The Nissan Qashqai N-Sport starts from $35,990 drive-away.
The Nissan Qashqai N-Sport starts from $35,990 drive-away.

Popular compact SUV gets a sorta-sporty makeover

Activewear has come a long way.

Once confined to the gym or running trails, workout attire now has greater widespread acceptance. School drop-off, grocery shopping, and apparently you don’t even need to be active.

Australians like to look athletic in the flesh and the metal. Sporting car derivatives gain a strong following, with the go-fast versions typically selling better than standard models — prestige brands often now only import the souped-up versions Down Under.

Those shopping mainstream may not have the same performance desires, but looking the goods is equally important.

That’s why limited edition versions such as the Nissan Qashqai N-­Sport­ exist.

Also a well-known marketing technique to help maintain sales before the new model arrives (the next Qashqai is due next year), this special model is sandwiched between the top-shelf Ti and the mid-spec ST-L and priced at $35,990 drive-away.

The Nissan Qashqai N-Sport special edition.
The Nissan Qashqai N-Sport special edition.

VALUE

Last month Nissan added smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the Qashqai’s feature repertoire — a glaring omission against more recent additions to the genre.

Being based on the ST-L, the N-Sport is limited to 600 examples but comes with plush leather and cloth upholstery, heated front seats, seven-inch touchscreen, six-speaker sound system with digital radio and push button start.

Despite the nomenclature, enhancements are purely cosmetic. Among the inclusions are body coloured bumpers and side mouldings that also have silver details, as well as 19-inch alloys.

Warranty coverage is five years and unlimited kilometres. Servicing intervals are annual or every 10,000km. The latter is short, given on average Australians travel about 13,000km each year — meaning more regular maintenance.

External blue or red metallic colour options add $595.

Six services will cost at least $1817. One current deal is three years free servicing if financing with Nissan. A $997 saving.

Nissan’s N-Sport version of the Qashqai is based on the ST-L derivative.
Nissan’s N-Sport version of the Qashqai is based on the ST-L derivative.

SAFETY

The 2020 model upgrades mean all but the base model come with automatic high beam, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning and a driver fatigue monitoring system.

Also standard are four cameras that provide a bird’s eye view to make parking easier, along with autonomous emergency braking that can apply the stoppers to help avoid or reduce the severity of a collision. Some AEB systems also work while reversing, not this one — you just get the alert.

The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.
The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.

COMFORT

Sound levels of refinement come via the leather and cloth upholstery within an uncluttered cabin.

There’s a solid feel across the console and dash with soft plastics used in the places touched most.

Operationally it’s all straightforward, with nothing too complex or requiring an explanation. There is quick access to the dual-zone aircon and fan speed, while the smartphone mirroring apps drastically improve the basic touchscreen operations which are clunky and a step behind modern expectations.

A flat-bottom steering wheel adds an element of athleticism to an otherwise relaxed driving experience. In highway conditions the cabin remains well insulated from noise and the suspension does a fine job of soaking up the bumps and lumps.

Front and rear accommodation remains a standout for the segment. Those in the back retain reasonable head and leg room, as well as their own air vents.

Boot space is among the best in class at 430 litres, close to a Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V and Suzuki S-Cross.

The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.
The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.

DRIVING

Only available as a front-wheel drive, the Qashqai remains a solid performer in all on-road conditions. Those with grand off-roading plans will need to shop elsewhere as gravel would be the greatest terrain this high-rider can conquer — but that’s exactly what most buyers in this genre are seeking.

There’s no extra power or ability with the N-Sport derivative. A four-cylinder non-turbo still delivers 106kW/200Nm which is fine for around-town duties or when cruising at
110km/h­.

Apply pressure to the accelerator and things feel rushed as the continuously variable transmission struggles to keep up with right foot demands. One family trip saw the Qashqai battle to ascend a sharp incline and the engine worked hard to maintain speed.

The steering remains accurate and sharp, so collectively the Qashqai is a reliable drive for those not seeking to chase quarter mile records.

Fuel consumption figures averaged 8.5 litres for every 100km, which is about middle of the road for engines of this size.

The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.
The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.

HEAD SAYS

While traversing the road less travelled sounds appealing, creature comforts are far more enticing than the creatures themselves.

HEART SAYS

Good looks set this Qashqai apart from its siblings, and it feels much larger inside than the footprint dictates.

The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.
The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.

ALTERNATIVES

MITSUBISHI ASX GSR $32,490 D/A

Also recently updated, this is the sporty version with black finishes on the door mirrors, grille, spoiler and alloys. Powered by an equally underwhelming 123kW/222Nm 2.4-litre 4-cyl. Currently available with a seven-year warranty and two years free servicing.

KIA SELTOS SPORT PLUS CVT $33,490 D/A

New to the segment last year, a solid all-rounder with a seven-year warranty and spacious cabin. Powered by a 2.0-litre 110kW/180Nm 4-cyl, but there is a turbo unit available for those chasing more punch.

The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.
The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.

VERDICT

Another quality all-rounder from Nissan. The N-Sport badge translates to title only, with improved looks. Honest and reliable, the Qashqai is a solid performer without raising excitement levels.

The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.
The N-Sport version of the 2020 model Nissan Qashqai.

AT A GLANCE

NISSAN QASHQAI N-SPORT

PRICE $35,990 drive-away (competitive)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/unlimited km, $1817 for 6 years/60,000km (OK)

ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 106kW/200Nm (nothing crazy)

SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, lane keep assist, blind spot alert and rear cross traffic alert (fine)

THIRST 6.9 L/100km (8.5 on test)

SPARE Space-saver (expected)

BOOT 430L/1598L (good)


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