Nissan Qashqai Acenta Premium 1.2 DIG-T 115 PS Manual 2WD review – Crossover Sets the Bar High

Brilliant all-rounder, spacious, comfortable & contemporary cabin, 1.2 engine surprisingly good, rides nicely

Less clutch pedal resistance needed, 4WD only on top model

Nissan Qashqai?

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2007 saw the launch of the Nissan Qashqai (or Nissan Dualis if you’re in Australia or Japan) crossover, and it’s gone from strength to strength since then. In fact, it’s Nissan’s most successful model ever built, with well over 2 million of them sold worldwide since it landed. We were interested to see what the attraction is and why it sells so well. To fathom this, we were sent the 2014 Nissan Qashqai Acenta Premium 1.2 DIG-T to review.

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

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The first generation Qashqai – built from 2007 to 2013 – looked rather dull and characterless. Its front appeared to have been designed by a person who’s wardrobe consisted of mainly beige-coloured clothes, and who’s favourite pastime was eating dry toast whilst thumbing through old editions of the ‘Beige Buyer Quarterly’, for it was a boring and insipid thing to look at.

Thankfully the second generation Qashqai – which went on sale in 2014 – looks as different to its predecessor as can be. The front – which was my main bugbear before – has been replaced with one that is assertive, contemporary, and punchy. Its angular front light clusters with their ultra-bright (and rather cool) LED daytime running lights look like they’ve been stolen from a Transformer, the sharp edges inside and out of them being in line with the rest of the front end, which consists of large, bold lines that are amplified to make the Qashqai’s appearance tougher.

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The huge lower grille grabs your eye too, with its large slats and jutting bottom lip lending it a sporty edge somehow and between the lights and bottom grille appear to be what can only be described as cheekbones. Clearly, the 2014 Nissan Qashqai has been putting in some serious gym time and has gone from plump to pumped.

Down the side and there are more sharp swage lines protruding, plus black plastic lower trim which sit decently high above the ground, adding a crossover look and giving a hint that the Qashqai has a little more substance about it than a normal car – an urban and countryside warrior, if you like. Unless you’re buying the Nissan in bog-standard mode simply because you wanted the cheapest model available and aren’t bothered about the aesthetics, optioning a set of nice alloys from the range is a must, as it adds much to the appearance.

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Around to the rear, and there are sizeable light clusters, a sporty roof spoiler and again more black plastic lower trim to further the effect of it being purposeful. If you option the panoramic roof, this actually makes the Qashqai look much more expensive than it really is, plus it makes the interior exceptionally airy.

In summary of the exterior, the second-gen Nissan Qashqai is now a good looking crossover, with a dynamism and athleticism which its predecessor lacked utterly. It was already a huge seller, and this new design can only do one thing: attract yet more buyers.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

 

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The second-gen Qashqai’s interior is much-improved over its predecessors. The new dash design is pretty funky lookin’, and utilises smart, contemporary materials such as satin silver surrounds and large sections of piano black trim, giving an overall feeling that it’s more premium that the price tag would suggest.

Comfort-wise, the mid-spec Acenta Premium version we tested has some good equipment as standard, including rear tinted windows, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, front and rear parking sensors, electric adjustable, heated, auto folding wing mirrors, a NissanConnect 7″ touchscreen entertainment system with reverse camera, sat nav, DAB, Bluetooth and a USB port.

I found the NissanConnect system had modern, smooth graphics and easy to fathom menus. The controls surrounding the screen also make the system really driver-friendly, as they mean shortcuts to the things you normally need: the map and navigation, screen dim, phonebook, audio options, the reverse camera and more. A great idea, and much less distracting than having to jump from menu-to-menu on the screen.

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The driver’s binnacle is well laid out too, and features a neat 5-inch high definition TFT (thin film display) display which shows the usual stuff: fuel economy information, speed, simplified navigation directions etc. There are also steering wheel controls, which I liked for the the fact they’re clearly-marked and large, again leaving less room for distraction.

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The mid-spec Acenta Premium version also gets a panoramic glass roof, which is hidden until you press the controller that rolls back the headlining. I was slightly bowled over by this. Not by the fact it has one, as plenty of cars now do, but the fact that a sub-£22,000 car (prices: Sept. ’14) has one as standard. It makes a huge difference to how airy the cabin feels, and it’s just a really cool thing to have. Looks great from the exterior too.

