The Nissan Qashqai +2 with its capable diesel engine, spacious interiors and excellent drive is a crossover to watch out for, writes Shapur Kotwal

Nissan first introduced the Qashqai crossover in Europe in 2007 and created quite a stir. In fact, so successful was the car that quite a few manufacturers were inspired by it and started making similar models.

In the Indian market, while SUVs are hot favourites, crossovers have also started making their presence felt. But what’s the Qashqai really like? It’s no off-roader for sure, but it certainly looks like one. The chassis sits a fair way off the ground, the SUV stance is all there and many of the details make it look like a pucca 4X4. It has cladding running around the bottom of the car, there are roof rails on the top, and it also has a sort of squared-off bonnet. I say “sort of” because, stylistically, the nose of the car is probably its most attractive bit. The cladding blends nicely at the bottom of the nose in a V and this is reflected in Nissan’s grille. The nicest bits, however, are the twin, snout-like ridges on the bonnet.

This larger version of the Qashqai, or the +2, is 211mm longer than a standard Qashqai, so Nissan has, crucially, been able to squeeze in a third row of seats. This is something that has tremendous appeal in India. The extra length of the car and the fact that the seats fold flat into the floor also mean that there’s plenty of luggage space when you need it.

Open the big front doors and there’s plenty of space in the cabin. You’re sat high with a good view of the road from the driver’s seat. There’s plenty of legroom, and getting comfortable behind the wheel is easy. The steering wheel, with the buttons arranged neatly around the boss, is beautifully crafted and a delight to use. The clear, white-on-black dials are easy to read as well. The rest of the dash, however, looks a bit too plain. The air-con vents look like they are from an inexpensive hatch, the centre console is too straight-laced, and quality levels aren’t great either. It would’ve helped if the insides weren’t all black too.

Space and comfort on row two are surprisingly good. The seat is set high and offers decent legroom and back support. The rear seats, however, are oddly contoured, and that makes sitting in the middle difficult. The third row seats look quite substantial as well, but are suitable only for really short journeys because headroom is tight. It’s also difficult to get to the rear seats.

The Qashqai +2 is much more impressive from behind the wheel. I drove the Nissan crossover on a mix of city streets and fast mountain roads, and came away impressed. This car has a 1.6 DCi diesel engine that is more powerful than the 110bhp 1.5 DCi we are used to. It puts out a nicely measured and smoothly delivered 128bhp and there’s plenty of torque. In fact, the new engine coped well despite the hefty 1,404kg kerb weight of our test car and the presence of some steep inclines on our route. There is very little turbo lag, the engine spins sweetly and responses are impressively quick. As a result, it feels like you are driving a car with a much larger engine. The strong mid-range pull and the wide powerband of the engine also allow you to overtake cars quite easily. The positive action of the manual gearbox was impressive too. It needs a firm hand at times, but it is almost impossible to miss a shift, which is good for a six-speeder with a double-H gate.

Crossovers are meant to drive and ride as well as cars. This is a bit difficult when the vehicle in question is this large and bulky, but the Qashqai +2 does surprisingly well. There is a hint of body roll and this is noticeable when you want to change directions quickly, but other than that, there is plenty of grip around corners. The steering is well weighted and responds well, and after some time at the wheel, it’s relatively easy to work the car into a nice rhythm. Also impressive is the ride — it feels nice and absorbent at low speeds and well settled as you go faster, managing to do both without much compromise.

The Qashqai +2 seems perfect for our market. It has the aggressive stance of an off-roader and its diesel engine is very capable. It’s spacious on the inside and is a pleasure to drive and ride in. There are, of course, certain niggles such as the cramped third row and outdated dash, but these shouldn’t be a hassle for Nissan to address. And of course, most importantly, the carmaker is expected to introduce it here at a Rs. 22 lakh price point, a huge advantage in this market.