As the automotive landscape tends towards forced electrification, Nissan is offering an intermediate step before all-electric. A way to reassure drivers plagued by the anxiety of running out of juice, despite the efforts of manufacturers in terms of autonomy.
Until now, the Japanese manufacturer had only one hybrid vehicle in its range, the Nissan Juke which uses the engine of its Alliance cousin, the Renault Captur E-Tech. Since then, the Juke has seen the arrival of a companion, the Qashqai e-Power SUV, also a hybrid.
Unlike the Juke, the Qashqai uses in-house technology launched in 2016 on the Nissan Note in Japan. This system could be similar to a range extender, following on from what the first version of the BMW i3 or the Chevy Volt. Thus, on the i3, a small petrol engine (3 cylinders), powered by an 11-litre tank, had only one function, that of recharging the battery almost dry. This one-off help made it possible to reach a charging station. Under no circumstances did this extension drive the wheels. In the case of our Nissan Qashqai e-Power, the system is slightly different in how it works.
The Nissan Qashqai is equipped with a standard hybrid engine. The thermal block permanently supplies energy to the electric traction block. Thus, under the hood, there is a 158 hp 1.5 l turbo 3-cylinder petrol engine with variable compression ratio operating at well-defined engine speeds. In town, it is discreet (around 1650 rpm), while it becomes more virulent on the highway (up to 4900 rpm). This configuration makes it possible to optimize efficiency and therefore to control consumption (5.3 l/100 km in the WLTP cycle according to the manufacturer), and consequently CO2 emissions (119 g).
On the Nissan Qashqai, the internal combustion engine therefore does not drive the wheels at all. It is coupled to an electric motor developing 140 kW (190 hp – 330 Nm torque), while a “tiny” battery with a useful capacity of 1.8 kWh (2.1 kWh gross) serves as a buffer between the two and backs up the internal combustion engine during heavy acceleration or braking. Added to this are an inverter and a generator. This pull chain is similar to what we tried in the new Honda e:Civic.
The master on board is therefore the electric motor which drives the wheels on its own, while the battery recovers the energy from the regenerative braking which will be reinjected into the generator during the acceleration phases.
Athletic outside, cozy inside
Externally, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power presents 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 in length (4.429 meters), +15 mm in height (1.615 meters) and +32 mm in width (1.838 meters). The reason lies in the use of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s common CMF-C platform.
Result, a gain of space in the cabin – the battery being placed under the front seats – and a boot volume displaying 455 to 1580 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, the tank can hold 55 liters of gasoline.
The dashboard has a classic but serious design. We appreciate the assembly and the quality of the foamed materials, specific to our test version. If you are well seated in the front, the most pampered are the rear passengers, whose access on board is greatly facilitated by the opening of the doors at 85 degrees. And with +20 mm on the legs, the big guys no longer have to curl up to fit their carcass.
The digital revolution is underway at Nissan with this 3rd generation of Qashqai. On the menu, a 12.3-inch (31.24 cm diagonal) instrument cluster, customizable from a steering wheel control, a 10.8-inch (27.43 cm diagonal) head-up system and a screen 9-inch touch screen (22.86 cm diagonal) standard on the N-Connecta, Tekna and Tekna+ versions and customizable. 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 touch screen, Nissan does not overlook 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 engaged the Drive position, the SUV rushes into a cathedral silence. It must be said that Nissan has taken rather good care of the soundproofing, especially between the powertrain and the passenger compartment. For this, the Japanese manufacturer has equipped its Qashqai with a noise reducer (under the trunk floor) coupled to the audio system. The combo makes it possible to erase parasitic noises, without preventing rolling noises.
The tiny 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 perceive its purring. A glance at the instrument cluster shows the energy flow exchanges.
Once launched, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power is agile and has responsive and precise steering. We note 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 rapid turns. On the other hand, it does not prevent you from feeling the faults of the road, especially in town. The fault of a standard 20-inch mount that can be changed – free of charge – to 19 inches. Comfort is then privileged.
During a rare incursion on the Swedish motorways (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. Note also that unlike some series-parallel hybrid competitors, at Toyota for example, the Nissan Qashquai has no gearbox and clutch. During a strong request on the right pedal, the engine does not race.
Although hybrid, the Qashqai is equipped with a regenerative braking system (B or Brake mode) which differs depending on the driving mode chosen (Eco, Normal or Sport). The e-Pedal function, seen on the Leaf, is required. It normally allows the accelerator pedal to be used as a brake when released. Following customer feedback on its use, Nissan has reviewed the e-Pedal, now called “e-Pedal Step“. The difference is in the braking, which now slows the car down to 5 km/h without stopping it completely, as was the case before.
Another must-have, the ProPilot is a level 2 semi-autonomous driving aid consisting of adaptive lane-keeping cruise control, lane assistant and traffic jam management assistant. As a reminder, this system is able to “steer” the Qashqai by managing, in particular on expressways, safety distances, direction and speed. The ProPilot accelerates, brakes the car to a complete stop and restarts itself when the lane is clear ahead.
After a varied journey of some 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 on 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 soundproofing of the powertrain is also a good point. 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 deepen its road qualities and its real consumption.
However, there is a small 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 at €39,200. On the competition side, the Nissan will have a lot to do with the Hyundai Tucson, Be Niro, Honda ZR-V and even Ford Kugawhich has the particularity of being hybrid and compatible with Superethanol E85.
We will come back to this Nissan Qashqai e-Power in a more complete test as soon as we have the opportunity.