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Wheels of the Week: Nissan Qashqai 3rd generation

The new edition of Nissan’s popular crossover has arrived in South Africa, SHERYL GOLDSTUCK tried it out during the launch.

Nissan South Africa plans to reinforce its position as a leader in the South African crossover segment with the introduction of what it calls the “segment-defining” third-generation Qashqai. 

In South Africa, the previous two generations helped define the domestic crossover market and set the bar higher with every version.

“Fourteen years after creating the crossover segment, we are confident that this model will be a game changer and offer our customers the kind of driving experience they have come to love from Nissan,” said Stefan Haasbroek, Nissan Africa marketing director, during the launch of the car in Cape Town. “We are looking forward to revealing the completely renewed design, inside and out, innovative technologies and electrified power to our customers and on our roads.”

He described the new addition to the Qashqai family as “part of the Nissan Next Transformation Plan in our region”.

With a 1.3T engine, in manual or new Xtronic transmission, the new Qashqai’s powertrain options cater for a variety of customer requirements. In terms of driving dynamics, one of the most significant factors in performance is the overall increase of stiffness in the Qashqai’s body. In conjunction with fine-tuned suspension springs, the Qashqai should provide increased precision and response, along with a reduction in vibration.

This promise was borne out by the driving experience, at least over the course of a one-day test drive. The drive is smooth, the road handling is superior and the comfort is luxurious.  It is a spacious vehicle with ample leg room for any backseat passenger.  The boot space can comfortably carry the luggage for a family of four.

The technology experience of driving the new edition Nissan Qashqai is like being behind a magic wheel. The vehicle has all the bells and whistles one would expect from a quality brand, but the built-in artificial intelligence is definitely a standout feature. It has cameras, sensors and radar to detect not only the vehicle ahead, but the one in front of that too. This is a feature that I have previously only seen in high-end vehicles that cost more than double the price of the Qashqai.

The AI has also refined driver behaviour sensing in that, a Driver Attention Alert system detects if a drives is falling asleep at the wheel, and sounds an alarm in the vehicle. Should this not wake the driver, a second alarm is sounded, after which the car slows down to a stop and the emergency lights come on, alerting other drivers on the road.

Nissan ProPILOT technology allows for a basic level of autonomous drive technology, designed for highway use in single-lane traffic. For example, it can take over a combination of steering, acceleration and braking in full-automatic mode in heavy highway traffic. 

ProPILOT’s safety features include the usual: Lane Keeping Aid, which keeps the driver centered in the lane at a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front, and Predictive Front Collision Warning.  However, it goes a step, or a ride, further: it uses built-in maps to help anticipate bends, junctions, and off-ramps, for example. In short, while it does not yet take over from the driver, it helps the driver adjust behaviour accordingly, for a smarter and more relaxing drive.

Android Auto is standard with the new range of the Nissan Qashqai, although it still seems to insist on connecting with a cable to mirror Android features on the infotainment display. It does have built-in mapping, but this feature is not intuitive. It comes with a wireless charging pad for cell phones, as well as ample USB ports for regular charging. 

Pricing of the new Qashqai may be a drawback, with the entry level 1.3T manual Visia starting at R568,200. The extensive safety features help make up for the cost.

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