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The Acenta Premium features cloth seats, and while they’re not the most exciting design the fronts are wide, supportive and comfortable, as are the rears, which also offer good leg and head room. One point a passenger did point out: the rear side seatbelts are slightly uncomfortable if you’re on the smaller size, as they come from behind the seats rather than being attached to the side, thus sitting on the neck slightly, rather than across the shoulder. A fair point, I thought.

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Another small but significant point: strangely the front seats aren’t heated, and I could find no option for them either, on any version of the Qashqai. Bit bizarre that, as it’s kinda just one of those things you either expect on higher-spec cars. Onto the boot area, and it’s a decent-enough size at 430 litres seats up and 1,585 seats folded. There’s also a ‘false’ floor, which can be either lifted for more vertical room, or spilt and slotted in place to stop shopping or equipment from flying all over the place.

Overall, I really liked the Qashqai’s interior. It is spacious, feels solidly built, uses well-chosen, modern trim materials, and it’s also comfortable and well spec’d too. Good stuff!

Engine & gearbox

Nissan offer the second-gen Qashqai with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines. Our test car had the new petrol 1.2 DIG-T, which comes in 6-speed manual guise only. This replaces the older naturally-aspirated 1.6 petrol, and is a turbocharged 1.2 litre, 4-cylinder (in-line), 16-valve unit that is lighter, more fuel-frugal, cleaner and more responsive than the outgoing 1.6.

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The little 1.2 DIG-T puts out 113 hp at 4,500 rpm, and 140 lb ft (190 Nm) of torque at 2,000 rpm, and UK mpg fuel economy stats are quoted as: urban: 40.9, extra urban: 57.6, combined: 50.4. CO2 emissions are 129 g/km, which doesn’t make it too cheap on tax (currently Band D, and £110 p/y). It’ll do the 0 – 62 mph run in a decent 10.9 seconds and go on to 115 mph.

Often the official fuel stat figures don’t mirror the ones you’ll get in the real-world, but we managed an average of almost 54 mpg on a motorway run at 70 mph in light traffic, but then another run in heavier traffic and higher head winds on the same route showed 44.0 mpg. Around town, we were getting approximately 38 miles-per-gallon, which isn’t far off the official urban figure. Not bad at all for a crossover.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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With this second generation Qashqai, there’s been some major new component changes and upgrades to make the ride and handling even better and more comfortable than before. Firstly, the Qashqai’s upper body and suspension set-up was developed in Europe, and specifically for European drivers. I think over here we expect a car to handle tightly around our smaller, twisting roads, and to also cope with bad road surfaces in a comfortable manner. Not an easy task, one would imagine.

To combat this, Nissan have equipped the Qashqai with some neat stuff, such as double piston shock absorbers, which handle both low and high ‘frequency’ bumps. This means that the low-speed ride over short, sharp bumps is improved, whilst the ‘bouncier’ ones at higher speeds are soaked up nicely, and it seems to work very well indeed as drivers and passengers noticed an almost floaty feeling over potholes and speed humps. Certainly, it’s one of the main highlights of the Nissan Qashqai.

Body roll on twisting roads is more noticeable than something like a family saloon or hatchback, but then you have to expect that with a crossover that sits higher than those types of cars, of course, and it’s not something off-putting or overly obvious. You can now also choose from normal or sport steering modes by going through the car’s on-screen menus. Sport makes the steering more weighted and feedback more obvious. Whilst the option is nice, I found normal mode perfectly decent for the majority of journeys.

Driving the 2014 Nissan Qashqai Acenta Premium

 

Standard on the both the two and 4-wheel-drive Qashqai is their new Chassis Control safety system. This includes Active Ride Control, Active Engine Brake (only used on the Xtronic automatic version), and Active Trace Control. In short, the system monitors a variety of things such as wheel speed, the behaviour and trajectory of the car and more, and then acts by subtly braking to keep you headed in the right direction safely, and it also acts like a limited slip differential to ensure the best traction and limit understeer.

As well as all that there’s now Hill Start Assist as standard, as well as an electronic parking brake and aside from the lowest-grade ‘Visia’ (on which it’s an option), the Qashqai comes with a Smart Vision Pack, which includes more safety systems such as Lane Departure Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, and Traffic Sign Recognition. To finish that list there’s also Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. That’s an impressive amount of standard electronic assist systems considering the price of the Qashqai.

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If you’re put off by the 1.2 DIG-T being such a small engine for a crossover on the large-ish size, don’t be. It’s an absolutely excellent little motor which is quiet and packs easily enough torque and power for any normal journey. Up long, steep hills with 4 adults on board, the 1.2 Qashqai coped just fine and I never felt it struggled or lacked the go to do the job well enough. The power and torque is well spread throughout the rev range, and the car gets up to speed confidently enough.

