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Nissan’s hatchback on stilts

There are no family cars in Nissan showrooms. The Pulsar and Micra have been withdrawn and the Altima never sold, while the 350Z and GT-R are selfish speedsters.

So Nissan is all about SUVs for families and some multi-tasking commercial vehicles, with the Qashqai and X-Trail doing the heavy lifting.


ALI: Another SUV — what could possibly be different about this one? Actually, we drove the earlier version of the Qashqai and I can recall I wasn’t wowed. How is this one different?

PAUL: It got a midlife update this year, with the obvious tinkering around the edges of the bodywork to give it a slightly different look and some extra quality inside with a new steering wheel and switches.

ALI: But what about serious stuff?

PAUL: It has auto emergency braking across the range, as well as lane-departure warning and hill-start assist, so the safety is considerably improved. The suspension has been tweaked, it’s claimed to be quieter and smoother and Nissan has dropped the diesel engine.

ALI: Why the engine change?

PAUL: No one buying a compact SUV for the city and ’burbs really wants a diesel.


ALI: It’s nothing fancy — that means fewer things to break — but would suit a pragmatic buyer. The dials and entertainment are very simple, also quite good.

PAUL: I like that it has one-touch windows and you can drop them all using the remote control. That’s great for summer.

ALI: We have the N-Tec, which seems to have all the luxury stuff. I know the starting price is $26,490 but how much for this one?

PAUL: It’s exactly 10 grand more. But it’s a stopgap because the usual flagship, the Ti, is not available for Australia until next year.

ALI: Looking at rivals, I’m thinking about the Hyundai Kona we had a while back and maybe the Mazda CX-5.

PAUL: It’s one of the biggest of the baby SUVs. So it’s against the Kona, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Toyota CH-R.

ALI: In that case it’s pretty roomy and I guess the basic value is good.


ALI: It feels as if it has a tiny engine. It grumbles and tends to shudder a bit when slowing down.

PAUL: A 2.0-litre petrol engine should be fine. Nissan says it has 106kW/200Nm, so I think your complaints are down to the constantly variable transmission. I also find it’s dozy.

ALI: It feels like they put a Micra engine in it. Except it’s a Micra that’s eaten too much Christmas pudding.

PAUL: I’m not defending it but the economy is 6.9L/100km and it uses 91 octane fuel, so it should be cheap to run. And it’s only front-wheel drive, not the all-wheel drive that no one uses.


ALI: I really like the lightness of the steering, which makes it easy to navigate car spaces. The camera was very dark, though — I tried to lighten the display but it kept taking me to other options so wasn’t helpful.

PAUL: It’s roomy in the cabin, genuinely a five-seater unlike the CX-3. And the boot is good with up to about 1600L. Towing capacity is all right at 1200kg.


PAUL: It’s smooth and quiet, rides well, and has no real vices on a bumpy road with some tight corners.

ALI: I took the car up some hills and it was a little underwhelming with its performance. It uses more fuel than Nissan claims if you’re pushing with people on-board.

PAUL: It’s that dreaded CVT. Japanese brands love them but most people prefer an old-school auto.


PAUL: Considering it’s a compact SUV it gives you a lot of real estate for the price. You could almost be tricked into comparing it with a Mazda CX-5 instead of the CX-3.

ALI: There is good legroom and plenty of space in the boot. But there is no airconditioning to the rear seats, even if that’s not unusual for this type of vehicle. It’s Australia, so we need aircon to all seats, car-company peeps.

ELI: It’s comfortable and I can see easily out of this one. When we had a few friends riding along we weren’t squished in the back.


ALI: It may not be the best performer but it has value in spades. It’s a simple design and easy to drive, so it’s a Tick.

PAUL: I don’t think I’d spend nearly $40,000 for the N-Tec, but for less than $30,000 it’s a solid performer and deserves the Tick.

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