Some anniversaries are worth celebrating. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, It’s 35 years since wearing a seatbelt became compulsory in the UK and 20 years since Dolly the sheep was cloned.
Probably best, in the current climate, not to mention the launch of the Euro or the Maastricht Treaty, 15 and 25 years respectively. Oops.
Speaking of Brexit, Nissan’s Sunderland-built Qashqai – which proved to be something of a political hot potato post EU referendum – is also celebrating an anniversary this year.
Is ten years since the launch of the Qashqai a landmark worth commemorating? Nissan think so, and have arranged for a series of press loans of the current, second-generation Qashqai to mark the occasion.
A glance at any supermarket car park should tell you that a lot has changed in ten years and, you might argue, that a some of that is down to Nissan. Specifically the commercial success of the Qashqai and the smaller Juke crossover.
Nissan Qashqai Tekna dCi 110 2WD
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Tops speed: 113mph
0-62mph: 11.9 seconds
Fuel: 70.6 mpg combined
Emissions: 103 g/km c02
The first-generation Qashqai might not have been the first car to fit the crossover mould, but its runaway success undoubtedly influenced other manufacturers to invest in their own copycat cars to capitalise on consumer demand for soft-road SUVs.
Either through dumb luck or, more likely, shrewd market research, the Qashqai landed in the UK at exactly the right time to capitalise on a shift in buyer habits and Nissan have reaped the benefits.
Nissan’s trick? To effectively zero in on what it was that made SUVs appealing to the majority of buyers. Enough torque to pull light farm machinery? Nope. Snorkel for fording streams? Nope. Four-wheel drive and a low-range gearbox for taking things off road? Nope.
The Qashqai’s designers realised that what the vast majority of SUV buyers found appealing was raised ride height and increased visibility, chunky styling, spacious interiors and good equipment levels.
Also, not being an MPV. The first generation Qashqai might have had a four-wheel drive option, but the two-wheel-drive version made up 90 per cent of sales and was cheaper than the optional AWD variant – that brought this rugged-looking and practical car into the same price bracket as typical MPVs like the Citroen C4 Picasso and Ford C-Max. Given the choice, who wouldn’t go for the chunky, sexy-looking crossover?
The other big tick on the Qashqai score card when compared with a full-blooded SUV is that it handles like a C-segment hatch, rather than a military patrol vehicle.
The mark II Qashqai is a marked improvement in almost every area over its smash-hit successor. The sharpened front end is handsome and ties the Qashqai closely in styling to the larger Nissan X-Trail. In fact, you need to see them side by side to tell the two apart they look so similar.
The interior quality is another leap over the old car. Sharper styling and better materials mean the car feels more upmarket than its predecessor. Lower down the dash you can see where quality has been sacrificed but, everywhere that counts, the interior materials feel modern and high quality.
The infotainment system has had some upgrades, including a 360-degree parking camera which is on a par with similar systems from premium manufacturers such as Volvo.
The leather seats in our Tekna model are supportive and comfortable and the cabin is an all-round nice place to be.
The 109bhp DCi engine is a good fit for the car and ensures with all but the heaviest load the Qashqai can handle the motorway cruise comfortably and retains a sprightliness around the town that most heavier SUVs lack.
As Nissan marked the Qashqai’s first decade at the Geneva Motor show earlier this year, they unveiled the third-generation car. Once again it promises a step forward in style and materials. If they get the pricing right, Nissan could be on track to celebrate 15 years of segment domination in 2022.