Preview: 2017 Nissan Qashqai

Easy to say but hard to spell, Qashqai (pronounced cash-kye) is a word Nissan Canada hopes will be rolling off the tongues of compact crossover buyers come springtime. Arriving to duke it out with the likes of the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade and Chevy Trax, the 2017 Nissan Qashqai comes with quite the resume – it’s been the runaway segment leader in Europe for years, selling over 2.5 million to date.

The 2017 Nissan Qashqai comes with quite the resume – it’s been the runaway segment leader in Europe for years, selling over 2.5 million to date.

Launched in 2007, Nissan claims the Qashqai to be the first of its ilk, filling a void nobody knew existed. Now these cheeky little jacked-up five-door hatchbacks are all in vogue, offering up functional utility, a compact footprint, reasonable fuel economy, available all-wheel drive and that all-important pretense of ruggedness.

Christian Meunier, Senior Vice-President, Nissan Sales and Marketing and Operations Nissan North America, and Chairman of Nissan Canada (phew) considers the Nissan Qashqai to be his baby. He was involved with the initial car in Europe, and his posting to North America three years ago coincided with the launch of the second-generation Qashqai. He saw great North American potential for this accomplished cute-ute, and spearheaded the campaign to bring it across the pond.

And so it arrives three years later – as the Qashqai in Canada and the Rogue Sport in the US. Huh? Apparently Canadians are more receptive to European sensibilities, and the marketing folks think this compact ute will be an important vehicle, so it stands on its own and keeps its name – not to be overshadowed by big brother Rogue.

The name Qashqai comes from a nomadic Persian tribe that seasonally traversed the tough terrain that is now Iran, traveling with their flocks from highland to lowland pastures.

Built on a slightly shrunken Nissan Rogue platform (2.3 inch shorter wheelbase and 12.1 shorter overall length), a modern Qashqai tribesman could easily cram a number of goats in his Qashqai if he was feeling lazy. It’s a roomy little thing with 648 L of cargo space behind the 60/40 second row seat, and up to 1,730 L with it folded. Like the Rogue, the clever Divide-N-Hide cargo system is available, and the big hatch creates a generous opening.

Power comes from a 2.0L four-cylinder making 141 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Front-wheel drive is standard, as is a six-speed manual transmission, although the majority of Canadian buyers will spec all-wheel drive and the Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with Sport and Eco mode. The six-speed manual is available with AWD, if that combo floats your goat.

The Qashqai comes across as more rugged than cute, which should serve it well when considering this segment is a scattershot of styling, from the bland Honda HR-V to the bug-like Buick Encore to the in-yer-face Jeep Renegade. Interior quality appears to be among the top of the class, and rear-seat leg room is generous.

Within the Nissan SUV family, the Qashqai nestles in above the niche Juke and below the Rogue, Murano, Pathfinder and Armada.

As the Qashqai was developed in Europe, the Nissan brass assure us it will show class-leading dynamic poise along with a satisfying connection to the road. Peering underneath, we are encouraged by the Qashqai’s front independent-strut suspension with stabilizer bar and twin-tube shock absorbers, and a multi-link independent rear suspension, again with twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.

The 2017 Qashqai will be offered in three trim levels – S, SV and SL. Heated front seats are standard across the board, which could be considered a very smart move on the part of Nissan Canada. While the base S model rolls on sixteen-inch steel wheels, the next-up SV gets 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 215/60R17 all-season tires along with heated leather steering wheel, sunroof, dual-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start, remote start, cruise, SiriusXM, auto headlights, Divide-N-Hide and illuminated vanity mirrors.

Moving up to the SL nets leather front seats, 19-inch alloys with 225/45R19 all-season tires, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with navigation and connectivity apps, 6-way power driver’s seat with lumbar, around-view monitor and silver finished roof racks. An optional SL Platinum Package layers on more goodies.

Nissan is also offering a comprehensive suite of safety systems which is uncharacteristic for this segment. The list includes radar-based blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert, Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), lane-departure warning (LDW) and lane departure prevention (LDP). Also available are Intelligent Cruise Control and Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection.

MSRPs have not been announced, but Christian Meunier tells us it will be priced “very competitively” in the compact SUV segment (not subcompact SUV), which suggests it will be priced against such stalwarts as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan’s own Rogue.

Easy to say, hard to spell 1/9/2017 12:01:00 AM