-clad shifter knob, cruise control, two additional stereo speakers, two-zone auto HVAC, rear passenger ventilation, and more, while a host of new advanced safety features are included too, like enhanced autonomous Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Intelligent Lane Intervention, and Rear Intelligent Braking (R-IEB).
The top-tier SL model I was testing starts at $31,398, but even for this reasonable sum it looks and feels like a small luxury utility due to big standard 19-inch alloys, roof rails, the electronic parking brake once again (this is the only trim that combines it with the CVT), an Intelligent Around View Monitor, navigation, voice recognition, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, leather upholstery, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way lumbar, and a front driver’s seatback pocket, while new to the SL’s standard features list is Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), Moving Object Detection (MOD) to improve the R-IEB, and the ProPilot Assist semi-automated self-driving system that helps to maintain a given lane while easing highway driving stress.
As I noted earlier, my test model also included the $2,000 SL Platinum package that provides LED headlamps for seeing much farther down the road at night, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink universal remote, wonderful sounding nine-speaker Bose audio, and NissanConnect Services, the latter a bundle filled up with mobile apps designed to enhance everyday life with your Qashqai.
Of note, all the 2019 Qashqai prices mentioned in this review, including trims, packages and individual options, were sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands of dollars when purchasing a new vehicle.
Together with the full load of features the Qashqai provides in each trim, the cabin is surprisingly upscale. Last year I tested a base S model, and was impressed with its refinement for only $20k, but this SL Platinum is much fancier. The dash top is soft to the touch and the front door uppers are formed from a nice padded composite, these being common surface treatments no matter the trim chosen, but as mentioned earlier the attractive perforated leather upholstery with contrast stitching can’t be had outside of this SL. Such is the case for the leatherette-wrapped padding with contrast stitching found on the lower centre console, that also serves to protect you and your front passenger’s inside knees from rubbing up against what would otherwise be a harder plastic surface, and it’s great looking too.
Some additional SL highlights include piano black lacquered inlays on the instrument panel, the centre stack, around the shift lever, and each door panel front to back, while this was accented nicely by a narrow strip of satin-silver metal-look trim. Nissan adds more satin-silver detailing on the steering wheel spokes and the shifter, before splashing chrome throughout the rest of the interior to bring a bit of sparkle to key components.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, the leather-covered steering wheel feels good in the hands, while the similarly clad shift knob connects through to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), which joins up to an energetic 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. The CVT will probably be the choice of most Qashqai buyers, but I tested the six-speed manual last year and was happily surprised. It’s a sporty feeling manual that provides plenty of go-fast performance, whereas the CVT tested here is best for cruising at more relaxed speeds, the Qashqai SL pretty good at smoothing out road wrinkles, quieting outside commotions, and comforting all aboard.
CVTs are often criticized for lacking any sort of sporting capability, but after testing three Qashqais with this automated gearbox, and a whole host of additional Nissan models with variations on this CVT’s theme, I found it ideally suited to SUV life. Of course, it hardly provides the kind of get-up-and-go as the manual, in fact buzzing annoyingly when getting hard on the throttle thanks to any CVT’s natural inclination to hold higher than required revs for longer than needed, but fortunately the shift lever’s manual mode is even better for relieving performance than adding it. Shifting up at such moments provides instant relief from the high-revving engine (which can get a bit noisy when left for too long at high revs), dropping the revs and bringing peace and quiet. The process eventually occurs all on its own, but why would anyone want to wait? At regular daily speeds the transmission was best left in Drive, at which point it delivers smooth, capable performance.
This said the Qashqai moves along quickly enough without the need to force it hard, while its ride quality is good for the small SUV segment due to a long wheelbase that’s based on a version of the same chassis architecture and fully independent suspension as the larger Rogue SUV, which incorporates struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, plus stabilizer bars at both ends. This means, even with my tester’s larger 225/45R19 all-season tires, the Qashqai ideally balances all the firmness required for its impressive road holding with plenty of comfort. Additionally, its four-wheel disc brakes bring speed to a standstill plenty fast, aided by Intelligent Engine Braking that becomes standard with SV and SL trims.
On top of this, the Qashqai is a miser on fuel, with an estimated five-cycle rating of 10.0 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 9.2 combined when FWD is mated up to the manual gearbox; 8.6 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined with FWD and the CVT; or 9.1, 7.6 and 8.4 with the CVT and AWD. With today’s ever-increasing pump prices, the Qashqai can certainly be a relief to the budget.
Of course it may be a bit less efficient when filled up with people and gear, and trust me the Qashqai can hold a lot of both. With respect to the latter, the little ute can stow 648 litres (22.9 cubic feet) of cargo behind its back seats when they’re upright, which is extremely good for this segment, while those standard 60/40 split-folding seatbacks open up a maximum of 1,730 litres (61.1 cubic feet) of gear-toting space when laid flat, and that’s about as good as it gets in this class.
Regarding passenger space and overall comfort, the front seats are nicely sculpted, cupping the backside perfectly, while I found the driver’s seating position excellent for my five-foot-eight frame, providing all the adjustability I needed thanks to being complemented by a tilt and telescoping steering wheel that I was able to pull close enough for ideal comfort and control, this not always the case due to my long-legged, shorter torso body type.
I would’ve appreciated more seat heater comfort, however, as the setup provided just one “HI” and one “LO” setting, which sometimes made it too hot or not warm enough, reason enough for three-way systems being the industry norm. Still, it’s difficult to criticize too harshly in this price-sensitive segment, especially when the Qashqai does everything else so well.
This said you won’t find any such cushion warmers in the back, but those rear outboard seats are nevertheless very comfortable and capable of holding big teens and adults. As per normal, I positioned the driver’s seat as I would when behind the wheel and sat in the back seat, which left approximately five inches in front of my knees, as well as another four inches above my head, or enough space for a six-foot-plus passenger. There’s more than ample width too, best when two are aboard, but possible for three, while my shoulder and hips had about three to four inches left next to the door.
The rear seating area isn’t quite as nicely appointed as that up front, particularly where soft-touch door uppers would otherwise be found, but the door panel armrests are well padded with stitched leatherette covers, and the folding centre armrest is comfortable while its dual cupholders are practical. Nissan also adds a twin set of air vents to the backside of the front console, helpful when wanting to the keep the windows closed.
Spacious for most families, empty-nesters or active lifestyle couples including their gear, the Qashqai is a well-made, generously outfitted, and an enjoyable SUV to drive, delivering a lot more than its reasonable price promises, plus it continues paying dividends long after the honeymoon period is over, due to superb fuel-efficiency. No wonder the Qashqai sells better than most of its subcompact peers, all of which are reasons enough to recommend it highly.