It also cruises superbly, as there’s a surprisingly low amount of wind and road noise coming into the cabin at higher speeds, and the sixth gear is nice and long, keeping the engine entirely unstressed and showing just 2,200 rpm at 70 miles-per-hour. Gear changes are slick and precise from the 6-speed manual transmission, and the gear ratios are well set up for both urban and motorway journeys. However, I thought the clutch pedal could do with having slightly less resistance, as it felt almost heavy after a while in stop-start traffic.

On that note, the 1.2 DIG-T has the Stop-Start system, but for whatever reason it rarely cut the engine in traffic. I turned off the air conditioning, to see if that was stopping the system from working, but it made no difference. Strange.

To sum up, I was pleasantly surprised by just how well the Qashqai drove. The ride and handling went beyond my expectation, as did the plucky little 1.2 DIG-T engine. Thumbs up for this second-gen version!

Price

Considering how much tech you gets as standard on the second-generation Nissan Qashqai, the comfort level, and all-round great build quality, it’s very well priced. Nothing feels cheap or tacky, and in fact the Nissan looks and feels like a premium product, and certainly you do feel like it’s a bit of a bargain. Good-o.

The competition consists of: Suzuki SX4 S-Cross ALLGRIPMazda CX-5 AWDSubaru Forester,Toyota RAV4Honda CR-VMitsubishi Outlander and Kia Sportage, and at the more expensive end, the Volkswagen Tiguan, Land Rover Freelander 2, Audi Q5, and Volvo XC60.

Nissan Qashqai Acenta Premium 1.2 DIG-T 115 PS 2WD verdict & score

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Nissan can count me as impressed with their second-generation Qashqai. There are just a couple of things I’d like to see done: firstly, the clutch is heavier than I’d have liked, and needs less resistance. Secondly, Nissan should offer the 4-wheel-drive version on models other than just the top of the range version. Whilst the 1.2 DIG-T isn’t exactly the quickest thing out of the blocks, it’s a perfectly decent little thing and I enjoyed the fact that passengers were shocked at how small a motor it was, with most guessing at it being a 1.8 or 2.0 litre unit.

In summary, the Nissan Qashqai is an absolutely brilliant all-rounder, which offers a spacious, comfortable, and contemporary cabin, whilst having the benefit of being small enough to park easily and be decently manoeuvrable, high-enough to offer good vision with the ground clearance to park off-road if needed, and a ride and drive that I can’t really find fault with.

Do you own a second-generation Nissan Qashqai? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  7.5
Engine  8
Gearbox  8
Price  9
Handling  7.5
Drive & Ride  8.5
Overall Score  8.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  Nissan Qashqai Acenta Premium 1.2 DIG-T 115 PS Manual 2WD
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, rear tinted glass, NissanConnect 7″ touchscreen with sat nav, reverse camera, DAB, Bluetooth, USB & AUX ports. Lane Departure Warning, Front Collision Avoidance, Hill Start Assist, electronic parking brake, Chassis and Active Ride Control, front and curtain airbags, heated door mirrors, cruise control with limiter, stop/start dual zone air conditioning. See website for more details
Options you should spec  N/A
The Competition  Suzuki SX4 S-Cross ALLGRIPMazda CX-5 AWDSubaru Forester,Toyota RAV4Honda CR-VMitsubishi Outlander and Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Land Rover Freelander 2, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60.
Price  (Oct. 2014) £18,265 – £28,500. As tested: £20,995
Engine  Petrol, turbocharged 1.2 litre, 4-cylinder in-line, 16-valves
Power, Torque  Power: 113 hp @ 4,500 rpm | Torque: 140 lb ft (190 Nm) @ 2,000 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 115 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 10.9 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2   Urban: 40.9, Extra urban: 57.6, Combined: 50.4 | CO2: 129 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  (min) 1,318 kgs (2,905 lbs)
Websites  Nissan UK, Nissan USA, Nissan Worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

2 responses to “Nissan Qashqai Acenta Premium 1.2 DIG-T 115 PS Manual 2WD review – Crossover Sets the Bar High”

  1. chris

    Tekna trim level offers heated front seats and electrically adjustable drivers seat.

  2. Brian Granger

    I have the 1.2 DIG Xtronic excellent purchase lovely smooth gearbox
    Very satisfied

    B Granger

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