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Is the top-spec version of the Qashqai a worthwhile investment?
We try the pioneering family SUV with the currently range-topping engine and equipment grade options.
Standard equipment on Tekna+:
20in alloy wheels, glass roof with roof rails, privacy glass, hands-free powered tailgate, automatic LED headlights, LED DRLs and tail lights, rain sensing wipers, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, front massage seats, heated seats, heated windscreen, heated steering wheel, wireless charging pad, 12.3in driver display, 9in touchscreen with sat-nav, wireless Apple Carplay, head-up display, automatic dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, around-view monitor with moving object detection, selectable drive modes, driver attention alert, intelligent cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and junction assist, lane departure warning and prevention, blind spot warning and intervention, rear automatic braking and cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, tyre pressure monitoring system.
Nissan's Qashqai SUV range has an interesting future ahead of it in powertrain terms, with the imminent arrival of the manufacturer's E-Power hybrid system this summer (see p8). However, for the time being things are a bit more conventional, as the current Qashqai line-up, as it has been since the third-generation model launched last year, is petrol mild hybrid only. We've previously tried the more modest 140hp option, and now we've had the chance to sample the current range-topper, which offers 158hp. It's available with both four-wheel drive and automatic transmission, but we had a front-wheel drive manual on test.
In truth there's not too much difference between this and the lesser engine, being the same size and only 18hp more powerful. However, it also boasts identical official fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures, meaning if drivers want the extra performance, the only prohibitive factor will be a small increase in P11D. The engine offers pretty good acceleration, but can also be a little noisy when pressed. It feels more at home at a relaxed cruise whooshing up a motorway, which also suits the car pretty well generally, with good ride quality. That said, the handling is decent too - it's not a driver's car, but it's fine for this segment.
As well as the range-topping engine, our test car was also specced with the range-topping Tekna+ equipment grade. It comes with a cabin that's very well trimmed throughout, with a combination of leather and wood-effect materials that would bear decent comparison with the inside of a Mercedes-Benz. This includes the quilted leather seats, which are comfy and provide a luxury feel. However, the massaging function the front seats are equipped with is a bit unconvincing - it would be possible to replicate the effect just by repeatedly adjusting the lumbar support control.
A 12.3in digital instrument cluster is an attractive and useful feature, and we like the head-up display that puts information like the current speed, speed limit, and sat-nav directions right in the driver's eye-line. A 9in infotainment touch screen is within easy reach and usefully responsive.
Rear leg and headroom is good, even with the glass roof which comes as standard with this grade, and there's a usefully flexible boot, with a split adjustable floor that can either reveal separate underfloor compartments or be turned into dividers.
It's also worth mentioning that the Tekna+ spec (and the lesser Tekna) also comes with Nissan's ProPilot package of driver assistance features. New elements of this include blind spot intervention, where the system will help to prevent the driver changing lanes if there is an adjacent vehicle in the way, and the capability to react to surrounding road signs and sat-nav speed limit data to adjust the vehicle's speed, rather than just relying on sensors.
Compared with mild hybrid versions of rivals in this segment, such as the Ford Kuga and Hyundai Tucson, the Qashqai stacks up well in terms of fuel economy and emissions. However, it looks relatively expensive to buy - and can't hope to match those models in the efficiency stakes once conventional and plug-in hybrids are introduced to the equation. The upcoming E-Power system therefore looks set to have a major role to play in increasing the Qashqai's fleet appeal.