WHEN it first appeared in the showrooms in 2007 the Nissan Qashqai made quite a splash pioneering, as it did, the new breed of crossover vehicles seeking to blur the lines between hatchback and SUV.
Quite rightly the Japanese manufacturer made much of this fresh take on the compact family car and the Qashqai was soon picking up awards and sales in equally impressive measure.
Of course, in the motor industry the advantages of being first to the marketplace with anything new are usually relatively short-lived and it did not take the other major players long to show they are just as adept at bandwagon jumping as they are at sticking a wheel on each corner of a chassis.
So much so in fact that three short years later you can hardly step off the kerb without almost being knocked down by the latest crossover to hit the streets.
In the face of this growing competition the Qashqai has had to up it’s game and Nissan has, accordingly, tweaked the styling and performance of the Sunderland-built model – which is the fastest selling in the history of the firm’s European arm.
A complete makeover at the front end has seen an all new bonnet, front bumper, wings, grille and headlamps on the latest version while the rear light clusters have been tweaked and now benefit from the fitting of 12 LEDs for increased clarity.
And the reworking has been largely successful with the new look proving very easy on the eye striking, as it does, the right balance between sporty fashionability and functionality.
The SUV styling offers just the right amount of presence without spilling over into raw aggression and the overall dimensions are not overly imposing, despite the commanding raised driving postion and high roofline.
As such, the Qashqai still feels comfortably proportioned when driving around in busy town traffic and has the maneouvreability to cope with most eventualities.
The 148 horse power 2.0-litre diesel engine offered plenty of pull on the open road and you’ll cruise comfortably on long motorway journeys.
Chunky tyres and a suspension set up for comfort mean that your ride is serene as speed bumps and potholes are taken in its stride by the Qashqai and road and wind noise are both kept to a minimum.
The pay-off for this extra comfort is a little extra body roll in corners but the car never feels less than stable and the steering is very responsive.
In the cabin the centre console is simple and uncluttered.
All the switchgear, which is kept to a minumum, is logically laid out and within easy reach and the satnav/entertainment system on this range-topping Tekna model was one of the best I have come across.
The screen may not be the biggest but sometimes less is more - and the interface was one of the most user-friendly I have come across.
Legroom in the back is good and there is ample space for three but, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, headroom will be tight for anyone approaching the 6ft mark.
The full leather upholstery, panoramic glass sunroof with one-touch sunshade and bose speaker system featured on the Tekna trim add that bit of extra luxury to the Qashqai’s already generous kit levels.
Bluetooth connectivity, electric heated wing mirrors, electric windows all round, air conditioning and ambient interior lighting are standard across the range and as you move up the grades parking sensors, folding wing mirrors, stereo upgrades, heated front seats and that satnav are all available.
The safety of the occupants is well caterered for too with stability control and ABS standard across the range along with front, side and curtain airbags.
The boot is reasonably sized for a compact family motor but there are crossovers out there now with bigger ones and more versatile rear seats. You’d certainly need a roof box to supplement the luggage space to go on holiday, for instance.
But really this is just a minor quibble about what is a refined and rugged day-to-day performer.
Nissan Qashqai 2.0dCi Tekna
Mechanical: 148bhp, 1,994cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Combined mpg: 44.1
Insurance group: 9
CO2 emissions: 167g/km
BIK rating: 25%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles