While Nissan gave its popular UK-made Qashqai a major facelift last year that brought along new looks and a stack of new technology, the company has decided to re-jig the model’s lineup for the end of 2019 with the addition of an all new variant – the ST+ you see here.
Designed to build upon the entry-level ST’s looks and interior with a number of desirable features nabbed from more expensive Qashqais, it seems a decent idea.
Visually, there’s little to differentiate it from the base model it’s based upon. The same facelifted exterior is carried over identically, as are the admittedly dinky wheels. There’s no plus symbol added to the badge at the back, either, so you will still look like a base model-buying stinge.
That’s not to say it’s a bad looking car – it might not be as style-conscious as something like the ever-popular Mazda CX-3, but it certainly looks swish enough – but sat next to a swanky, fully-loaded Ti version, the ST+ will look a little underwhelming.
The reason for this is because the $1300 extra you’ll spend on this over the normal ST all goes on the inside. Key upgrades include a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and digital radio, a very handy 360-degree camera, power-folding heated mirrors, and privacy glass.
These are very worthwhile additions on top of the good things the ST already offers, including an electric handbrake with auto hold function, LED daytime running lights, push-button start, a rather nice leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel, digital speedometer, and active safety tech including autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning.
Despite the Qashqai not being an especially big car – it’s sized more like a hatchback than an SUV and lacks all-wheel drive, with only the added ground clearance truly boosting it up a class – the interior space is incredibly well utilised. There’s plenty of head and legroom both front and rear, and the seating feels comfortable and supportive enough all around.
Being at the lower end of the range, the front seats are only manually adjustable and cloth-wrapped, it should be pointed out, although the cloth does feel nice. The rest of the interior materials are what you’d expect – lots of black plastic, but none of it feels especially nasty – although its British build quality is rather excellent, with not a single detectable rattle or uneven panel gap.
Just one engine is available across the entire Qashqai range, a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder making 106kW and 200Nm. Claimed to consume 6.9L/100km on the combined cycle, I saw a decent return of 8.4L/100km over the course of 420km behind the wheel.
Although a six-speed manual is available in the base ST, all variants from the ST+ and up come as standard with a CVT automatic with a simulated seven-speed tiptronic manual mode that channels the power to the front wheels alone.
While I’m not normally a fan of CVTs in the slightest, it must be said that this one doesn’t make for a bad pairing with this engine. It feels fairly smooth and doesn’t display too much of that irritating rubber band effect typically associated with CVTs, instead doing its best to pretend switching gears when driven harder.
The other reason it feels well-paired with this atmo engine is that it manages to extract the most of what power it makes, helping it feel far more powerful than the numbers would have you believe. Sure, it’s no rocket ship, but it has enough poke for pulling out into tight gaps in traffic or safely overtaking on country roads.
Its ride and handling feels right on the money for what it is, too. Yes, it’ll lean a little bit and tend to understeer through corners when driven with vigour, as you’d expect, but the ride is comfortable and quiet and the steering nicely weighted for the sort of driving the owners of this car will actually do.
At freeway speeds, it feels nice and solid and the cabin remains serenely quiet, while in town, it’ll absorb hits from the sort of potholes that would perturb a harder-riding hatchback just that bit more comfortably.
With this new ST+ variant priced from just $30,790, it makes total sense to me to step up to it from the base model as given the target customer of this car is likely to already spend extra to get the automatic, the extra grand-or-so to nab a whole stack of handy bonus features is more than worth it.
Plus, with Nissan often offering very competitive finance deals around the one percent mark and, at the time of publication, an extended seven-year warranty on 2019-plate models to build upon its standard five-year coverage, it definitely makes a good case for itself.
While not a car that will give enthusiasts anything to shout about, there’s a surprising amount to like about the Qashqai when viewed as a means of affordable, practical, honest transport. Well-equipped and nice enough to drive, it’s a solid bet for those just after a good car that gets the job done.
2019 Nissan Qashqai ST+ List Price: $30,790
- Performance - 7.5/107.5/10
- Ride & Handling - 7.5/107.5/10
- Tech & Features - 8/108/10
- Practicality - 8.5/108.5/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Solid amount of standard kit, small but spacious, smartest buy in the 2019 range
Cons: Not a bad drive but hardly inspiring, could do with being a grand or two cheaper
In a nutshell: The Qashqai ST+ is a worthwhile addition to the range, with it positioning itself as a great value-for-money option for those shopping in this class.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Nissan Australia for a week with a full tank of petrol.