As market rivals start to catch up with the segment defining Qashqai, Nissan has already moved the goalposts: the top selling compact Crossover has expanded its offer with a seven-seat version. Called Qashqai+2, the newest Nissan builds on the success of the original Qashqai by adding space and versatility to create the first Family Crossover.
“Qashqai has become an instant success in Europe. Its distinctive style appeals to buyers seeking something different: but that’s only part of the story. Dynamic design, generous interior space, top quality materials and genuine driving enjoyment all contribute to make Qashqai a huge European success. Now comes the seven-seat Qashqai+2 to add a new dimension to the range… and to ensure Nissan continues to offer something no other manufacturer in the market segment can match,” states Simon Thomas, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Nissan Europe.
Qashqai+2 at a glance
- Global reveal at London Motor Show in July
- Designed and engineered in Europe
- Built at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, UK
- European sales start in October
- Wheelbase extended by 135 mm
- Overall length rises by 211 mm
- Overall height increases by 38 mm
- Fold flat third row of seats
- Under floor storage in larger load area
- Unique styling features and extra standard equipment
- Range matches Qashqai line-up model
- Two petrol and two diesel models
- Two- and four-wheel drive
- Three trim and equipment levels
Not content with breaking sales records, Nissan’s Qashqai – the segment defining compact Crossover – is ready to break new boundaries. With the original version notching-up over 170,000 European sales since launch, Qashqai will soon be joined by a new seven-seat version.
Called Qashqai+2, the new model is seen by Nissan as the first Crossover for busy, active families and with the imminent arrival of the second generation Murano, helps to extend Nissan’s Crossover offering to three distinctive models. Sales in Europe will begin in October.
Qashqai+2 customers will be looking for a car which has the space, convenience and utility of a traditional MPV, but who want a more attractive, sophisticated design. Nissan’s research shows that customers of the existing Qashqai are clearly attracted to it by its design – three-quarters are new to Nissan – and this is a pattern that will continue with Qashqai+2. Those customers are not attracted to the existing people carriers with three rows. And at the same time, Nissan’s research shows that an increasing number of customers in this area of the market are not interested in ‘family’ SUVs, with a third row of seats. They are perceived as too big and too boxy for their needs.
It is against this background that Nissan’s European Product Planning team identified a pool of potential customers who are looking for a stylish yet practical family car. Qashqai+2 continues the Crossover theme so successfully pioneered by Qashqai, by sitting in between two well established segments of the market and drawing customers who aren’t quite satisfied by either of those traditional options.
The results of early Qashqai+2 customer clinics showed that potential customers perceived it as being more family orientated, offering more independence, being ideal for going on family holidays and offering more fun than traditional choices. They also recognised its increased practicality, space and versatility, as well as being more attractive and elegant than its alternatives.
Where Qashqai generally attracts buyers who have no kids or just one kid, or whose kids have already left the nest, Qashqai+2 will offer the rational advantages of a practical family car, with elements such as stylish design, premium interior quality and an engaging driving experience to satisfy the more emotional side of the buying equation.
Like the multi award-winning original, Qashqai+2 has been designed and engineered in Europe and will be built at Nissan’s highly productive plant in Sunderland, in the UK.
In January this year, the plant – which produced a record 353,000 vehicles in 2007 – transferred production of Qashqai models built for export to Japan to the company’s Kyushu plant in Japan to free extra production capacity for Europe. Furthermore, in June a third shift will be added to meet demand for surging sales.
“The arrival of Qashqai+2 will broaden the appeal of the range still further, so the third shift at Sunderland is absolutely vital if we are to keep up with the high demand for the model,” says, Simon Thomas.
DESIGN & PACKAGING
Qashqai+2 shares clear family design DNA with the original, but is subtly different from virtually every angle. Created by designers at Nissan Design Europe in London’s Paddington, the new model is essentially identical to Qashqai from the A-Pillar forward… but everything else behind has been changed.
