Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2019 Nissan Qashqai SL AWD

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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Is it possible for a company to have too many SUVs in their lineup? You’d think so, but evidently not. As consumer appetite continues to favour crossovers and SUVs over, well, everything else, it seems having a wide array of options to suit various needs is smart business. Nissan is well positioned for this onslaught with no fewer than six options, ranging from the smaller Kicks and Qashqai, to the mid-size Rogue and Murano, to the larger full-size Pathfinder and Armada.

It just works.

Getting acquainted with a new vehicle on a cold, dark, and snowy night will immediately expose shortcomings and elevate frustration levels, but the Scarlet Amber 2019 Nissan Qashqai revealed itself to be a very worthy winter companion immediately. Unlike many vehicles I’ve experienced, everything was where it should be. Instruments are laid out well and are easy to read while controls for the steering wheel, six-way power seats, heated mirrors, two-stage seat heaters, and SiriusXM were all easy to find and program to suit my comfort and convenience. And it even has knobs and buttons for climate and audio controls! Hooray! Simple but valued pleasures in a world of unnecessary complication. The steering wheel heater button took longer to find though, as it is strangely located down where the hood and gas cap releases reside. But once found it was activated and appreciated. The Bluetooth handsfree phone system connected my phone quickly and seamlessly on the first attempt, so I was on my way in record time feeling relaxed, contented, and confident.

The instrument panel features an easy-to-read 5-inch colour display and the centre stack gets a 7-inch colour touchscreen display that houses NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Maybe it’s macular degeneration brought on by old age, but the font on the infotainment screen seemed a touch smaller than it could or should be. It’s saying something about the vehicle if I’m digging that deep to find gripes.

The bigger-than-Kicks and slightly-smaller-than-Rogue Qashqai comes in three model trims – S, SV, and SL. Front-wheel drive is available on S and SV grades. Qashqai SV and SL grades include Nissan Intelligent Key, a push-button start, and optional Bose audio system with nine speakers – added to the SL trim for 2019. Additional functionality includes a deep centre console that features an integral armrest and storage compartment, including a 12-volt power outlet.

Thanks to intelligent all-wheel drive there will be no spinning of the 19-inch tires off the line. It won’t win any drag races, but acceleration from the 2.0L four-cylinder is programmed to feel adequately peppy and well suited for this application. The beauty of Nissan’s lineup is that if you want more, you can simply take a few steps to another part of the showroom to meet your needs.

The Qashqai lineup features front-wheel drive as standard equipment with an option to upgrade, but AWD is standard on SL trim. All models get the same powerplant rated at 141 hp at 6,000 rpm and 147 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm thanks to Twin CVTC (Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control) on both intake and exhaust and an 11.2:1 compression ratio. Power gets to the ground via an intelligent all-wheel drive system and an Xtronic (CVT) transmission with both a sport shifter and an Eco mode.

I know what you’re thinking: “CVT? No thanks!” And you would be correct… five years ago. Thankfully the new system is light-years beyond previous iterations. It doesn’t wind up and scream at you while accelerating and power delivery is more smooth and linear than in years past. Plus, the Sport shifter lets you choose “gears” if you want to ensure you’re in the meaty part of the powerband for passing or merging. Fuel economy will vary based on the drivetrain (as well as variables such as weather conditions, proper tire inflation, and driving behaviour), but the SL AWD model with the Xtronic CVT has a rating of 9.1 L/100 km in the city and 7.6 L/100 km on the highway. Observed fuel consumption was slightly more than that, but the weather was poor, I was driving on winter rubber, and I have a heavy right foot. Sorry, mom.

Four-wheel vented disc brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist bring things to a stop predictably as standard equipment. Steering is precise without being too touchy and is lightly weighted with adequate feel thanks to the power-assisted steering with a Sport setting. The Intelligent Around View Monitor also helps make the Qashqai easier to manoeuvre on tight city streets and park in condo garages where space is limited and obstructions are many.

Other realities of urban living are speed bumps and potholes large enough to swallow a beach ball whole. Traversing or avoiding these challenges at normal speeds were uneventful. Road noise in the cabin, even on winter tires, was nonexistent at slow speeds but did introduce itself on the highway, but only minimally.

My tester also featured Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, lane departure warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention, and high-beam assist. Offering Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) in the Comfort and Convenience Package, the 2019 Qashqai also showcases the new ProPILOT Assist technology. Intended for use in heavy traffic, the system utilizes Steering Assist and Intelligent Cruise Control as a driver assistance feature rather than an autonomous one. Meant to reduce the strain of the driver rather than replacing them, ProPILOT Assist uses its forward-facing camera, radar, sensors, and electronic control module to maintain speed and distance while making steering adjustments to keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane. The technology will also bring the vehicle to a complete stop. The catch? The driver must keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times. So no hopping in the back seat to answer emails or have a nap. The driver’s inputs always take priority and the system won’t operate if the windshield wipers are in the high position, or if the system cannot read the lines on the road.

The only troubling aspect of the vehicle appears to be the name. Called the Rogue Sport south of the 49th parallel, perhaps Canadians are considered more open-minded about these things, so we get the often misspelled, frequently mispronounced name (it’s “cash-kai”). The Qashqai shares the CMF (Common Module Family) platform as the Rogue, but features slightly smaller dimensions. Shorter in length and lower in height, the width is nearly the same in order to ensure accommodations for five passengers and their gear. The 648 L of cargo space jumps to 1,730 L when the second-row seats are folded flat. Cargo space dimensions are one thing, but practical storage is quite another. Sleek exterior styling often seems to dictate a compromised rear cargo area of SUVs these days. Here, storage dimensions are ample, but more importantly, the space is usable and accessible through the wide-opening liftgate.

The Qashqai SL’s interior is well designed. Build materials are pleasing to the eye and of expected quality. It isn’t too drab nor over the top, it just works. It was recently announced that the Nissan Qashqai will get revised front fascia and rear tail lamps for the 2010 model year, along with additional option package content.

The starting price for the entry-level Qashqai is two Canadian pennies under twenty grand while the SL AWD starts at $31,198. Equipped with the $2,100 Platinum Package, which includes an auto-dimming inside mirror, Homelink Universal transceiver, the Bose sound system, LED headlights, and Nissan Connect. Add $300 for premium paint and the as-tested price came in at $35,548 after adding $1,950 freight and delivery charges. With the long laundry list of standard and optional features included at this price point, I can’t imagine what else you could expect to get for the money.

Engine Displacement 2.0L
Engine Cylinders I4
Peak Horsepower 141 hp
Peak Torque 147 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 9.1/7.6/8.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 648 / 1,730 L
Model Tested 2019 Nissan Qashqai SL AWD
Base Price $31,198
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,950
Price as Tested $35,648
Optional Equipment
$2,400 – Platinum Package $2,100; 3-coat paint $300