Nissan Qashqai e-POWER hybrid review
Is Nissan’s stepping stone to fully electric power a worthwhile addition to the Qashqai range?
- Sharp styling
- Smooth, EV-like drive
- Plenty of standard equipment
- Practicality not class-leading
- Not especially sporty to drive
- In-car tech still bested by rivals
|Car type||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions||0-62mph|
While a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid setup is fast becoming the default power for family SUVs these days, Nissan is adopting a different approach with the latest Qashqai. The model has been on sale for around a year now with a mild-hybrid drivetrain, but now this ‘e-POWER’ hybrid variant has joined the line-up.
Nissan calls it “an EV unplugged” – the wheels are driven by a 188bhp electric motor fed by a small 2.1kWh battery, but instead of having to plug in to charge the latter, its energy comes from a 1.5-litre petrol engine, humming away in the background at a steady rate – and promising better fuel economy (over 53 miles per gallon) and lower CO2 emissions (119 grammes per kilometre) than a regular petrol Qashqai as a result.
The setup first appeared in supermini and MPV models in Nissan’s home market of Japan, but work has taken place at the company’s Cranfield engineering centre in the UK to better tweak it for European markets. Nissan says the e-POWER is meant to feel like an electric car to drive, and at low speeds especially, it does.
You can hear the engine, of course, and anyone who’s driven a car with a CVT gearbox will recognise the unusual sensation of the car’s speed and acceleration not quite matching the sound coming from under the bonnet. But Nissan has calibrated the system so that engine noise does roughly rise in tandem with acceleration, and in any case it often falls completely silent around town, once there’s sufficient charge in the battery to keep you going for a bit.
The smooth, strong and step-free acceleration contributes to a relaxing driving experience and a 7.9-second 0-62mph time. Another way the Qashqai e-POWER apes a fully electric car is with its ‘e-Pedal’ regenerative braking. As is the case with the Nissan Ariya electric SUV, though, this no longer lets you come to a complete stop as it does in the Nissan Leaf, so it’s not true ‘one-pedal driving’.
Noise and vibration are both reduced compared to a regular combustion-engined car (or even a regular hybrid), which – along with effective suspension – contributes greatly to the Qashqai e-POWER’s strong refinement. It’s not solely a soft and silent cruiser, though: there’s good steering weight, a feeling of agility and the chassis isn’t unduly unsettled by a twisty road – although we wouldn’t go as far as saying the driving experience as ‘sporty’.
So the powertrain and chassis are fundamentally good, then, but there are a few shortcomings (also present on the mild-hybrid version) that the e-POWER version doesn’t resolve. For starters, even the revised 12.3-inch dashboard interface – while perfectly adequate – still falls behind key rival Kia’s offering when it comes to sharpness, speed and ease of use.
Boot size is also only average for the class, at a smidge more than 500 litres, but the Qashqai does better in other practicality respects: parents of young children in particular will welcome the 85-degree opening angle of the rear doors, which makes strapping young ones into their seats much easier.
Standard equipment – a traditional Nissan strong point – is also good, with the entry-level Acenta Premium car getting 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels and additional badging on top of what the equivalent mild hybrid comes with. Mid-range N-Connecta (coming in at just over £35,000) is likely to be a more popular choice, though, thanks to its twin 12.3-inch dashboard displays, plentiful safety kit and helpful all-round parking sensors.
In summary, then, the e-POWER instantly becomes the most appealing engine choice in the Qashqai line-up, and is definitely worth the extra cash compared to the standard mild-hybrid setup. While practicality and in-car technology niggles mean this third incarnation of the Qashqai isn’t the all-conquering class leader the first-generation car was, the efficiency, refinement and pleasant driving experience offered by this innovative drivetrain should definitely appeal to many.