Nissan Qashqai 1.2 Turbo vs 2.0: Crossing over choices

Story and photos by Irwin Tan

Crossovers are probably one of the more popular choices of car categories on the roads now – and it makes sense too, given that these vehicles usually provide the much-appreciated space, yet ride almost the same (if not more comfortably) than some sedans.

One of the more popular choices is undoubtedly the Nissan Qashqai. It is perhaps one of the sleeker choices in the Japanese/Korean SUV market. I mean, it’s affordable, it looks good, it rides reasonably well… what else could an average family man ask for?

Yes, it probably isn’t an apple-to-apple comparison when we drove both variants of the Qashqai out from Nissan’s headquarters recently, but the question I got from friends and family alike stood out in my mind: “So which is better? The 1.2-litre or the 2-litre?”

And so, I enlisted the help of a buddy and decided to find out.

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Many people wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the two variants easily, granted that the only aesthetic differences the 2.0-litre has over its smaller siblings are namely (i) the roof racks, (ii) larger (and nicer) rims, (iii) a panoramic moonroof (which you obviously can’t see from ground level), and (iv) HID headlamps.

But both Qashqais stand solidly on the tarmac, evoking a stronger road presence than I expected of a typical SUV. Manufactured in the United Kingdom, the Qashqai’s angular front facade draws attention to the Nissan badge, aided by the arrowheads daytime running lights (which are automatically lighted up on the 1.2-litre but are unable to do so on the 2.0-litre, unless you switch on the low beam).

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Since its predecessor’s reign, the Qashqai (or called Dualis in Japan and Australia) has seen numerous upgrades to its interior. The cabin is no longer as plasticky, the front seats are way more comfortable and spacious than before, and the boot, at 430 litres, packs more than just a golf bag and a child stroller. Fold the seats down and you get to enjoy close to 1,600 litres of space.

Now before you jump to a conclusion that you’re prepared to fork out the extra premium of 15-odd grand for the 2.0-litre, I hate to admit that the drive of the larger sibling did disappoint the both of us.

Mapped to a 1,997 cc naturally aspirated pot, the 2.0-litre Qashqai feels sluggish to the pedal. It completes its 0-100 race in 10.1 seconds on paper, 2.8 seconds faster than its 1.2-litre sibling, even though we thought they both felt on par.

In fact, its smaller 1,197 cc brother feels more sprightly and willing to push ahead, thanks to its turbocharged Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG-T) plant. It’s not your fastest Japanese SUV on the roads, and you’ll still need a bit of persuading before the car pulls to your desired speed. But then again, this is probably the kind of driving the average family guy would look forward to.

The absence of a solid insulated roof on the 2.0-litre also means you get incredulous rain splattering music whenever it pours, unfortunately like how it did when it was my turn to get behind the wheel. Fortunately and unfortunately, my buddy enjoyed his 1.2-litre ride cruising in the rain more than I did in my 2.0-litre.

But both cars performed remarkably well over uneven roads. Thanks to Nissan’s Active Chassis Control (ACC), the Qashqais absorb the impact of bigger bumps you would encounter on terribly-paved roads (read: Upper Bukit Timah Road and the likes). But the same can’t be said when we brought them around tight corners. Granted, the 1.2-litre grips more solidly and understeered less than its bigger brother, thanks to its slightly smaller shoes.

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So which is a more valuable ride if that 15-odd grand is not an issue to you?

In paying that premium, you enjoy a more assertive and fancier outlook, with roof racks, bi-xenon, a moonroof, and sportier and larger rims. But these, I feel, come at the expense of a naturally-aspirated plant which feels underpowered for a car its size and weight.

On the other hand, the smaller 1.2-litre saves you close to $800 of taxes annually, gives you a (slightly) punchier ride, better fuel-economy, and yet at the same time, looks almost as (if not equally) sleek as its bigger brother.

Given the value-for-money of the smaller variant Qashqai, it is no wonder that most of this model on the roads belong to the 1.2-litre category. It is, perhaps, one of the best  family crossovers in the Japanese/Korean make range you can get in the market at this price.

And after a full day with both cars, I was thoroughly impressed with the 1.2-litre Qashqai, and also came to the conclusion that I’d prefer to put that $15,000 to better use somewhere else.

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