Monthly Archives: August 2017


Hard as it is to believe, it’s ten years since Nissan launched the vehicle that has come to define the automotive industry over the last decade. The Qashqai was the original crossover. This imitation of an SUV is Nissan’s most successful model ever in terms of European sales, with 2.3 million units sold since 2007.

But being a pioneer and ruffling the car industry’s feathers is a tricky business. How do you stay ahead of the competition? In the decade since the original Qashqai was launched, more than 20 new models have joined the party, all of them hoping to get their slice of the cake?

Currently, the Qashqai enjoys an unparalleled 10.3% market share and is the third best-selling car in Britain. But Nissan is well aware of the latest threats to surface from the superpower that is the VW Group, in particular the Seat Ateca.

This new mid-term update is pinned by Nissan as a ‘major update’, thanks to changes behind the scenes as well as the usual cosmetic refresh. The company has focused on four key areas of the vehicle: interior quality, exterior design, improving the drive and cramming even more technology in front of the customer.

The most noticeable change (and the best) is inside the cabin. Nissan is keen to steal a share of the premium clientele out there, and has made a real effort to provide a more lavish interior.

A flat-bottomed steering wheel offers a neat visual touch and an easier button layout to navigate; the eight-speaker Bose stereo system makes even your the most questionable music sound epic; and the quilted leather seats give the cabin a real touch of added luxury. All these features are found as standard on the new Tekna+ grade and are on the options list for lower trim levels.

Other more general cabin tweaks include thicker glass and better seals around the doors, with higher quality absorption material situated near the rear arches. All this, together with the new toys, has really worked. The cabin is very refined, with minimal noise intruding on occupants: and Nissan has listened to customers and delivered the extra sweeteners they say they crave.

Outside, being a smart vessel already, there was little reason to go overboard. The new Vivid Blue paint scheme lights up the car and will be a big seller, but it’s the V-shaped grille, new headlights, LED daytime running light signature and silver accents dotted around the body that provide more subtle alterations. Note also the silver door mirrors and the satin finisher on the Qashqai’s rear.

It works. In our opinion, the Qashqai is now one of the smartest cars in the compact SUV sector.

Unfortunately, the only fourwheel drive variant in the range is the 1.6-litre diesel with a manual gearbox. This means you’re also restricted to the top three trim levels – N-Connecta, Tekna and the new Tekna+ grade.

Most people will find the 1.6 diesel more than satisfactory in a vehicle of this size. But when competitors such as the Ateca offer 2.0-litre options with more power, and Nissan wants to chase the premium end of the spectrum, don’t be surprised if the 2.0 dCi unit from the X-Trail gets shoehorned into the Qashqai sooner rather than later.

Driving characteristics have improved, however, with a thicker steering shaft employed to reduce vibrations travelling up your forearms and modifications to rubber components also aiding the cause. The Qashqai feels altogether more solid than before, and it already felt solid.

In the pursuit of better handling, but without compromising comfort, Nissan has retuned the vehicle’s dampers, decreased its single wheel spring rate and stiffened up its anti-roll bars. Some of the behindthe- scenes tech like the Active Ride Control system has been reworked for improvements, while a new Active Return Control delivers a more natural feel as that stimulating new steering wheel centres itself.

On the switchback mountain roads of Austria, the end result is a car that feels composed, more assured and pointier through bends – but one which won’t have your family hurling along the way.

Technology-wise, Nissan has now added Pedestrian Recognition to its Intelligent Emergency Braking system, while Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Stand Still Assist join it as newcomers to the safety party.

The company has also been busy working on its new ProPilot system – its first steps towards autonomous driving. Due in Spring 2018, this can control acceleration, braking and steering while operating in heavy congestion or during high-speed cruising on a single carriageway. It’s only a matter of time.

The revised Qashqai has been given a boost in the right areas and will certainly continue to be a good seller. The stand-out points are the cabin and particularly its refi nement, though the space in the rear and the boot remains less generous than we’d like.

Our other concern would be that the Qashqai could do with the 2.0 dCi unit as an option to help make the most of its newly bestowed premium status. To compare it with its most commonly quoted rival, the Seat Ateca 2.0 Tdi Xcellence with 190hp, a sevenspeed DSG gearbox and 4WD costs £31,260. The equivalent Qashqai Tekna+ with the 130bhp 1.6 dCi, 4WD and a manual box costs £32,530.

