What is it?
A special variant of the Nissan Qashqai – also known as Rogue Sport in the US – that adds some blacked-out visual touches and extra equipment to add some modern flair to the ageing model. This Midnight Edition variant sits one rung below the range-topping Ti in Australia, with it retailing for $35,990.
Why are we testing it?
With the current second-generation Qashqai soon set to be replaced by an all-new model which will enter production in the UK this year, having a steer in this new Midnight Edition variant gives us a final look at what has been a continued strong seller to see just how it stacks up nearly eight years after the first examples rolled off the production line.
How does it look?
Not too bad, actually, as the Midnight Edition’s blacked-out accents – such as the radiator grille, window surrounds, mirror caps, and the particularly swish 19-inch turbine alloys – really do smarten up the Qashqai’s exterior in a big way. It’s a surprise the badges weren’t given a matching dark hue, however, as the chrome “Midnight” badge on the boot lid does look a little bit odd when you consider what the name implies.
There’s no denying that the base Qashqai isn’t the prettiest car in the world, certainly, but it’s not too offensive on the eyes at least – more just a bit bland, and with an awkward nose on it. At this one sits though, especially with some swish blue paint on it, I reckon it’s not half bad.
What’s it like inside?
The first thing that strikes you as you hop into the Qashqai is the roominess on offer. With some SUVs it’s up against severely lacking in rear legroom in particular, the Qashqai’s airy cabin does give it a definite leg-up over some of its other compact competitors.
However, the Qashqai’s interior does feel dated at this point, with the comparatively tiny 7.0-inch infotainment screen, manual climate controls, and bland interior styling truly making it feel like a product of the early 2010s in many ways.
Admittedly, 2021 models including the Midnight Edition have been updated with Nissan’s latest infotainment software – which is a good system that brings with it Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, along with a far more sophisticated navigation system and an overall slicker and more responsive feel – but on this smaller screen the aspect ratio isn’t quite right and it looks slightly pinched as a result. Nonetheless, it’s better to have than to not. The standard 360-degree camera system is a welcome feature as well, as it certainly adds a lot to the Qashqai’s city car credentials.
I am a fan of the combination Alcantara and leather seat upholstery, and attention has been paid to making things like the armrests and the flat-bottomed steering wheel feel the part as well, but the overall reliance on harder and cheaper black plastic – particularly for items you’ll be using all the time such as the interior door handles – does bring the ambiance down a touch. Look to Nissan’s newer models such as the second-gen Juke, however, and you’ll see that the new Qashqai, when it arrives, ought to be a big step up from this outgoing model.
Despite the roomy cabin, it offers a pretty sizeable boot as well, and although there is a lip in the cargo area to contend with when the rear seats are folded down, it’s not so high that it should really be a problem. Interior storage is pretty good as well, too, with well-sized slots and a deep storage compartment in the centre console.
What’s it like to drive?
As is a continuing theme with the Qashqai at this point, it’s a bit of a mixed-bag on the road as well. Certainly, it’s not packing much in its trousers – a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine with 106kW and 200Nm mated to a CVT automatic and front-wheel drive remains the only powertrain on offer to us Aussies – but it’s not exactly an entirely bad setup.
Certainly, the four-pot is a decently smooth engine and you can tell that it does like to rev and wants to give the Qashqai some real motivation, but it’s really the CVT that lets the whole equation down. It slurs and whirs and dulls any performance the 2.0-litre did have to offer, and it’s a shame to see that Nissan will be sticking with the CVT for the next-gen model as well, as a dual-clutch ‘box (as seen in the Juke) would make it a far better drive.
Impressively, one of the biggest improvements the Midnight Edition model brings is a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres shod on those swish black alloys, and with some quality rubber the Qashqai does feel surprisingly sticky and planted on a nice bit of tarmac with some wider sweeping bends.
Don’t think it’s a corner-carver, though, as on tighter, twistier roads like the Adelaide Hills, my testing ground, is littered with, it starts to feel a bit messy. A lot of this is due to the constant intervention of the overly-invasive traction control system – which can’t be switched off, mind you – that does its best job of upsetting whatever line you were trying to hold or let the car play into, although the artificial and over-assisted steering rack feel doesn’t inspire much confidence either.
However, this is really a city car at heart – not an SUV with true sporting aspirations as the brand-name rubber and black pack may fool you into thinking – and it’s in the urban jungle that it feels to be at its best. It rides well even on the big rims, feels easy to park and manoeuvre on tight streets, and the CVT – while a soul-sucker on a backroad – does make it feel far smoother than a DCT ever could.
Does that come as a surprise at all? I’m guessing not. It nails its real focus, though, and manages to feel pleasant on the daily drive which matters most with a vehicle like this.
How do the numbers stack up?
Let me be frank and say that the purchase price is far too high, certainly. A $35,990 list price ought to at least get you things like automatic climate control, heated seats, and a sunroof – let alone a more potent drivetrain, too – and when you compared it to what some rival brands can get you into for the same money, you might be tempted away from it if you’re looking to buy outright.
However, Nissan will finance you one for just $114 per week with guaranteed future value and up to three years of free servicing included, which does make it more appealing if you’re looking to get out of it in a couple years’ time – perhaps to upgrade to the newer model when it arrives. Regardless of whether you finance or not, though, Nissan does offer six years of capped-price servicing on all models in Australia, with an average cost of $297 per visit for the Qashqai over those six years.
Only requiring cheapo 91 RON fuel as a minimum, it should be easy on your hip pocket at the bowser, too. After 455km of driving during my week with it, it returned a respectable 8.7L/100km given the majority of the week was spent in traffic or testing its backroad performance.
So, what’s the verdict?
The second-gen Qashqai might be on its last legs, but this Midnight Edition variant does its best job of giving it some extra appeal to those after a basic, durable SUV, with it improving its looks and the way it drives actually quite noticeably.
A high price tag does let it down when you consider what the competition offers for this sort of money – or just how much hatchback you could buy if a higher ride isn’t a necessity – so if you’re looking at a higher-end model like this, financing is the way to go, I would suggest.
Choose any Qashqai – given they’ll all drive the same, sans Michelin tyres on other variants – and you’ll be getting a very solid daily driver. Just don’t go expecting it to ever really feel as sporty as it looks.
2021 Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition List Price: $35,900
Pros: Quality Michelin rubber makes a big difference, Midnight Edition’s visual changes look the part, 360-camera and easy steering help make it an ideal city car
Cons: Underwhelming powertrain let down by the CVT, mixed-bag handling, high list price given what rivals offer for this sort of money
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Nissan Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.