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The Evolution of The Nissan Qashqai

How did an SUV go on to outsell the Astra, the Polo, the Fiat 500 and even the MINI?

Ask someone to write down a list of the most significant cars ever produced in Britain and you’ll be given the classics: the Jaguar E-Type, the Rover MINI, the Land Rover Defender. How about the McLaren F1, the Aston Martin DB5 and the Ford Escort? All built on our little island, and all produced the other side of the millennium.

The Nissan Qashqai now has every right to be on that list. It’s a car that singlehandedly flipped the automotive industry on its head. Since the first Qashqai was released back in 2007, pretty much every mainstream manufacturer has tried (and failed) to emulate the success of the Qashqai. Few cars have sent greater shockwaves through the industry than the Qashqai.

Out of the top 10 best selling cars in 2006, the top 7 were hatchbacks, then it was the 3-Series, followed by the Mondeo, and the Zafira came in at tenth. Then this ‘thing’ came along...

The 1st Generation Qashqai

A few manufacturers had tried, all with little success, to create a car with the ride height and comfort of a 4x4, the practicality of an MPV as well as the price and running costs of a hatchback. Enter, the first Qashqai.

It’s fair to say the car hasn’t aged particularly well. By modern standards, the plastic centre console would only outshine an entry level Dacia Duster, but for its time the first Qashqai did everything it needed to. The boot was class-leading at 410 litres, there was an option for 7 seats and some engines would return over 50mpg. Bear in mind that people were calling every SUV ‘gas-guzzlers’ back then…

This model went largely untouched until 2010 when the Qashqai received a welcomed facelift…

The Refreshed 1st Generation Qashqai

The Qashqai had progressively been growing in popularity as the market wised-up as to just how much the car had to offer. In 2010 the Qashqai received its first facelift, and also entered the top 10 best selling cars of the year list at number 10. The Nissan Qashqai has remained in the top 10 every year since.

So, what was new with the facelift?

Well, the front-end was revised quite heavily. You’ll notice a new front bumper, a new bonnet, grille, wings and headlamps. Around the back of the car you’ve got some new LED tail lights but that was about it. 

Inside, the car remained very much the same except for a new cluster of dials behind the wheel. There was also a more environmentally friendly 1.5dCi engine added to the lineup.

Why change a winning formula?

The 3rd Generation

In 2014 Nissan called it time on their top-selling SUV. The market was beginning to catch up so Nissan felt it necessary to get back ahead of the pack once more. To be clear, this was an all-new model. The Qashqai grew in length, height and width to keep up with the trends. 

New gadgets and technology were lumped inside. You could now have 360-degree parking cameras, DAB radio, heated leather seats, a class-leading touch screen and much more. 

Family buyers were drawn in by the ‘safety suite’ pack. A £450 option which included traffic sign recognition, automatic braking, lane departure warnings and high beam adjustments. A very smart package at a very reasonable price.

The 1.5 dCi and 1.6 dCi engines were now cleaner and more efficient. Over 70mpg was now achievable on motorway journeys and some models came in at 99g/km of CO2 which, back then, made the car free to tax each year. Ok, it took over 12 seconds to get from 0-60mph which is pretty uninspiring, but there were bags of torque on tap so you never felt short changed in terms of power. 

The new Qashqai finished 6th in the Top 10 best-selling cars in the UK that year, shifting just shy of 50,000 units, which was more than the FIAT 500, Audi A3 and VW Polo. 

The 2017 Facelift

Earlier this year Nissan launched their most recent update to the Qashqai in the form of a welcomed facelift, and I was lucky enough to drive the new model on the roads of Vienna, Austria. 2.3 million Qashqais had been built by this point, and to mark the model’s tenth anniversary a ‘nip and tuck’ was in order.

Nissan has progressively applied the same updates across their range of cars to bring the brand’s identity up to date. One major change included a much-improved leather steering wheel with more tactile wheel-mounted buttons - a vast improvement over the old plastic-ridden wheel.

Elsewhere, there’s mood lighting emitting from the centre cubby, where you’ll also find some new padding for your knees. In fact, there are loads more pleasant materials dotted around the cabin, which is more sound proofed and tranquil than ever before. The interior improvements are clearly chosen to pander to your senses, hugely improving the driving experience.

You’ll also notice new tail lights and headlights which offer a more contemporary look and set the car apart from the pre-facelift model. The front and rear bumpers have been altered slightly and there are some new alloys available on the options list.

Those with a keen eye for detail may have spotted the new grille. The Nissan logo is now embossed in a gloss black fascia, which houses a forward facing scanner which reads the road ahead and is able to detect imminent collisions. The car will then perform an emergency stop to either prevent the collision altogether or reduce the severity of the impact. 

From as early as next year this scanner will be used with the lane departure system and intelligent cruise control as the foundation for Nissan’s ‘PROpilot’, which is their first step toward fully autonomous driving.

It is worth mentioning that the new model of the Qashqai is available as a 5 seater car only. If you’re after a 7 seater, then you’ll have to settle for the Nissan X-Trail. Which is fine, considering it’s literally the best selling SUV in the world right now...

Read our full review of the new Nissan Qashqai here.