Nissan has had a fantastic run with the Qashqai over the last 10 years. The company clearly wants to keep that going for the next decade, too – and believes that chasing the premium customer is a way of doing so. But it also needs to be careful not to leave those customers feeling as if they’ve paid a premium too.


First time Jeep launched a vehicle called the Compass, it was a bit rubbish. It was 2006, and the company felt like it could do nothing wrong – so it brought a deeply American vehicle to Britain and figured it would sell, because back then everything sold.

What followed was a financial collapse that ended up with Jeep becoming part of the Fiat empire. And however cynical you might feel about that, the result is that today’s Jeeps are properly global products.

The Renegade was first, and its sales have been astronomical. So much so that having sold 300,000 vehicles in 2009, Jeep shifted 1.4 million last year.

Now, aiming to play the same game, here’s an all-new Compass. It’s halfway in size between the Renegade and bigger Cherokee – and it’s set to give Jeep an extremely serious presence in the compact SUV market when it goes on sale at the end of the year.

If you doubt Jeep’s global credentials, you might be interested to learn that UK Compasses with be built in India. You don’t need to spend much time inside the vehicle to see that it’s distinctly European in character, too.

Jeep says the Compass will be the ‘most capable’ vehicle in its segment. Backing that up is the presence of a Trailhawk model in the range, bringing with it dual-ratio gears – and the ‘Trail Rated’ badge that says Jeep considers this vehicle worthy of its off-road heritage.

As with the existing Renegade and Cherokee, the Trailhawk model will be a niche seller. But all Compasses will have a decent level of off-road ability built in, with 3mm metal underbody guards as standard and a rear suspension setup allowing 20cm of articulation.

So this is going to be more than just another me-too model in an already crowded segment. You could argue that real off-road ability is irrelevant to most buyers here, and by extension that it’s a gimmick, but Jeep clearly believes that its brand means something, even to people who buy soft-roaders. And amen to that.

First and foremost, though, this is a family car. Entry-level models won’t even have four-wheel drive. Obviously we’ll leave those to one side; assuming you want the real thing, your choice will be between a 1.4-litre petrol engine and a pair of 2.0-litre diesels producing 140 and 170bhp. All 4×4 models will get a nine-speed auto box as standard.

There are three main trim levels, with Trailhawk out on its own as a specialist model. All are well equipped, with the range-topping Limited giving you an exceptional kit list including a particularly impressive multimedia system.

We drove a Limited with the 170bhp diesel engine, as well as a similarly powered Trailhawk. The most obvious difference aside from the off-road stuff is that the Limited has a full leather interior; the leather itself is less than entirely plush, but does feel hard-wearing.

There are some hard, scratchy and cheap-feeling plastics around the cabin, too, particularly to the lower dash surfaces and rear door trims. The dash itself is good and stout, however, though the floor console is a bit flappy – give it a couple of years and we’d be listening out for creaks and squeaks from it.

It’s easy to get into a good driving position, however – and even with the front seat set all the way back, a six-footer can still slide comfortably into the back. That’s a very pleasing surprise in a 4×4 of this size – though in the Limited we drove, a full-length sunroof meant headroom in the back was badly lacking. The Trailhawk was just fine in this way, however, though a high waistline and rather eagerly positioned C-post means the view out is nothing to write home about.

So your kids might not be overly enamoured of the Compass. They’ll like this, though: when Jeep’s designers were coming up with a ‘look’ for the vehicle, they took inspiration from sources including none other than Iron Man. ‘Machine with character’ is the phrase they like to use, and you’d be hard pushed to say the Compass lacks it.

It doesn’t lack for cargo carrying skills, either, thanks to rear seats which fold acceptably close to flat. They don’t leave any step to get your stuff over, either, and loading up in the first place is aided by a good, low lip with a hard-wearing plastic covering.

On the move, the Compass is impressively quiet. The diesel engine is quiet at all speeds and the ninespeed box is as smooth as you like, meaning progress in stop-start city traffi c is hassle-free. Our test route included a lot of urban driving, which was completely undramatic – even when the surface got broken up and pot-holed, the suspension dealt with it more effi ciently than we expected, with crashy responses almost completely absent.

We didn’t really get the chance to experience the Compass’ handling, however we can say that its ride and refi nement are genuinely impressive – as is its braking. Off-road, the Limited dealt tidily with rough, unsurfaced tracks – and the Trailhawk demonstrated a strong level of climbing ability, whether over loose stones or bigger, axle-twisting rocks. We found that even in low box, however, it was necessary to use Hill Descent Control to keep on top of its speed on even quite shallow drops – putting the auto box into manual mode and dropping it into fi rst did prevent revs from building up in some situations but, once the vehicle was already descending on HDC, switching it off provoked an immediate lurch forward.

Overall, however, there’s no doubting that with the extra hardware Jeep has given the Compass, it’s going to add something new to the compact SUV market. It may not be the most sophisticated vehicle in its class, but not a lot will be able to match it for standard kit – and Jeep says that its price will be pitched in to the middle of the market.

There’s more to life than just kit, though – which is one of the lessons Jeep learned from the original Compass. This time, the vehicle itself has been designed to appeal to European tastes – showing that of all the lessons they’ve learned, the main one is that the Renegade worked like a charm.

Like it or not, Jeep would be mad not to follow that formula. The Compass does just that – but the need to demonstrate real off-road skill shows that this is a formula that’s unique to Jeep itself. It’s one they’ve got right before – and thus far, everything points to them having done it again.


Hyundai has unveiled the Kona, ‘a true SUV with four-wheel drive,’ which will go on sale in the UK late this year. Similar in size to the Nissan Juke, this will initially be available with a choice of two petrol engines – a 1.0-litre triple and a 1.6-litre four-pot. Only the latter will have 4wd, in combination with a seven-speed auto gearbox – though during the course of next year, the range will expand to include a 1.6-litre diesel which will also be available in 4×4 form.


Citroen has lifted the wraps on the C3 Aircross, a small SUV which will go on sale in the UK this November.  Leading with striking design and a strong equipment list, this will compete head-on with the new Hyundai Kona (see above) – which is also set to go on sale at around the same time. Unlike the Kona, the C3 Aircross isn’t available with four-wheel drive; instead, Citroen uses the Grip Control system which has become familiar on its and sister company
Peugeot’s SUVs over the last decade or so.


August will see the arrival of a newly facelifted Nissan X-Trail, which the company promises will benefit from
a wide range of improvements. These include greater refinement and practicality, additional hightech luxuries and a raft of new autonomous driving features – in addition, of course, to a freshened-up exterior design.

The new look, which Nissan describes as ‘distinctive and robust’, sees tweaks to the headlights, grille and bumpers and the adoption of more body-coloured areas. Said body colour comes from a palette of ten options, including new shades of red, orange, blue and brown.

Further updates include new alloys, flush-fitting parking sensors and a new side moulding along the base of the doors.  Under the bonnet, four-wheel-drive versions of the X-Trail retain the familiar engine options, both of them diesel: a 1.6-litre, 130bhp lump with 53.3mpg and 139g/km, and a 2.0-litre, 177bhp unit with 50.4mpg and 149g/km. Both come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, however the 2.0-litre version is also available in CVT
form with 47.1mpg and 158g/km.

In each case, Nissan has placed a great emphasis on enhancing the X-Trail’s premium feel. The vehicle has a new steering wheel and, where leather is fitted, enhanced quilting. Top-spec Tekna models get this as standard, along with features like heated first and second-row seats and steering wheel, gesture-controlled power tailgate and an
eight-speaker Bose stereo. Tekna models also offer a new tan and black two-tone leather option.

Good news if you can’t afford the range-topper is that all X-Trails now have more cargo space, with five-seat models able to swallow 565 litres with all their seats in place. Fold all the seats down and the maximum cargo capacity is now increased to 1996 litres. In Nissan’s words, ‘the interior practicality of the new X-Trail makes it perfect for
adventurous families.’

The X-Trail sold some 766,000 units last year, making it the world’s most popular SUV, and these updates aim to keep it in pole position. With sales due to start next month, prices will be announced imminently.