(Pocket-lint) - There's barely a suburban street that doesn't have a Qashqai, or a pair of Qashqai. There isn't a school car park or supermarket without a brace of Qashqai. Nissan's mini SUV is pandemic, having created the crossover category and now dominated it for 10 years.
It's that success that's caught the eye of the competition, so it's no surprise to find that Nissan has updated the Qashqai as it fends off increasingly competitive SUV crossover rivals in the hottest segment on British roads. Having been updated in 2017, there's now a tweak for 2018 too, as Nissan moves to boost technology and engines, in an ever competitive segment.
In the fight to be the ultimate crossover there is no let up. Is the Qashqai still king?
Smarter design, integrated tech
The Qashqai was updated as recently as 2014, so this latest model (2017/2018) isn't such a drastic change from the model that came before it. We're happy with that, as the outgoing model carries an elegance in its design that some rivals are only just scrabbling to compete with. Look at the drastic rethinking of the new VW Tiguan, for example, which has taken time to come around to updating its style.
For this new Qashqai, the changes are mostly around the front with a new grille, bonnet and bumper, and a new "boomerang" daytime running light (for those models equipped with LED lights).
The slight oddity about the front is that the physical badge on some models is replaced by a plate that shows it graphically, although there's a clever bit of design here. This new badge section allows Nissan to house the sonar behind it, part of the Intelligent Mobility suite that will give you things like crash avoidance and pedestrian detection. That means the sonar is invisibly integrated, rather than appearing as a blob somewhere else, which we like.
There's also a design change on the underside of the car. At the rear there's been some work on the aerodynamics, with a finned "vortex generator" panel at the rear. This is designed to alter the airflow as it exits the underside of the car and reduce the wind noise when driving.
In this model of car on review - equipped with the new top-spec Tekna+ trim - there are quality details added to the exterior, like the satin silver door mirrors and roof rails. Look familiar? That's what Audi does on its RS Q models. That's no accident, as increasing quality is what Nissan is focusing on the new Qashqai.
Many of these details pour into the higher trim levels, looking to take the N-Connecta and Tekna models up a premium tier, while the Visia and Acenta remain fairly close to where they were before - and continue to offer the best value for money. In the UK most opt for N-Connecta or Tekna and certainly there are plenty of reasons to skip over the entry-level Visia, unless you're really looking to save money.
In our eyes it's all good: the Qashqai is still one of the most attractive models in this class: it's well-proportioned with its fun but practical mini SUV stylings, with a balance that looks just right. But there's a lot more competitive choice appearing all the time - whether from Kia, Seat, VW or beyond - which is really the driving force behind these changes.
An interior that's outclassed
Slip into the seats of the new Qashqai and there's a familiar feeling. The interior layout remains very much as it did before, so there hasn't been a huge change in design. Instead, Nissan again focuses on quality. In keeping with those vortex generators on the underside of the rear, there's been a range of changes to reduce noise on the inside too.
That's noticeable on the road and comes in the form of better door seals, more sound deadening material in the engine bay and wheel arches, as well as thicker glass. The aim is to create an interior space that has a premium feel, somewhere that's quiet and refined and, more importantly, able to compete with those increasingly sophisticated rivals.
Swap from the old Qashqai to the new and the experience is one of Qashqai+: it looks the same, it feels the same, but it's slightly better. It's a nicer cabin to ride and drive in.
The interior is made up mostly with soft-touch plastics and leather touch points - although this will vary depending on what trim level you opt for. Up at the new Tekna+ level, you're looking at Nappa leather seats as standard - and comfortable they are too. There are newly designed seats for N-Connecta and above, again, with those top trim levels getting more of the luxury stuff, but all the models get a new steering wheel, which is probably the biggest single change on the interior.
The new steering wheel opts for a sportier D shape with a flatter bottom. Nissan says this is based on customer feedback, meaning it's easier to slip into the driver's seat (not that it was difficult before), but this is also a thicker steering wheel with new controls, designed to feel more premium.
Overall, the result of Nissan's interior and exterior changes, as well as the introduction of this new Tekna+ trim level, means that there's now a super-quality Qashqai for those who might be considering hopping to a different marque. Fear not, Nissan has been listening and the Qashqai is now offers more options for more buyers.
At the same time, that's pulling the prices up, so that Qashqai again faces more competition from the likes of the new Seat Alteca or the Kia Sportage in being the school-run champion. At the same time, the luxury segment compact SUVs - Audi, BMW, Mercedes - start to get a little close to the top level Nissan, making those choices a little harder. There's less sense of "executive plush" from Nissan and more "family practical", but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Technology gets a 2018 makeover
Nissan has focused on technology in a number of areas, including offering a Qashqai with the ProPilot system. This is a semi-autonomous option that will basically take care of your driving on the motorway or in slow moving traffic - thanks to a combination of lane sensing, adaptive cruise control and braking systems.
Aside from safety systems, there's ben a lot of work on infotainment. When the 2017 model of the Qashqai launched, it ran Nissan's old system. That's been totally revised for models coming to market from late 2018 - if you're ordering now, you'll have a better car than if you ordered in early 2018. We've covered these changes in detail elsewhere, but we'll cover off the important points now.
