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Qashqai goes from strength to strength 

NISSAN pioneered the crossover segment in 2007 with its Qashqai and this has been a huge success story for its manufacturing plant at Sunderland.

And with more than two million buyers Nissan decided it was time to introduce a second generation at the beginning of this year.

I had just finished sampling the new model when news came through that the Qashqai had reached the two million milestone at Sunderland – quicker than any other model n the history of the UK car industry.

Total global production of the Qashqai now tops 2.5 million, with the first generation Qashqai also made by Nissan in China and Japan.

The Qashqai is now closing in on the Micra as the highest volume car in the history of Nissan Sunderland Plant, with 2,368,704 Micras made there over an 18-year period from 1992 to 2010.

Nissan has invested £534million in the design, development and production of Qashqai in the UK, supporting more than 11,000 jobs in the UK car industry.

Of the two million Qashqais made in Sunderland since December 2006, 85 per cent –1,706,633 – have been exported to 132 international markets, from the Congo to Qatar.

Qashqai is made alongside the all-electric LEAF on Line 1 at Nissan Sunderland Plant, which has been on round-the-clock, three-shift production since 2010 in order to meet customer demand, with a car currently rolling off the production line every 62 seconds, or 58 per hour.

So can the new model help Qashqai go from strength to strength?

I reckon the answer is a definite YES after sampling one.

Back in 2007, my report on the new arrival included this: “The Qashqai comes from Nissan’s Sunderland plant and its build quality and finish are a credit to the workers there.”

Qashqai owners obviously agree with that and new buyers won’t be disappointed either.

The new model is 47mm longer than its predecessor and slightly lower and wider.

This small SUV has more curves yet has a bold appearance with its clamshell-style bonnet and muscular wheel arches.

Designers have created a much more dynamic Qashqai which has resulted in reduced drag, lower CO2 emissions, improved fuel economy and better stability.

Higher quality materials have been used in an interior that offers improved leg and headroom, front and rear.

Luggage capacity has been increased to 430 litres, rising to 1585 with rear seats folded flat, and a false boot floor that allows the parcel shelf to be stored under it.

The new Qashqai arrived with a choice of three turbo-charged engines, 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre diesel and 1.2-litre petrol, with the option of two or four-wheel drive, and four specs – Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium and Tekna.

The test model was a 1.5dCi Accenta Premium priced at £22,690.

All Qashqais come with a high list of standard equipment and this model added a panoramic glass roof, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors to its already generous offering.

I liked the raised driving position with the height-adjustable seat and tilt and telescopic steering wheel allowing you to get the perfect seating position in a bright cabin.

Instrument layout and controls, including excellent satnav and entertainment system, are all easy to see and well within reach.

The 109bhp engine isn’t too noisy when you fire it up with the start push button.

You won’t be expecting rapid acceleration when you opt for this model but it pulls away fairly smartly, going from standstill to 62mph in 11.9 seconds and has a top speed of 113mph.

This front-wheel drive Qashqai does have excellent mid-range power though and produced it quietly through a six-speed manual gearbox.

A range of suspension and safety system improvements have produced better handling and this is evident with the grip you feel and lack of body roll when cornering.

With its speed-sensitive power steering and normal and sport mode, the Qashqai was equally at home in town driving or on more demanding roads.

It cruised smoothly at motorway speeds and wouldn’t disappoint for comfort on long journeys with excellent ride qualities and little road or wind noise coming through to the cabin.

This is a model that doesn’t lack in performance yet it returns some amazing ‘green’ and economy figures.

The 1.5 diesel is the cleanest and most frugal Qashqai with a CO2 of 99g/km making it exempt from UK road tax.

And fuel economy figures are more than impressive as it’s capable of 74.3mpg combined, 67.3mpg urban and 78.5mpg extra urban.

This new Qashqai is excellent value for money and has the quality to continue Nissan’s small SUV success story.