With a wheelbase extended by 135 mm – taking it to 2,765 mm – the overall length of Qashqai+2 has risen to 4,526 mm, an increase of 211 mm over the five-seat version.
To ensure there’s ample headroom in the third set of seats, the roofline has been lengthened and re-profiled at the rear of the vehicle, adding 38 mm to the overall height and taking it to 1,643 mm. Headroom in the front and middle row of seats has increased by 16 mm and 10 mm respectively, while knee room in the middle row has improved by 23 mm.
At the same time, both front and rear doors have been restyled: the window frames of the front door are squarer in line with the re-profiled roofline, while the rear pair are completely new – longer and also with squarer window frames.
Other styling changes include larger side windows at the rear of the vehicle to provide a light and airy environment for occupants of the third row of seats. Further differentiation between five and seven-seat versions is provided by a new tailgate with a deeper rear window and revised bumper profile at the rear and a sleek new grille, exclusive to Qashqai+2, at the front.
Another exterior feature found as standard on Qashqai+2 is a huge panoramic glass roof to give the same light, airy feeling that is so popular with customers on the existing Qashqai. The fixed roof is 140 mm longer than the equivalent sunroof offered on Qashqai and has a one-touch electric operated sunshade.
Additionally, Qashqai+2 has roof rails as standard adding a premium feel to its silhouette, while darkened privacy glass for all windows behind the front doors is standard on all versions.
Styling aside, the nature of the new model means much of the engineering and development work has been concentrated on the rear of the car where the aim has been to make it as flexible, practical and convenient as possible for passengers.
Lengthening the rear doors has improved ingress to the passenger compartment while access to the rearmost pair of seats is further eased by revisions to the middle bench. As well as having a folding backrest, the bench now slides fore and aft to provide walk-in access to the back row.
As well as moving through a total of 100 mm, the middle bench seat now has a three way folding operation on a 40/20/40 split for added modularity. The five-seat version splits on a 60/40 basis. The backrest also reclines and has no fewer than nine adjustment positions over a range from 10 deg to 25 deg of inclination.
The centre ’20’ portion doubles as a seat or a generously wide multi-function armrest. When used as an armrest, as well as providing a greater feeling of spaciousness for those in the third row, the seat back incorporates two cupholders and a lidded storage box large enough to hold personal music players, games consoles and CDs. It also has an integrated power outlet. When upright, the box becomes a storage recess for those in the rearmost seats.
THREE ROW VERSATILITY
The third row of seats is ingeniously practical. Designed for children or as occasional seats for small adults up to about 1.6m tall, the angle of the backrest has seven adjustment settings and can, of course, be folded completely flat to increase luggage space. The seats split on a 50/50 basis and each can be folded away simply by pulling on a single strap: there is no need to remove head restraints first.
The addition of a third row of seats allows families the option of transforming their Qashqai+2 into a spacious family car into the ‘kids bus’, for those busy days out playing sport or weekends away which can be a logistical nightmare for parents, worried about whether the family, kids and their friends, as well as all their baggage will fit.
When folded away, there’s a large flat loading area left behind which provides almost 500 litres of potential luggage capacity, an increase of 90 litres over Qashqai. The new rear door and revised interior panels mean the loading height has been reduced by 13 mm to 770 mm while, at 1186 mm, the opening width is a remarkable 224 mm wider.
Unlike many seven-seat vehicles, Qashqai+2 has a full depth roller-blind style tonneau cover. With the rearmost seats folded it can be used conventionally but if the third set of seats are to be occupied, it can be removed and stowed in a special compartment under the boot floor. Like the extra pair of seats, therefore, the tonneau can remain in the vehicle at all times.
The lid of the underfloor stowage area, meanwhile, can also double as a cargo divider so fragile shopping – eggs or bottles for example – can be safely loaded where it won’t be damaged by heavier items. The load area is set off by a stylish stainless steel kick plate which offers protection to the leading edge of the boot floor when loading heavy items.
