• By: Neil Moore

Compact Qashqai a good fit for tight budgets

One may question Nissan’s humongous lineup of sport utes and sport cutes. Six in all starting with the subcompact Kicks, compact Rogue, mid-sized Murano (and even burlier Pathfinder) – and the battleship-sized Armada.

And let’s not forget the “between-sized” Qashqai, my tester for the week, which slots somewhere in the middle of Kicks and Rogue. The latter is Nissan’s best-selling vehicle in Canada, topping 41,000 units by year end. Qashqai did just under half that, but is still the automaker’s number-two seller and is trending upwards.


My take is that Qashqai is just enough vehicle for so many two-kid families, like mine – and it’s a real bargain.

You can buy one for just under 20-grand, which is $6,800 cheaper than the entry Rogue. And it’s not a ‘stripper’ in terms of content.

First, let’s get any potential negatives out of the way. Like the standard 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers instead of alloys. The base Qashqai also comes with front-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual gearbox. If you want a continuously variable transmission (CVT), that’ll be an extra $3,200. Not for me, however, as I’d rather save the cash and choose my own gears.

What’s missing is a reasonably-priced all-wheel-drive upgrade. You can’t purchase intelligent AWD on its own, but as part of a package that includes Xtronic CVT, bumping the price to a less thrifty $25,398.

All that aside, if you stick with the Qashqai S at $19,998, you won’t be disappointed.

Exterior fittings include a rear spoiler, along with heated, power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated turn signals. Inside, you’ll find a seven-inch colour touchscreen with NissanConnect infotainment and rear-view monitor. Not bad for a ‘barebones’ unit.

There’s also the usual stuff like power windows, keyless entry, manual air conditioning, and tilt/telescopic steering, along with some niceties like heated front seats and the oh-so-practical Divide-N-Hide cargo system.

My wife is a fan of the latter, which includes a flip-up panel to keep groceries from rolling around. And there’s underfloor storage for hiding purses, cameras and other valuables.

Seating includes six-way manual adjustability for the driver and four-way for the passenger, with a 60/40 split-fold in rear that drops down to increase the cargo hold from 648 litres to a generous 1,730.

Safety tech includes a selection from Nissan’s extensive suite. Rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot warning are two features I’ve grown to appreciate, as today’s more stylish rides now offer relative slits for rear windows. Hey, fashion comes at a price…

You also get Intelligent Emergency Braking. If you want the same, enhanced with “pedestrian detection,” opt for an SV model, which at $25,998 comes with loads more content including the above-mentioned CVT.

AWD is not one of these upgrades, but you do get features like 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, power moonroof, heated leather steering wheel, smart key with pushbutton start, automatic headlights, and rear parking sensors. Add in a couple of extra safety nannies like lane departure warning and rear intelligent braking.

The latter automatically apply the binders if you unwittingly back towards a stationary object. I wasn’t keen on testing it, however, or explaining the dent and blue dumpster paint on my rear bumper, should it somehow fail to kick in.

My test vehicle had all this and more, being the top-trim SL model that starts at $31,198. This may seem steep for a vehicle that began at $20K, but keep in mind the long list of additional content: intelligent AWD, big 19-inch alloy wheels, 360-degree around-view monitor, leather seating with power adjust for the driver, and intelligent cruise control as part of the ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving package.

I was impressed that Nissan offers it on a vehicle in this class, and chose to give it a good run. The system really does keep you within the lane markers, and at a safe distance from the vehicle in front – but you do have to keep hands lightly on the wheel to avoid its stern warning.

Not to mention a hefty fine – with demerit points – if an officer catches you fiddling with devices or shaving while ProPilot does the driving.

All Qashqai models are powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine that produces 141 hp and 147 lb/ft of torque.

Combined with the Xtronic CVT that offers stepped shifting to simulate the feel of an automatic transmission, it delivers a pleasing – albeit not heart-pumping – experience. Which should be fine for most owners whose daily demands consist of commuting to work, schlepping the kids to sports and picking up a load of groceries.

Fuel economy is decent too, with this powertrain rated at 7.6/9.1 litres/100km (hwy/city) for the AWD model. My actual results were close at just over 9 litres/100km combined, but keep in mind that winter driving gobbles a little more fuel.

I’ve often commented that many of today’s drivers purchase more vehicle than they need, perhaps because at one time you had to buy bigger to get all the perks. But vehicles like Qashqai, which accommodate a family of four (including two gangly teenagers), are becoming a better fit for tight driveways and budgets.

SNAPSHOT: 2019 Nissan Qashqai


ENGINE: 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder (141 hp and 147 lb/ft of torque)

TRANSMISSION: base with 6-speed manual, all others with Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission)

FUEL ECONOMY:  as tested 7.6/9.1 litres/100km (hwy/city)

CARGO: 648 litres with rear seats raised, up to 1730 litres with seats folded

PRICING: base FWD “S” $19,998, FWD SV $25,998, AWD SL $31,198. For pricing on additional packages and options visit website. Freight and taxes extra.

WEBSITE: Nissan.ca