What is it?
Just over a year ago Nissan launched the second-generation Qashqai, in the process dropping the previous version’s 2.0-litre petrol engine from the range.
To plug the gap, the firm has introduced a new 1.6-litre DIG-T 163 engine, which, it is claimed, makes big strides in terms of both performance and efficiency.
You might question the logic of petrol power in a crossover, bearing in mind the perception that diesel is king in this segment, but it seems that many of Nissan’s private buyers still prefer petrol to diesel.
By the time the new engine is fully established in the line-up, it’s anticipated that around 45% of Qashqais will be petrol – albeit with the smaller DIG-T 1.2 115 making up the bulk of those sales.
So, with a solid market to aim for, how does the new engine perform and is it worth considering over the excellent 1.5 110 dCi?
What’s it like?
It’s tempting to use the term ‘squeezing more from less’ with almost every new engine these days, as they all seem to be chasing the same goal.
Nissan’s own downsizing effort certainly makes some formidable statements when compared with the old 2.0-litre unit: a 15% improvement in power, which now peaks at 161bhp and 22% more torque, which rises to 177lb ft.
Opting for the new petrol model will put you at the helm of the quickest and fastest model in the current Qashqai range, too, with 0-62mph taking 9.1sec and a top speed of 124mph.
What Car?, our sister publication, made the Qashqai its 2014 Car of the Year, and one of the many qualities that won over the judges was refinement. Thankfully, this new engine does nothing to diminish that asset, being both smooth and quiet no matter what the revs.
This is a good thing because there’s something of a Jekyll and Hyde character to this motor. Work it hard from 3000rpm and above and you’ll find it’s quite the jackal, spiriting the Qashqai around with a peppiness that’s seemingly out of sorts for a crossover, even a small one.
Drop below 3000rpm, however, and you’re outside the turbo’s optimum operating range. This renders the engine lethargic and laggy, and you can easily find yourself hurriedly hunting through the six-speed manual gearbox for a more suitable ratio.
Once you’re up to speed this becomes less of an issue, and the extra refinement of the petrol certainly makes the DIG-T 163 a restful place in which to rack up motorway miles. There’s barely any tyre noise and only a hint of wind noise from around the mirrors at 70mph.
At speed it rides well, too, which may be a result of the Active Ride Control that Nissan fits to all Qashqais. The system works by gently dabbing the brakes in order to control excessive body movement. However, at slow speeds, even this trickery can’t stop the car becoming jittery over broken road surfaces, although the 18in alloys fitted to our N-tec-spec test car won’t have helped.
With the Qashqai’s bias towards comfort, it isn’t as fun to drive as the Mazda CX-5, but it handles perfectly well for a small crossover. The steering is good, though, being lightly weighted around town while loading up nicely at speed.
Continuing the comfort theme is the Qashqai’s first-class driving position. No matter what your size or shape, you should be able to find a set-up that feels right, thanks to plenty of adjustment on both the steering wheel and seat. The seats themselves are supportive and made all the better for the lumbar adjustment that’s also part of the N-tec package.
There’s enough space in the rest of the cabin to cope with a family of four or five. The Qashqai’s 430-litre boot is a practical shape, with the flexibility of a false floor as well as rear seats that fold fully flat.
Nissan expects N-tec trim to make up 50% of all Qashqai sales, and it’s easy to see why. For £23,200 it comes with a plethora of premium features such as keyless entry and go, a panoramic glass roof, tyre pressure monitors, touchscreen sat-nav and multiple parking cameras.
On top of that you’ll also get a host of safety features, such as lane-departure warning and forward alert with emergency braking assist, which helped the Qashqai achieve the highest score of any family car in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
Should I buy one?
The Qashqai 1.6 163 petrol is £250 cheaper than its 1.5 110 diesel equivalent, but that is not enough to usurp the latter as the pick of the range.
Despite the new engine claiming some impressive efficiency figures, in this respect the diesel still outscores it on paper and in the real world. This is partly down to a peaky power delivery that means you often find yourself heading towards the upper reaches of the rev counter.
If you’re a company car user, the tax liability for both is broadly similar, with the petrol working out about £80 more per year for a standard rate tax payer.
Yes, the petrol is refined, but the diesel is not far off it for smoothness, and although it falls behind in terms of outright performance, its low-down torque makes it the more usable and relaxing everyday performer.
If you have an apposite reason for choosing petrol to fuel your next purchase and your journeys rarely take you out of the city, then the 1.2 115 DIG-T is a worthy proposition. It will save you £1500 over the more powerful petrol and is a fine urban performer.
In terms of petrol-powered crossover rival , the obvious two have their own flaws. The Mazda CX-5’s petrol engine is nowhere near as refined or efficient as that of the Qashqai, while the Skoda Yeti’s nearest equivalent is the 1.8 TSI, which is a lot more expensive to buy – it costs £25,610 – and isn’t as frugal.
Nissan Qashqai 1.6 DIG-T 163 N-tec
Price £23,200; Engine 4 cyls inl ine, 1618cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 162bhp at 5600rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 2000-4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1483kg; Top speed 124mph; 0-60mph 9.1sec Economy 47.1.mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 138g/km, 20%
What is it?