As the automotive landscape tends towards forced electrification, Nissan is offering an intermediate step towards all-electric. A way to reassure drivers plagued by the anxiety of running out of juice, despite manufacturers’ efforts in terms of range.
To date, the Japanese manufacturer has only one hybrid vehicle in its range, the Nissan Juke, which uses the engine of its Alliance cousin, the Renault Captur E-Tech. The Juke has since seen the arrival of a companion, the Qashqai e-Power SUV, also a hybrid.
Unlike the Juke, the Qashqai uses proprietary technology released in 2016 on the Nissan Note in Japan. This system can be compared to a range extender, following what the first version of the BMW i3 or Chevrolet Volt offered. Thus, in the i3, a small gasoline engine (3 cylinders), powered by an 11 liter tank, had only one function, that of recharging the battery almost dry. This one-off help made it possible to get to a charging station. Under no circumstances does this extension drive the wheels. In the case of our Nissan Qashqai e-Power, the system is slightly different in the way it works.
Nissan Qashqai is equipped with a standard hybrid engine. The heat block permanently supplies power to the electric traction block. Thus, under the hood is a 158 hp 1.5 l turbocharged 3-cylinder gasoline engine with variable compression ratio operating in well-defined engine regimes. In the city it is discreet (around 1650 rpm), while it becomes more virulent on the road (up to 4900 rpm). This configuration makes it possible to optimize efficiency and therefore control consumption (5.3 l/100 km in the WLTP cycle according to the manufacturer) and, consequently, CO2 emissions (119 g).
In the Nissan Qashqai, the internal combustion engine therefore does not drive the wheels. It is coupled to an electric motor that develops 140 kW (190 hp – 330 Nm of torque), while a “small” battery with a useful capacity of 1.8 kWh (2.1 kWh gross) serves as a buffer between the two and makes the internal combustion engine backup during heavy acceleration or braking. Added to that are an inverter and a generator. This drive chain is similar to what we experience on the new Honda e:Civic.
The on-board master is therefore the electric motor that drives the wheels on its own, while the battery recovers energy from the regenerative braking that will be reinjected into the generator during the acceleration phases.
Athletic on the outside, cozy on the inside
Externally, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power features an athletic line. However, its general line does not change from the previous one. At most, it takes a few centimeters here and there: +35 mm long (4,429 meters), +15 mm high (1,615 meters) and +32 mm wide (1,838 meters). The reason lies in the use of the common CMF-C platform of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
The result is a gain in cabin space – the battery being placed under the front seats – and a trunk volume of 455 to 1,580 liters. On the other hand, in terms of weight, this SUV is not the lightest: from 1610 kg to 1720 kg for our test version (Tekna+). Note that the tank can hold 55 liters of gasoline.
The dashboard has a classic but serious design. We appreciate the fitment and quality of foamed materials, specific to our trial version. If you are seated well in the front, the most pampered are the passengers in the back, whose access on board is greatly facilitated by the opening of the doors to 85 degrees. And with +20mm in the legs, the big guys no longer need to curl up to fit in the carcass.
The digital revolution is underway at Nissan with this 3rd generation Qashqai. In the menu, a 12.3-inch (31.24 cm diagonal) instrument panel, customizable from a steering wheel control, a 10.8-inch (27.43 cm diagonal) head-up system and a 9-inch touch screen (22.86 cm diagonal) standard on N-Connecta, Tekna and Tekna+ and customizable versions. The latter, compatible with CarPlay, Android Auto and even Amazon Alexa (voice assistant), proved to be responsive and fluid.
Despite the many accesses to the various functions via the touchscreen, Nissan does not neglect the separate physical heating controls. Ergonomics wins.
The Nissan Qashqai e-power also offers two USB-A and two USB-C sockets, as well as a 15-watt induction charger.
A complex but efficient engine
It’s time to hit the road. Pressing the start button activates the electric motor directly. Once shifted into Drive, the SUV enters cathedral-like silence. It must be said that Nissan took very good care of the sound insulation, especially between the powertrain and the passenger compartment. For this, the Japanese manufacturer equipped its Qashqai with a noise reducer (under the trunk floor) coupled to the audio system. The combo allows to erase parasitic noises, without avoiding rolling noises.
The small 1.8 kWh battery allows you to cover between 2 and 3 km in all-electric mode. When you press the right pedal a little more, the heat engine kicks in, but only an attentive ear will hear its purr. A look at the instrument panel shows the power flow changes.
Once launched, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power is agile and has responsive, precise steering. We noticed that the contribution of the multi-arm rear axle (Tekna and Tekna+) makes it possible to contain parasitic body movements, even during a succession of quick turns. On the other hand, it doesn’t stop you from feeling the flaws of the road, especially in the city. The failure of a standard 20-inch mount that can be changed – free of charge – to 19 inches. Comfort is then privileged.
During a rare foray on Swedish highways (limited to 110 km/h) or during overtaking, we could notice a small latency when it is necessary to crush the accelerator pedal. Nothing prohibitive, as the couple is present. Also note that unlike some parallel series hybrid competitors, at Toyota for example the Nissan Qashquai lacks a gearbox and clutch. During a strong pull on the right pedal, the engine does not accelerate.
Although a hybrid, the Qashqai is equipped with a regenerative braking system (B or Brake mode) that differs depending on the chosen driving mode (Eco, Normal or Sport). The e-Pedal function, seen in Folha, is required. Normally allows the accelerator pedal to be used as a brake when released. Following customer feedback on its usage, Nissan has revised the e-Pedal, now called the “e-pedal step“The difference is in the braking, which now reduces the car’s speed to 5 km/h without coming to a complete stop, as it used to.
Another must-have, the ProPilot is a level 2 semi-autonomous driving aid that consists of adaptive lane-keeping cruise control, lane-keep and traffic jam-management assistant. It should be remembered that this system is capable of “driving” the Qashqai through the management, particularly on expressways, of safety distances, direction and speed. ProPilot accelerates, brakes the car to a complete stop and restarts when the lane is clear ahead.
After a varied journey of around 90 km, our average fuel consumption was 5.1 l/100 km. A value in the nails of the technical sheet, but that we will not fail to check in more varied courses when the trial version is available in France.
In the end, this Nissan Qashqai e-Power seduced us and showed promising driving pleasure. The powertrain’s soundproofing is also a plus. In addition, its generous interior and its reactive and complete infotainment are assets in favor of this hybrid SUV. A longer test will allow us to delve deeper into its road qualities and its real consumption.
However, there is a slight downside to the prices, which start at €38,200 for the entry-level Acenta version and go up to €46,000 for the Tekna+, the top of the range. In total, there are 5 finishes, including the Business Edition for €39,200. On the competition side, Nissan will struggle to face the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Niro, Honda ZR-V and even the Ford Kuga, which has the differential of being hybrid and compatible with E85 Superethanol.
We will return to this Nissan Qashqai e-Power in a more thorough test as soon as we have the opportunity.