The quirky niche
I’m safely presuming that Nissan entertained some sort of competition to invent thee most unpronounceable name for one of their new niche market vehicles, the Qashqai. How do you pronounce it? Umm, cash-kay, I think. What does it mean? No idea, perhaps “bless you” in Japanese.
The eccentricity continues with the car’s purpose and targeted niche, which is basically the non- or occasional-4×4 SUV. Both of my regular followers (Hello Ma!) will swiftly point out that I’m not exactly fond of softy off-roaders, but this particular Qashqai redeemed itself by not even bothering with four-wheel-drive.
This meant that I didn’t have to venture off some beaten path and see how quickly I could get the Qashqai stuck, call my friends with the Defender and subsequently describe the car’s capabilities as “adequate”. Most Qashqais will probably never see so much as a dusty dirt road, but our test vehicle traversed just that with minimal fuss and pleasing comfort levels.
The natural hunting grounds of the lesser-spotted, non-4×4 Nissan SUV is somewhere between your driveway, office car park and preferred shopping mall. With this in mind, Nissan released the Limited Edition n-tec model that differentiates itself by means of bizarre wheels, shiny roof rails, a smart infotainment system, leather seats and privacy glass.
Only 200 of these units will be produced and at a price of N$289 500 they’re only N$8 500 more expensive than the equivalent run-of-the-mill Qashqai model. Yes, not even 10 grand for all those extras also sounds like an unbelievable bargain to me.
Should you rush to your friendly Nissan dealer and find the customised units all sold old, take comfort in the fact that the next best Qashqai is still a superb buy. The range includes three Diesels (of which two are actually 4×4’s), two 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol units, a 2-litre Acenta model and the Limited Edition you’re reading about now.
Not having had the pleasure of testing the other engines, I would highly recommend you give the 2-litre petrol Qashqai a stir, Limited Edition or not. Naturally aspirated 4-cylinder petrol engines usually shine with acceptable performance figures and decent power delivery, unless they’re of an independent throttle body, high-revving nature.
The Nissan engine is no such thing but comes mighty close in character; I can’t recall when last I took such a shine to a “mere” 4-cylinder that wasn’t breathed on by some performance gurus. Its torque figures would suit a 2.5-litre better, acceleration encroaches on 2-litre turbo territory and its combustion noises would please even part-time street racers.
The crucial figures of 102kW (140hp) and 198Nm seem understated, as is proven by its 192km/h top speed. Should you restrain your right foot, you may also expect an average consumption of just 8.3 L/100km.
The n-tec Limited Edition vigorously puts its power down via the front wheels and a crisp 6-speed manual gearbox. The ratios are initially closely spaced to keep that zingy motor on the boil, dropping to pleasingly low numbers when you cruise on the highway.
With such a lively and willing power plant the Qashqai does suffer from the odd bit of torque steer and VDC / traction control interference, but I chalked that down as a (positive) sign of excessive power. All that torque, or the 6 gears coupled to the rev-happy engine, will never leave you in the lurch. And I love that.
Another positive aspect is the handling; the clichéd mix of control and comfort also rings true here. The Limited Edition model obviously puts more rubber on the road, which surely benefits its surprisingly agile cornering abilities. Eventually the SUV body will tilt significantly and even the fat Contis will surrender to under-steer.
Under everyday circumstances you will never reach the grip levels and enjoy supportive seats, quite precise steering and exceptional ABS brakes. The pedals felt a bit hard at first and it took me a while to befriend the clutch, but eventually I grew so fond of my funky Cash-kay that I didn’t want to part with it.
The vehicle’s interior provides all the expected amenities like climate and cruise control, auto lights and wipers, electric mirrors and windows, electric power steering, remote central locking, plenty of airbags, trip computer, 60/40 split rear seats, plus that aforementioned infotainment system.
The double-stack in-dash touch-screen unit from Planet Electronics is quite daunting to operate but offers CD, DVD, mp3, AUX, TV, Navigation, Bluetooth and radio functions. Satellite buttons on the steering wheel come to your aid as well; proper gadget boys and girls will surely revel in the possibilities and sound quality of this system.
The Limited Edition Qashqai needs a service every 15 000km on its 3 year 90 000km service plan and comes with a 3 year 100 000km warranty. And a fantastic engine.