RIDE & HANDLING
Mechanically, Qashqai+2 follows the lead set by the original model. That means a stretched version of Nissan’s C-platform featuring strut-type front suspension with combined coil-over-strut assemblies and a forward lower link. The suspension assembly is mounted on a subframe which is attached to the body via compliant rubber bushes to isolate road noise and vibration from the platform, improving both refinement and ride comfort. A front anti-roll bar is attached directly to the strut assembly for more effective control of body roll under cornering.
A fully independent multi-link rear suspension has been used for precise handling and high-speed stability. Attached to the vehicle via a rigid rear subframe to keep unwanted noise and vibrations to a minimum, the compact assembly features an aluminium rear upper link to reduce weight: the saving is in the region of 4 kg.
The extra length and equipment found in Qashqai+2 has raised the overall weight of the vehicle by approximately 100 kg. Suspension settings have been revised to take account of the extra weight, while steering assistance – all Qashqai models use electric power steering – has also been retuned.
Two versions of the chassis are available, offering the choice of front-wheel drive or sophisticated ALL-MODE four-wheel drive.
Developed by Nissan, the ALL-MODE system – which is available on 2.0-litre diesel and petrol models – allows secure and relaxed driving with advanced electronics taking care of all traction needs, ensuring that Qashqai+2 has grip at all times no matter how severe the conditions. Unlike some other automatic four-wheel drive systems, ALL-MODE uses advanced electronics rather than hydraulic pumps to ensure drive is transferred between wheels and axles the instant the need arises.
Under normal conditions, Qashqai+2 operates in front-wheel drive which reduces energy losses and saves on fuel. The instant wheel slippage is detected however, a centre clutch in the rear final drive is electronically activated and drive is correctly apportioned between front and rear axles.
The system has three modes, selected via a switch on the centre console. In two-wheel drive mode, the system is permanently set in front-wheel drive, ideal for fine weather on-road use. When the Lock setting is pushed, however, the system switches to permanent four-wheel drive mode with drive split 57:43 front to rear.
The most practical mode, however, is ‘select-and-forget’ Auto, in which the system is left to its own devices. Sensors linking the engine’s ECU with the four-wheel drive and ABS controller constantly monitor wheel slippage and automatically send signals to the electromagnetic centre clutch mounted just ahead of the rear axle to apportion torque correctly.
Left in Auto, the system will automatically compensate for unexpected slippery conditions on-road, such as wet leaves in autumn, early morning winter ice or loose gravel at any time of the year.
ALL-MODE is inextricably linked to Bosch’s eighth generation Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Using sensors linked to the brakes, steering, wheels and the body itself, ESP constantly monitors the way the car is being driven.
In its customer research, Nissan found clearly that existing Qashqai owners who have opted for the ALL-MODE versions enjoy the feeling of confidence and security that the discreet, unobtrusive all-wheel drive system gives them when driving in marginal conditions.
Given its family orientation, customers will appreciate the availability of ALL-MODE on Qashqai+2 thanks to the reassurance it will offer in almost all road conditions that the driver and occupants are likely to find themselves in.
From the steering angle and wheel speeds, ESP calculates what manoeuvres the driver intends to perform and from signals from the yaw-rate and lateral acceleration sensors ESP recognises whether the vehicle might skid off course. In an emergency ESP reacts swiftly, and by selectively applying the brakes at each wheel ESP ‘steers’ the vehicle in the desired direction.
Qashqai+2 has other electronic control systems, including cornering brake control (CBC) and enhanced understeer control (EUC) in which the system applies the brakes to all four wheels to reduce excessive understeer. Hydraulic fade compensation (HFC) prevents brake fade after a period of heavy brake usage.
The braking system is essentially unchanged from Qashqai, though the adoption of standard 17-inch alloy wheels on 2.0-litre versions has permitted the fitment of larger rear brakes.
THE RUNNING GEAR
Qashqai+2 offers a choice of two petrol and two diesel versions. The entry-level petrol is a lightweight all-aluminium unit displacing 1598 cc, developing 115 PS (84 kW) and 160 Nm of torque. It has four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, multi-point port injection and vane-type continuous intake cam phasing.
