Qash-ing in: the rise of the crossover

  • 2017 marks 10 years of the Nissan Qashqai
  • How far has the crossover come in that time?
  • We track the life so far of this niche-making car

Since the Nissan Qashqai was introduced in 2007, the car world has gone crossover crazy.

You can’t drive down the high street now without seeing one, and the Qashqai has remained one of the most popular throughout, despite a torrent of competition flooding the market in recent years.

Qashqai kicked off the crossover carnival

While not the first compact SUV on sale, the Nissan Qashqai popularised the idea of a jacked-up hatchback to those looking for something different, and it’s been a runaway success ever since.

Regularly featuring in Top 10 sales charts, the Qashqai has become as familiar a sight on UK roads as the humble Volkswagen Golf and Ford Fiesta – it’s no wonder every other manufacturer now wants a piece of the pie.

New vs old Qashqai: how far has it come?

Side by side, it’s clear Nissan has stuck with the formula it debuted with the 2007 Qashqai in the current one. It has the shape of a regular hatchback but lifted up to offer that raised ride height that’s become so desirable, as well as better visibility and ease of access.

Alongside the newer car with its sharper lines, chrome trim and tinted windows, the original Qashqai shows its age, but there’s little that’s radically different.

Inside is where you notice some of the biggest changes between the two cars. There’s a much chunkier, higher-quality feel to the current car, with a more substantial dashboard housing more modern controls (although dated compared with newer rivals like the Peugeot 3008).

The two cars we brought together – both powered by 1.6-litre petrol engines – felt very different to drive, though. With 115hp, the older model is more closely matched by the 1.2-litre turbo on offer in the new car, while the 1.6-litre turbo we drove trounces it performance-wise with almost 50 more horsepower to play with.

It still isn’t the most involving crossover to drive – recent rivals have focused on driver involvement more than Nissan – but it’s relaxed with a comfortable, refined ride and tidy handling. And let's face it, this is not a priority for most families.

Crossover timeline: a trend that’s here to stay

The Qashqai kicked off a class that has spawned more niches than you can imagine, spanning both budget and premium price points, as well as large, small, practical and impractical body shapes and sizes, including its own Nissan Juke and associated rivals.

Here's the Qashqai’s most direct competition in terms of size and price over the last 10 years.

SUV timeline: Why crossovers rule the roost

2007Nissan Qashqai debuts

2008First-gen Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan arrive

2009 – MPV/SUV mish-mash Peugeot 3008 and Skoda Yeti debut

2010Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage (3rd-gen but first in true crossover style), MINI Countryman, Mitsubishi ASX join the crossover club

2011Citroen DS4 arrives blending a coupe-like body and (slightly) raised driving position

2012 – Second-gen Ford Kuga grows up, Subaru XV and first-gen Vauxhall Mokka debut

2013Suzuki SX4 S-Cross arrives

2014Nissan Qashqai Mk2 launches

2015 – Bumper year as the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, DS 4, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Renault Kadjar, SsangYong Tivoli all arrive within 12 months

2016 – Fourth-gen Kia Sportage, MG GS, Peugeot 3008, SEAT Ateca, Vauxhall Mokka X & second-gen VW Tiguan ramp up the competition

2017 – Second-gen MINI Countryman and Toyota C-HR arrive early in the year, with plenty more to come…

We’re crossover crazy now, and this list doesn’t include more compact crossovers and the growing number of road-biased premium SUVs that have followed the trend-setting Range Rover Evoque.

What’s happened to the humble hatchback?

Good question. They’re still very much in favour – the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf are all in the top 10 registrations list the Qashqai has muscled into, but people love the appeal of having an SUV-like driving position.

Were you even aware there’s a low-riding Qashqai in the form of the Nissan Pulsar? It looks largely similar, the interior is much the same, yet spec-for-spec it’s thousands of pounds cheaper.

A 1.2-litre turbo petrol Qashqai in mid-spec N-Connecta trim will set you back £22,945. Go for the same engine and trim level in a Pulsar, and you’ll pay just £17,805.

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