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Nissan Qashqai +2 n-tec 1.5dCi
Like VW's Touareg, the Qashqai is named after a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe, but unlike the Saharan Touaregs, the Qashqais hail from South Western Iran. Both names of course are supposed to conjure mental images in prospective customers of adventure, heat, dust, endurance, treacherous roads, open fires and romantic nights under a zillion twinkling stars.
However, in the case of the Qashqai that's all just a little implausible for it is an entry-level crossover SUV, in this case a front-wheel-drive entry-level crossover SUV that, if you'll pardon the tired cliché, is ‘more at home on the school/supermarket run' than it is barrelling over the Zagros Mountains near where the Qashqais live. This, frankly, is a good thing. Most of us don't need an all-wheel-drive, mountain-climbing, semi-amphibious, over-engineered beast of an off-roader. Or even a soft-roader, often encumbered as they are by dual-range transmissions and auto diff locks. Instead we need simple, comfortable, safe, affordable, reliable and convenient transport. And, judging by the huge number of Qashqais I see on the road these days, a great many others are also seeing things my way.
That said, we need our little pleasures too, and to satisfy those demands Nissan recently launched the n-tec model. Featuring many 4x4 styling cues, the n-tec boasts fancy 18in alloys, satin-finish roof-rails, a panoramic glass roof, smoked rear glass, climate control, cruise control, a trip computer and, importantly, Nissan's Connect system as standard. Nissan Connect encompasses a CD player, FM/AM radio, a USB port and a mini-jack socket, as well as sat-nav with touch-screen, traffic info, a reversing camera plus Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.
Despite all this equipment our seven-seater (think of it as a 5+2) test car was powered by a relatively humble, 4-cyl, 8-valve, 106PS 1.5-litre dCi motor hooked to a 6-speed manual ‘box. Performance is not its forté - 0-62mph in 12.2 secs, 108mph max - but it served me well enough on my 843 mile round trip across Europe (in truth, mainly Belgium). Despite being packed to the headlining with people and gear, the trip computer recorded 41.5mpg overall. That's almost 22 per cent short of the official 52.3 combined figure, but not bad considering the appreciable load and persistent, no-time-to-lose driving style.