Car makers have faced big changes this year with strict new emissions limits and a tough new testing regime.
The changes have caught some brands out as they rush to modify engines to meet the new limits then fight to get them approved under the new tests.
To avoid such issues with its market-leading Qashqai, Nissan wisely decided to ditch its old petrol engines and turn to its partners at Renault and Daimler, who already had a Euro 6d-Temp-compliant engine.
Nissan Qashqai Tekna+
Engine: 1.3-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 120mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
CO2 emissions: 121g/km
So out go the 1.2 and 1.6 petrols and in comes a 1.3-litre in 138bhp and 158bhp tunes.
Nissan says the new turbocharged four-cylinder is all about lower running costs and a more dynamic drive. Both versions are claimed to offer better economy, lower emissions and longer service intervals than the comparable old engines.
Both offer matching CO2 emissions figures of 121g/km and economy of 53.3mpg on the basic 17-inch wheels. They’re less polluting and more efficient than the equivalent outgoing engines and slot into the £145 first year VED band.
While the more powerful version is actually down on the old 1.6’s 161bhp, both versions of the 1.3 have a healthy torque advantage aimed at offering more responsive, linear delivery and better towing abilities.
Jumping from one to the other, the extra power of the uprated engine isn’t hugely obvious. Both pull fairly strongly from low speeds and, if anything, the lower powered version feels more responsive around town. The higher powered one’s strength comes in its superior torque, making it more suitable for a car that’s regularly fully laden and allowing it to tow up to 1,500kg.
Both are as quiet and smooth as you’d expect of a modern petrol engine but our long-term Skoda Karoq’s 148bhp 1.5 petrol feels like it has more get up and go than either version in the Qashqai.
Another major change to the drivetrain is the automatic transmission. The old continuous variable transmission has been replaced with a seven-speed dual-clutch system offered with the 158bhp version.
The new box is a welcome alternative to the CVT. It’s far quieter in operation but remains smooth as it shifts. It’s only problem is a hesitation in changing down for overtakes.
It at least doesn’t seem to suffer from the low-speed jerkiness that afflicts our Skoda and in other areas the Nissan is the Skoda’s superior. Leg and headroom in the rear feel more generous in the Nissan and the ride in the Qashqai is also slightly softer and more comfortable.
But in other areas the Skoda pulls away. The interior looks and feels far superior, the engine feels more responsive and powerful and, sadly for Nissan, the Karoq’s infotainment system is superior in appearance and operation.
That’s particularly disappointing because the new NissaConnect infotainment system was the third big change to the Qashqai.
It aims to meet modern drivers’ connectivity needs but from our – admittedly brief – time using the system it remains some way behind the best on offer in appearance and operation.
Its saving grace is that as well as its own app that allows you to send navigation data from your phone to the car, it also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Aside from that missed opportunity, the Qashqai remains a good car. It still gets right the fundamentals that have seen it remain the best seller in the segment it created.
It’s good to drive, spacious, comfortable and comes with the convenience and safety technology families want. However, the segment is more competitive than ever and while the new engines and gearbox are an improvement for the Nissan they’re not exceptional and the new infotainment fails to impress.