Top of the petrol range is another all-aluminium 16-valve design, this one displacing 1997 cc and developing 140 PS (103 kW) and 200 Nm of torque. Some 90 per cent of that torque is available from 2000 rpm providing the accelerative ‘punch’ more usually expected in larger engines.
Almost as compact as the 1.6 engine, among its key design features is a notable reduction in internal friction. A mirror-like finishing technique is applied to the surfaces of the crankshaft pin journal and the cam lobe journal and to a new machining method that ensures truly circular bores is used: this procedure is common practice in the machining of bores of racing engines but is seldom used in volume production engines.
The entry-level diesel uses the most powerful version of Alliance partner Renault’s acclaimed 1.5 dCi (K9K) engine developing 106 PS (78 kW) and 240Nm of torque. A Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) is also fitted as standard. Praised for its fuel efficiency and low noise, it features a flexible flywheel to filter out the effects of acyclic movements. Specifically developed to comply with Euro 4 legislation the engine has a lowered compression ratio (16:1) and a variable geometry, multi-blade turbocharger.
The 2.0 dCi is equipped with a Bosch piezoelectric-controlled injection system to develop 150 PS (110 kW) and 320 Nm of torque. Piezoelectric technology gives fast, very precise control allowing a ‘five squirt’ injection cycle: two pre-squirts, one main squirt and two post-squirts.
The pre-squirts improve engine acoustics by minimising the characteristic diesel clatter. The post-squirts sustain the main injection combustion, to burn off soot and thus bring down pollutant emissions before the exhaust gases have even left the combustion chamber.
Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) produces a controlled temperature rise in the combustion chamber to reduce pollutant emission levels (NOx) and thus enhance the engine’s overall environment performance. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is also equipped as standard with a DPF.
Transmission options include a five-speed manual (1.6-litre petrol), six-speed manual (2.0 petrol and both diesels), six-speed automatic (4WD 2.0 dCi) and, uniquely in its class, a highly efficient CVT transmission option on the 4WD 2.0-litre petrol offering a choice between ‘stepless’ changes or a manual over-ride with six fixed ratios.
Following the lead set by Qashqai, the new family version is available in three different trim and equipment versions – the now familiar Visia, Acenta and Tekna levels.
Depending on the version, standard equipment includes automatic lighting, automatic wipers, speed sensitive door locking, cruise control, privacy glass, electric windows, parking sensors, 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels and Nissan’s Intelligent Key. Manual or automatic air conditioning incorporates mild flow ventilation while to provide sufficient airflow for the rearmost passengers, a larger compressor is fitted.
Subtle interior mood lighting is available, while all models benefit from ample storage opportunities, including an under seat drawer, large glovebox and door pockets. Also standard are the full-length panoramic glass roof and roof rails.
All audio systems – a single disc CD/radio, an in-dash six disc changer/radio or a full navigation system with in-dash six disc CD autochanger – incorporate Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone integration allowing remote operation of the phone and caller ID display. The audio system also has a standard auxiliary input connection for MP3 players and other external audio devices.
Qashqai+2 is equipped with six airbags (front, side and curtain), seat belt pretensioners in the front and active headrests.
Popular options include embossed leather trim and the advanced satellite navigation system incorporating a seven-inch full colour display (which doubles as the display for the rear parking camera) and voice recognition.
“Qashqai+2 adds a new dimension to the range and makes it even more versatile than the original. It will appeal not just to larger families, but also to anyone who appreciates its distinctive looks and commanding seating position as well as its extra space and flexibility,” says Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe.
“While some sales will come from current or potential Qashqai owners, we are confident the majority will be conquest sales from owners currently stuck with a conventional compact MPV: they appreciate the style and dynamism of the original Qashqai but need the extra seats of an MPV… no matter how dull it might be. With Qashqai+2 they can now have the best of both worlds.”