Nissan's new Qashqai is stylish and highly equipped, if a tad thirsty
Crossover cachet The new Qashqai boasts a well-toned body, a lively engine, and agile and precise steering. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Economy champions will tell you that the brake pedal is probably the worst enemy of fuel efficiency.

Drivers who use the brakes mindlessly because they do not observe traffic conditions tend to visit the pumps more frequently than those who do not.

In the new Nissan Qashqai, the driver does not always have control over use of the brakes.

The compact crossover's Active Trace Control applies braking force at lower speeds to each wheel to correct the course of the car when cornering.

One wonders why the brakes have to be used at all when cornering "at lower speeds".

When going over undulating surfaces, Active Ride Control applies subtle braking to individual wheels to deliver flatter body control.

So, the Qashqai's brakes will be busy indeed in the lumpy Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway.

Meanwhile, Active Engine Brake uses the car's transmission to initiate engine braking while cornering.

"The benefits are greater braking control and enhanced feel with less pedal effort, along with less brake application when cornering and greater braking feel when coming to a stop," Nissan says.

Clearly, Active Trace Control is not enough to keep the typical Qashqai driver from careening off the road.

With so much electronic intervention, it is no wonder that the second- generation Qashqai is a little thirstier than expected.

Even though Nissan declares a consumption figure of 6.9 litres/100km, which is a notable improvement over its predecessor's 8 litres/100km, the car averaged 10.2 litres/100km over a three-day test-drive that was done predominantly on highways.

Now, 10.2 litres/100km is really not bad. It would give you a theoretical range of over 630km on a full tank (65 litres). Except that the test-car looks like it can manage less than 500km.

Other than its doubtful efficiency, the new Qashqai is peachy in every way. Well, every way except for the way its cruise control sometimes disengages on its own.

But it is a minor glitch, and not one that impacts the overall desirability of the Qashqai.

The car looks very sharp, with all the right curves, edginess and proportion that convey energy, modernity and premiumness. Shod with 19-inch alloys, it has the largest wheels among Japanese cars in its segment.

It also comes with all-LED headlamps, another rarity among cars in its segment. The lights are crisp, white and powerful, and use less energy than conventional lamps.

The car is 50mm longer than its predecessor, translating to a slightly roomier cabin and a bigger boot area. It is slightly wider and lower, giving it a more dynamic stance. On the go, this certainly comes across. While the Qashqai is by no means a hot hatch in the handling department, it is more than competent as a crossover.

Whether it has to do with its new dimensions, its suit of "chassis control" electronics or its double-piston shock absorbers, the car is near flawless in the way it rides and tackles turns.

But it is its steering that truly shines. It is meaty yet agile and precise. It gives the UK-made Nissan quite a Continental feel. So much so that you sometimes activate the wipers when you want to signal to turn.

The powertrain consists of a 2-litre direct injection engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It is lively and pretty smooth. The engine has a higher peak power output, but maximum torque remains unchanged.

The gearbox has a new active lock-up control which reduces the "rubber band" effect of CVTs. While it is still clearly a CVT, it seems to be less whiny and more efficient, with revs piling up to 4,000rpm swiftly and almost imperceptibly.

This also explains why the car is quicker in the century sprint, clocking 10.1 seconds versus its predecessor's 11.4 despite being slightly heavier.

The equipment list is simply unbeatable for a car below $140,000. Besides LED lights, cruise control and 19-inch wheels, it has keyless access and ignition, electrically adjustable driver's seat, multi-function steering wheel, automatic headlights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control.

And oh, not forgetting an electronic parking brake with self-release.

 

CAR INFORMATION

Nissan Qashqai 2.0 Premium (A)

Price

:POA

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC

Engine Cap

:

1,997 cc

Horsepower

:

142 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

200 Nm / 4,400 rpm

Transmission

:

7-speed (A) Xtronic CVT with Manual mode

Acceleration

:

10.1 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

184 km/h