Nissan Qashqai 1.3 N-Connecta: An impressive innovation but approach with caution

Sean O'Grady
1 / 4
Nissan Qashqai 1.3 N-Connecta: An impressive innovation but approach with caution

Motoring journalists don’t really like to admit it, but most of the stuff they write about are things the public couldn’t give a stuff about. Like engines. Like the Nissan Qashqai. Like the engines in the Nissan Qashqai.

Here is a car that hardly needs to be written about at all. We forget now, about 14 years since the launch of the first version, what a highly significant car it is.

Like the original Mini in 1959 or the Volkswagen Golf in 1974 or the Renault Espace in 1984, it created and defined a market segment which it went on to dominate, as “first mover” for many years after.

The Qashqai, as a hatch/SUV “crossover” did just that, and the company has wisely evolved the original shape and concept in this second generation model. Plus it is made in Britain (still).

It was a big gamble for Nissan to stop, as they did, selling traditional hatches and saloons in favour of this bold new direction, but it paid off, and the public takes the entire thing for granted.

They don’t really care that Nissan were the ones who took that brave innovative step before everyone else followed.

Nor, I’m thinking, will Joe Public be all that much bothered by the new 1.3l petrol engine that Nissan and partners Renault (your remember that – the Carlos Ghosn thing?) have slotted beneath the Qashqai’s handsomely sculpted bonnet.

My, you might not even realise that such a radical change has even taken place.

So let me tell you – bore you even – about bore spray coating. Here, using a plasma torch, a fine film of very hard steel is sprayed on the shafts of the cylinders to enhance heat conductivity during combustion.

The shape of the hatch/ SUV crossover has been updated (Nissan)

Let me add, too, that they’ve developed a new “triangular” cylinder head with the full injectors placed centrally, the better to burn your precious fuel efficiently.

There’s a new turbo design too, meaning a little extra power from that source, itself a significant “boost” to performance for a given consumption of petrol. May I also point out the new rocker arms with hydraulic guidance, replacing traditional tappets, which means less noise and greater smoothness?

The spec

Price: £25,025 (as tested, starts at £19,995)

Engine: 1.3l 4-cylinder diesel; 6-speed manual

Power output (PS@rpm): 140@5,000

Top speed (mph): 120

0 to 60 (secs): 10.5

Fuel economy (mpg): 53.2

CO2 emissions (g/km): 121

And the fuel is injected into this gem of an engine at a rather higher pressure than before, again aiding efficiency – a given level of acceleration and top speed for less fuel and cost, other things being equal.

Now, there are two more comprehensible things I can add to all that, for your benefit. First is that, on initial impressions it is a highly impressive installation.

Both companies – Renault and Nissan – have a very respectable history in engine design, and this new unit gives the Qashqai an even livelier, more willing feel than it boasted before.

The benefits come in acceleration at higher speeds, rather than from rest, which means that it will be an even more refined motorway cruiser. On the way to such cruising speeds it will rev so easily you can shift gears two at a time, and in sixth the Qashqai does offer a very refined experience, for the cash.

It’s great to drive, adding a bit of edge to the Qashqai’s basically softy, not so sporty, personality. The interior in my middle-spec (ie cheaper) manual model in “Connecta” trim was just right – easy to use cruise control; a clear, small sat nav screen; and a blind spot warning system.

Just right: the small sat nav screen (Nissan)

It’s a tiny bit dated, compared to the new generation stuff from the VW group (such as the T-Roc or Seat Arona/Ateca) but far from offensively so. My only grumble was the “auto hold” parking brake. This turns the electric “handbrake” on when you stop and is supposed to release it when you start off again. But sometimes it is a little reluctant to “let go”, so you have to rev it up or else stall.

Don’t forget, by the way, when speccing your Qashqai or picking a used example, to always go for the fat tyred, smaller wheel options – they are a far better ride and have superior fuel economy.

My second piece of advice can be summed up as: “trust no one”. I loved the Qashqai 1.3 – but I only drove it for a week.

The problem with engine innovations – novel cylinder linings, super- and turbo-charging small capacity units, three cylinders rather than four, the whole diesel thing, new alloys for the block or heads and the like is that they take many years to prove themselves.

Even the most prestigious names in the business have fallen foul of faulty engineering where the flaws only show up under real-world conditions, and after some years. Indeed it is quite hard to think of a brand that hasn’t, at one time or another, let its customers down very badly because fitting a new engine to older cars is often such an uneconomic proposition.

So I would always advise anyone to approach such innovations with caution and to opt for the tried and trusted version before sufficient time has passed to accept the new engine design with confidence.

As I say, those clever engineers botch things surprisingly often, given the importance of the project. That’s one thing every car buyer should take some interest in.