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2008-07-31 07:14
The new all-wheel drive, turbodiesel Qashqai Tekna

The new all-wheel drive, turbodiesel Qashqai Tekna doing some 'soft-roading'.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Nissan
Model Qashqai
Engine 2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power 110kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 320Nm @ 2 000r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Top Speed 191km/h
Fuel Tank 65-litres
Fuel Consumption 6.6l/100km (Acenta), 7l/100km (Tekna)
Boot Size 410-litres
ABS Yes, with EBD, BA
Airbags Driver, passanger, side and curtain
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 3 year/90 000km
Warranty 3 year/100 000km
Price R261 950 (Acenta), R284 590 (Tekna), R293 590 (Tekan leather)

Lance Branquinho

Nissan have added turbodiesel power and all-wheel drive to their trendy Qashqai range.

Since its introduction last year the Qashqai has proved vastly popular with Nissan hardly able to keep up with demand. Blending SUV styling cues with hatchback dynamics despite its slightly more commanding view of the road, Qashqai is a hatchback in SUV guise, instead of a hapless small SUV compromise.

Polishing the package

Featuring 200mm worth of ground clearance whilst retaining a resolved balance between plush ride characteristics and handling sharpness – despite the numb electrically assisted power steering – many felt the Qashqai package would really come to fruition with turbodiesel power and all-wheel drive.

Nissan have been keen to pander to any customer demand in a strained market, and now the Qashqai is finally available with turbodiesel power and all-wheel drive locally.

Topping off the Qashqai range now are two new turbodiesel models, the front-wheel drive Acenta and all-wheel drive Tekna. Indeed, the moniker names are nearly as silly as the Qashqai range name, but in characteristic Nissan fashion beyond the odd model designations there is some neat engineering going on.

New drivetrain

Powering both the Tekna and Acenta is a 2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel managed by second generation Bosch piezoelectric direct injection. Tallied up it brings 110kW to the game at 4 000r/min and 320Nm of torque at only 2 000r/min - and you don't have to run it on 50ppm fairy fuel either.

Nissan claims operational frugality in the range between 6.6l/100km (Acenta) and 7l/100km (Tekna) for the new engine, enabling 900km range on the Qashqai’s 65-litre tank.

Tough the Acenta retains front-wheel drive, the Tekna Qashqai features Nissan’s new All-mode 4x4 system seen on the recently launched X-Trail. Controlled by a turn dial located behind the gearlever, it has three settings: two-wheel drive, auto and lock.

Being an electronically controlled system – instead of hydraulic – the all-wheel drive capability can be engaged at speed. In auto mode the torque split is varied between front and rear axles as required to counter slip, ideal of traversing dirt-roads at pace.

Essentially the all-wheel drive system is managed by sensors linking engine ECU with the four-wheel drive and ABS controller. Blending these three control devices ensures perpetual wheel slippage monitoring which is instantaneously countered by an electromagnetic centre clutch mounted just ahead of the rear axle to apportion torque correctly.

When engaged in ‘lock’ mode on the all-wheel drive control dial, the system goes beyond the traditional soft-roader 50:50 front and rear open-differential torque split and uses engine, traction and brake electronics to essentially replicated two ‘electronic’ limited-slip differentials – front and rear.

On road and a little off it

To illustrate the secure all-wheel drive traction and amble tractability of their new drivetrain Nissan set us off into the North-West province, navigating a route of highways and some atrociously surfaced dirt roads.

Driving the turbodiesel Qashqai reconfirmed redeeming features and foibles of the range. The seats are excellent – especially the R9 000 optional leather items – cabin design is neat, the high-riding visibility reassuring and complete lack of centre console stowage space inexcusable.

One of the key reasons one is quickly reacquainted with all the Qashqai interior features and faults is due to the amazingly unobtrusive nature of the 2-litre turbodiesel engine. Vibration, noise and harshness levels are negligible.

Apparently a key design principle for Qashqai turbodiesel is acoustic refinement – as the car is primarily urban orientated – and with the engine featuring an aluminium bedplate and twin counter rotating balancer shafts the result is uncanny refinement.

Do not for a moment think the lack of vibration or audibility under acceleration is an indication of lethargy either. From 2 000 – 4 000r/min the Qashqai responds with alacrity.

The six-speed manual gearbox features well matched gear ratios too, always delivering engine revolutions around the torque peak when changing gear and called on for overtaking. Sixth gear, primarily a thinly masked overdrive economy ratio on most modern turbodiesels, renders impressive 18-wheeler overtaking urge around and above the legal cruising limit.

Beyond the peachy engine we were even more impressed with the ease of operation concerning the turn dial all-wheel drive system. You can twist to engage it from two-wheel drive to auto at any speed, and on the treacherous dirt-road sections we felt it reigning in waywardness and guarding against vehicle instability.

With many South Africans travelling rural secondary roads on their increasingly adventurous vacation route maps, Qashqai all-wheel drive traction makes a huge amount of sense. On-road handling remains impressive, especially for something which leans more to SUV ride-height, and ride-quality is superb.

In Acenta two-wheel drive guise the Qashqai turbodiesel rolls on 215/65 tyres rotating on 16-inch alloys, whilst the all-wheel drive Tekna makes due with 17-inch wheels and 215/60 tyres.

A definite boon, and indicative of Nissan’s keen product planning for local conditions, is the presence of a full-size spare wheel instead of a space-saver – a feature only called into question by most SUV buyers when its too late on a dark, dusty stretch of Karoo byroad.

The pseudo-SUV which makes sense

The current price differentiation between petrol and diesel pump prices is making the default turbodiesel engine option less attractive, though many buyers still gravitate towards oil-burners for perceived medium lifecycle running cost savings.

If you’re still keen on diesel for your transport needs, with the Qashqai you'll get neatly proportioned SUV styling, capable multi-surface handling dynamics, a comfortable interior and now the boon of secure traction and a fantastic turbodiesel engine.

Already a very convincing package, turbodiesel power and all-wheel drive has made Qashqai even better – now if only Nissan could carry over the Navara roof mounted sunglass holder and cut out a centre console stowage slot for it…


Acenta 4x2 R261 590
Tekna 4x4 R284 590
Tekna 4x4 with leather R293 590

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