YOU want small, nimble, practical, and good looking, but you also want the feeling of commanding the road in a larger car, don’t you? Well the 2018 Nissan QASHQAI ST-L is waiting to tick all the boxes for you.
Indulge us for a bit though, because it’s kind of got a bizarre back story.
A few years back there was a car called the Dualis, which is Latin for dual and was the name given to describe the fact that it was a small SUV that felt like a large one. That makes perfect sense really.
Then Nissan changed the name to QASHQAI, capitalising it along the way, for reason’s we do not know; potentially because it’s part of some trend to use capitals in vehicle names. The actual story behind the name is much cooler though.
Nissan named the car after the Qashqai people living in mountainous southwestern Iran, and it literally means a horse with white forehead, apparently. In the US, it’s sold as the Nissan Rogue Sport. Right then.
So here’s a scenario. You’ve just bought a new car, it’s exciting, and you tell your friends you bought a QASHQAI. Inevitably, one of them won’t have heard of it, and will ask you what it is.
Because you’ve read this review, you’ll be proudly able to tell them about the fact it means ‘a horse with a white head’. But now you’ve confused them haven’t you. So you’ll have to also tell them it used to be called a Dualis.
That of course, brings the question about why the name was changed. In reality though, it’s only in Australia and Japan that the first generation of the car was called the Dualis.
Some media outlets have suggested it stems from Nissan’s fear we might pronounce it as cash cow. We suggest preparing a little information card and having that on hand to give to people when they ask about the name.
For 2018, the Nissan QASHQAI ST-L has a new look and enhanced body shape. In short, they have basically pinched all the exterior lines and pulled them out a little to give it more definition, along with a new front grille and redesigned 18-inch alloys.
This gives the new QASHQAI a more imposing look, and the addition of LED running lights and tail lights along with halogen head lights complete a style upgrade that also adds a shark fin antenna, colour coded door handles, heated mirrors and fog lights.
The interior is simple but elegant, like its larger sibling, the X-Trail, with little hits of piano black and polished chrome that accent the symmetrical placement of all your bits and pieces.
Well designed and easy to use steering wheel controls allow you to manipulate the infotainment system, which has Bluetooth and digital radio capacity, and good sound delivery via six speakers.
The Bluetooth system is easy to use and responds well, but there’s still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
This year the QASHQAI has also gained an additional feature in the top two variants, with 360-degree cameras (four front and rear, two on the sides) giving game changing manoeuvrability in tight parking spaces.
Creature comforts and other technology are a bit hit and miss though. You get things one touch window control, an electric park brake, and electric 6-way heated seats. But then the climate control is manual and there are no USB slots, just old style 12v sockets.
The spaciousness of the interior is not bad, with good rear leg room, but as you would expect with the sloping roof line, rear head room is not fantastic, especially if you are on the taller side.
On the road, it’s good to drive in terms of power and responsiveness, thanks to the 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, that pushes 106kW of power and 200Nm of torque through an Xtronic CVT gearbox.
Claimed fuel economy is 6.9-litres/100km but we couldn’t do better than 8.0-litres/100km. It handles pretty well generally, but if you start to throw it around a little, things don’t stay so great.
The independent struts on the front and the multi-links on the rear don’t seem to respond too well when driven hard, even with front and rear stabilisers, and the small SUV just becomes really loose and you feel like there’s the potential to roll it over.
Not that you would drive it like that normally though and if you do get yourself into a situation, there’s a good standard of safety gear, which is refreshing to see in a mid-range SUV. Props to Nissan for being ahead of the competition on that front.
On board the ST-L you’ll find a host of air bags, including side curtains, traction control, intelligent emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and a lane departure warning, with this last one needing a bit more volume to be fully heard.
The top-of-the-line model, the N-TEC, gains more safety with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and parking assist, should you decide the ST-L is not feature packed enough for your needs.
Once you get past that name thing, you end up with a good small SUV that really does feel like a large SUV, that generally handles well and has sufficient power and a good history of reliability, with a Nissan badge.
To get your own horse with a white forehead you will have to dig up $36,429 drive-away for the 2WD automatic ST-L. The range of shiny colours includes Vivid Blue, Ivory Pearl, Platinum, Gun Metallic, Night Shade, Pearl Black and Magnetic Red.
Our 2018 Nissan Qashqai ST-L was supplied by Nissan Australia. To find out more, contact your local Nissan dealer.