There's a central 7-inch display (on N-Connecta and above) flanked by buttons to control major elements of your in-car experience, like music or navigation. That is a little small for the segment that's expanding to around 10 inches now, but the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto gives you more options for smartphone connectivity. It's on all trim levels except Visia - and in our opinion, that's a reason to step-up.
It's not only playing nice with your phone, but Nissan's core system has changed too. It now has a new mapping service powered by TomTom (on all trims from N-Connecta upwards) and here you have to make a choice about whether you want in-car mapping, or if Apple or Android will do the trick - in which case Acenta level will have you covered, letting you drive with Waze or Google Maps.
The new system is a lot more dynamic than previously, offering a better in-car tech experience. There's some crossover for things like navigation into the central panel of the driver's display, but there's nothing like the full digital display you'll get on an Audi Q5, for example.
It's worth noting that all grades of the Qashqai get Bluetooth and a USB socket as standard, as well as DAB radio. However, one of the new additions - the shark fin antenna - is again reserved for N-Connecta and above.
Nissan's technology story isn't just about your entertainment though. There's also a lot of assistance on the road, from an effective lane departure system to cruise control and emergency braking. There's speed sign detection so you can see the speed limit at a glance, as well as camera alerts.
Perhaps our favourite is the 360 camera. This is included on the N-Connecta and above, letting you hit the button for a view on all sides of the camera. It's perfect for seeing how close to the kerb you are, or how well you've managed to park in that tight space. If you're worried about driving a car bigger than a thimble then this is really useful aid.
New diesels and new petrol engines
When the 2017 version of this car launched, the story was mostly about diesel (although we still find ourselves wishing there was a hybrid Qashqai). There's a 1.5 litre 115PS diesel available, which is efficient - both in terms of low CO2 emissions and fuel economy - and a great choice for those who might be heading out for higher milage journeys.
But the appetite for diesel is waning in the UK, with something like a 33 per cent decline in demand. Rising diesel prices, dieselgate and particulates remain a concern and Nissan's response is offering more efficient petrol engines.
That now gives you the option of turbo charged 1.3-litre petrol engine in two configurations - 140 or 160PS. These are designed to meet new regulations, lowering emissions and giving you better fuel economy. There's a six-speed manual which we found smooth enough and easy to drive, as well as a new seven-speed DCT automatic.
DCT - dual clutch transmission - replaces the older CVT gearbox and is likely to be a popular choice. It's smooth, fast, and appears in a mainstream Nissan for the first time here. It's not unique in the segment, in fact it's pretty common from the German rivals, but it does make for a better drive that feels a little more responsive and dynamic. If that was your problem with the Qashqai before, then things are now better - and around 45 per cent of customers buy the automatic.
On the road the Qashqai is comfortable, soaking up the bumps as you drive, but there's still some wallow when you drive, so it's not as sporty as the line that some are taking. If you're running from the supermarket to the after-school clubs and then away with for the weekend with the kids and dogs, that's not a problem - there's cabin space, there's comfort and it's easy to drive.
Taken in the context of its new and most expensive premium tier, however, there are fierce rivals from the likes of Audi Q3, which offer a drive that's a little more dynamic, while pushing a quality spec at similar prices.
The 2017 Nissan Qashqai was a classic facelift update. There are some external updates that bring premium highlights - like the sharkfin antenna or the Tekna+ silver wing mirror covers - and interior plushness with better leather and great seats. In 2018 you get more technology - and it's technology worth having in the interior.
But in many ways, this update is all about the introduction of Tekna+, an option that gives many new features while also pulling the Qashqai up in price. The aim, no doubt is to appeal to higher spenders, but as the price rises, so does the competition, so careful selection in an increasingly competitive segment remains important. The Qashqai still starts at under £20k, but now soars to over £27k on the top trim - before you get to the options list.
Ultimately, however, the Qashqai continues to be exactly the car it's meant to be: it needs to be a consideration for anyone looking for a family crossover. It's nice to drive, it looks good and it's hugely practical, but on the interior (apart from the nice new Bose sound system) there's not a huge change from the last model.
Originally published June 2017; updated with new engine and technology details for 2018
Alternatives to consider
The Seat Ateca might not have the good looks of the Qashqai and in some ways its visually forgettable, but this is part of its charm. It's understated and good at everything. It drives well, it's competitively priced and offers plenty of spec. It's also something of a surprise, which is why the Ateca could be a stealth hit: it's a real Qashqai rival.
If there's one car that's starting to see the Qashqai effect on the UK's roads, it's the Sportage. Through refinement in design, a huge warranty and aggressive pricing, Kia has had a real impact on the roads, with the Sportage occupying the same space as the Nissan. It's practical, affordable and you get a lot of tech for your money.
The dowdy days of the Tiguan are over; the redesign of VW's small SUV is so drastic, it's difficult to believe it's the same car. If there's a challenger for the Qashqai's good looks, then it's the new Tiguan. Propping up those looks is a lot of sophistication which really sees the Tiguan in a slightly higher tier in this new form.