Strange noises accompany the departure of Nissan’s best-selling family SUV in this hybrid form, which Nissan (dutifully avoiding that H-word) redacts as e-Power. First the petrol engine starts and runs hard for a couple of minutes and then stops, despite the fact that the speed on the road does not change.
All of this is accompanied by a plaintive howl from the back of the car as Herbie, our Labrador, gets his paw stuck in a large hole that doubles as a handle in the false floor of the trunk. For a company that claims to exhaustively test all of its cars with a large group of non-professional drivers from all walks of life (though clearly not dog owners), that second noise really shouldn’t happen. The former, however, is an integral part of the driving experience of this Qashqai.
More efficient hybrid
Because this is a car the industry has rarely managed to deliver; a hybrid in which the combustion engine does not transmit power to the road. There are good reasons to let the engine drive the wheels, as in the new Honda Civic Hybrid, which uses the engine under high load conditions because its manufacturer claims it is the most efficient.
Nissan, however, claims this hybrid series is even more efficient, because the front-mounted 156hp electric motor directly drives the front wheels and the 188hp/243lbs variable compression 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine ft simply acts as a generator, meaning it can be optimized for that role. It uses the incredibly complex variable compression ratio system first seen on cars produced by Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand, along with ingenious cylinder and intake port shapes to encourage more complete combustion.
There is a generator and inverter and also a small 1.97kWh lithium-ion battery, which is used for maneuvering and as a buffer. Unlike the battery in a purely electric car, this one doesn’t take up a huge amount of space and adds cost, weight and embodied CO2.
Claimed performance is a top speed of 105 miles per hour, acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds, fuel economy of 52.3 miles per gallon and CO2 emissions of 122 g/km.
Qashqai enters one of Europe’s biggest markets – a market where price, practicality and cost of ownership have more influence than the bonnet badge. For many buyers in this segment it is their only vehicle, so it has many roles, some of which battery-powered cars cannot yet fulfill.
Nissan, while somewhat pioneering the electric car with its Leaf, the first version of which went on sale in Europe in 2011, tacitly admits that public resistance to battery electric cars and their drawbacks means that c ‘is a need for hybrid systems such as e-Power, which it calls “bridge technology”. Certainly our readers seem quite interested in the e-Power Qashqai, which Nissan has been strangely slow to get into our hands.
The hard core
The e-Power versions cost from £32,950 for the entry-level Acenta Premium to the £40,980 Tekna+ top model (our Tekna test model cost £38,140 although its two-tone paintwork added £1,145). That’s a quantum leap from the standard Qashqai, which starts at £26,045; Nissan bullishly thinks e-Power will account for about 40% of all Qashqai sales going forward.
It is 4,425mm long, 2,084mm wide with mirrors, 1,625mm high and weighs 1,6362kg, around 300kg more than a standard Qashqai with a combustion engine. Boot space is 479 liters (it’s 504 liters on the cheapest Acenta Premium model) and 1,415 liters with the rear seats folded down on their footings. When you’ve freed your dog’s paw, those perforated floorboards reveal a pretty large space underneath, which on top models is filled with a bass speaker.
The purely electric Ariya is larger, at 4,595mm long and starts at £46,145, so in Nissan’s electric car world the Qashqai e-Power is a little cheaper.
A petrol electric car
But e-Power is an electric car that you pour fuel into, so how does it work? Surprisingly well, actually, although to be fair the diesel-electric hybrid trains and plant equipment have been running without major problems for years.
The trick is to size the motor, generator and battery buffer to make peak power demands less frenetic; in this regard Nissan seems to have hit the mark. The e-Power starts quickly without the engine spinning wildly, and there’s plenty of passing power if you need it. Other than that, go ahead with it. There are odd moments when the engine surprises everyone when it fires up while you’re stationary, but for the most part the intricacies of the drivetrain are out of sight and sound. Just a note to say that the brakes are powerful, with an exemplary mix of regeneration and friction braking.
The rest of the car is pretty much standard Qashqai; comfortable (at least for humans) with roomy seats, plenty of storage space, and a mostly well thought-out balance of switches and touch screens. Those buttons though, especially starting the engine, require a firm, positive push or you sit behind the wheel trying in vain to get the thing to move. The central touch screen is relatively simple to use and the sound system is quite good.
The 19in wheels on the Tekna version go through bumps quite well, although the N-Connecta at £35,120 on 18in wheels probably has more compliance than the flood damaged roads we seem to encounter everywhere and saves you over three grand in the process.
On gently rolling country roads, body control is pretty good, although that extra 300kg gives a slightly crisper ride and more judder and lift than encountered in a standard Qashqai.
We always say cars like this aren’t designed to handle well, but in reality the Qashqai is actually quite good, with decent steering response to the centre, control damping and tidy cornering. No, it’s not fun in any known meaning of the word, but if you need to hustle (late for puppies, a yell from the backseat for a loo) then the Qashqai will handle the task competently just as it does most anything. the rest .
The telegraph verdict
No, it’s not a battery electric car, but it’s lighter and less expensive, and filling the 55-litre tank takes less than a couple of minutes. This gives a range based on our tested fuel consumption of 624 miles, so plug that into your CCS port…
This makes a pretty compelling argument if you only have one car, don’t have off-street parking or a wallbox, and frequently take cross-country trips where EV charging seems more elusive than charging companies would like.
And no, you won’t be bragging about how you’re saving the planet over your dinner parties, but if you want a smart, reliable, thoroughly competent British engineered and engineered car, look no further.
On trial: Nissan Qashqai e-Power
Body Style: Five-door C-segment SUV
On sale: now
How many? £32,950 to £40,980 depending on specification, £38,140 (as tested)
How fast? 160km/h, 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds
How cheap? 52.3mpg (WLTP combined), 52mpg as tested
Electric Powertrain: 1.97kWh lithium-ion battery, with 156hp electric motor driving the front wheels
Charging times: n/a
Electric autonomy: n/a
Maximum engine power/torque: 188 HP 154 HP/184 lb-ft
CO2 emissions: 122 g/km
VED: £180 first year, then £155
Warranty: 3 years, 60,000 miles
Standard spare wheel: no (not available)
Kia Niro EV
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MG4 SE long range
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Ford Kuga ST-Line PHEV 2.5 Duratec
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