I often have this recurring dream (or is it a nightmare?) in which I am being chased through the night streets by a menacing car. It is silver with blacked-out windows. I can never truly make out what it is but I suspect it might be a third-generation BMW 5 series – maybe an M5 or 540i.
Anyway, after much drifting and darting I eventually give my pursuers the slip, relief washing over me in an awesome wave. Unfortunately this elation is short-lived because, due to a diminishing fuel tank, I have to pull into one of those ubiquitous, neon-lit petrol stations. This is when things go horribly pear-shaped and I suddenly wake to ruffled bed sheets and the eerie murk of predawn light.
Of course this could all be averted if my sub-conscious put me behind the wheel of the all-new Nissan Qashqai 1.5 Acenta dCi. Because in being equipped with a direct-injection turbodiesel engine, this SUV can run for many a mile before its 65-litre fuel tank needs to be refilled. Seriously, I had my handsome white test unit for a week and in it I managed to clock up 623 kilometers on just 34-litres of juice – an average of 5.4l/100km.
And no, before you ask, I wasn’t hyper-miling behind the wind-cheating silhouette of some pantechnicon truck – this figure was actually achieved in the torment of real-world driving conditions. Yeah, keep an eye on the fuel consumption gauge, shift at 2000rpm and this Nissan sips The Devil’s fuel with a reassuring ease.
Predictably, being a small capacity engine, there is a noticeable amount of turbo-lag in the first two gears – something that can make quick pull-offs something of a hit and miss (read jerky) affair. But once you slot that stubby lever into third and get a little momentum going, the diminutive 1.5 dCi broils you along at a useful lick. In fact it often feels like there is something bigger, more muscular, thrumming beneath that stubby bonnet.
This could, however, be down to the relatively slick-shifting, six-speed manual transmission that has been stacked with a seemingly perfect spread of ratios.
Impressive out on the open road, this Qashqai is equally sweet through the corners thanks to its fine chassis and carefully considered suspension setup. For despite the fact that it has been tuned with interior comfort in mind, it is still capable of being reasonably entertaining through the bends. Adding to this surprising level of drivability is a well-weighted power steering system that has been endowed with a reasonable amount of feedback. Strapped into the supportive drivers seat, this machine feels more like high-riding hatchback than some sloppy, soccer mom special.
Inside the awesomeness continues. Sure, there are more exciting interiors out there but the Qashqai impresses nonetheless with a blend of bulletproof build quality and a generous spread of standard features. Air-conditioning, an ear-bleeding six-speaker sound system with the obligatory aux-in jack, Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone – this all forms part of the package.
You even get a right-sized leather-wrapped steering wheel fitted with buttons that control the onboard computer as well as the stereo. Space wise the Qashqai will seat four adults in relative ease. There’s also a fairly big boot (410-litres to be precise) in which to stash luggage and other oddments.
I did have one gripe, however, and that was with the cup holders that sit next to the handbrake on the centre console. When empty they don’t pose a problem but put them to the test and they soon become a real hindrance; their shallow construction meaning that every gear change ends with your elbow banging into your beverage of choice.
Other than that I could find precious little else to fault with the Nissan Qashqai 1.5 Acenta dCi. It’s good to drive, aggressively priced and, most importantly, offers up the sort of frugality figures that certain hybrid vehicles can only dream about achieving. Multiply this by a high level of practicality and this good-looking Jap gets my vote as the new everyday superhero; the sub-R300k SUV I would likely throw my money at if I were on the market. Here’s hoping my subconscious takes the hint.
The Facts: Nissan Qashqai 1.5 Acenta dCi
Engine: 1461cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 78kW at 4400rpm
Torque: 240Nm at 2000rpm
Top speed: 177km/h
Fuel Consumption: 5.4l/100km (claimed combined)
Price: R277 925
A good drive
Practical and well equipped
Turbo-lag in lower gears
Stupidly placed cup holders
Not much else