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Australian nissan qashqai
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Any manufacturer that changes a model offering in one of Australia's biggest market segments is going to leave no stone unturned to get it right. Nissan hasn't held back with its Dualis replacement, even though its name is now about as awkward as you can get.
Nissan Australia boss Richard Emery showed the media TV ads made just to explain how to pronounce the car's new name. Radio spots are also booked.
Wouldn't it just be easier to call it the New Dualis and focus the dollars to sell the car instead of the name change?
Truth is, Nissan Australia had no option. Dualis was a dead duck from day one as the factory dictated Qashqai would be a global brand name for the new model. The local company and dealer network just had to wear it.
Designed by teams in the UK and Spain, with engineering input from Japan, the Qashqai won the 2014 Car of the Year award in January.
The focus of the new model is very clearly safe family motoring, evidenced by Nissan including SRS curtain airbags extending through to the rear seats.
Nissan, it appears, is serious about the back-seat passengers in the Qashqai.
The release is completely new inside and out, with the latest styling moulding it into a mini-Murano.
Petrol and diesel versions are available, with either a manual or the latest evolution of Nissan's CVT transmission. To keep the offering simple, there are two model grades and only front- wheel drive.
The engine mix is a selection of Japanese petrol and French diesel technology. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is lively for a car weighing 1.4 tonnes and is perfectly suited to the optional CVT transmission fitted to the test car, which squeezes more distance out of each litre of fuel than the manual.
The irritating wail of a CVT engine is still in the background under full throttle but it's eased by a set of fake ratios generated by the transmission software. However, I found the petrol engine sharp and responsive.
The fuel-sipping diesel was a big surprise, its comparatively small 1.6-litre capacity offset by a turbo providing plenty of torque for a hefty low-rev punch out of tight corners and over intersections.
But the best story is told inside. Nissan claims "clarity, harmony and space", and I have to agree. No matter what purpose you have for buying a Qashqai, the interior space, comfort and features will surprise. It'll take at least 10 minutes in the showroom to identify all the comfort features that are now standard.
Small things are evidence of big thinking. A moveable partition board in the boot will finally stop those shopping bags from sliding around, spilling the yoghurt and apples. Every model has a reversing camera and the upscale versions have a bird's-eye view camera system that you can almost drive by.
Nissan had a Qashqai with blacked-out windows and I successfully negotiated a slalom and then a reverse park, all from the video readouts in the cab.
The intelligent park assist that's standard on Ti and TL models was another matter. It's not user friendly and demands too many actions, screen taps and swipes. I suggest you keep a spare eight- year-old in the glove box to work it for you.
It was only a few years ago when SUV's generally leaned like Spanish galleons and steered like tractors. Now, market leaders such as the Qashqai are as good as conventional passenger cars for handling dynamics, stopping, steering, comfort and performance. In fact, they're better than some.
The new Nissan Qashqai is in the select group that will impress a wide range of motorists. It successfully juggles the sometimes competing interests of families on budgets, outdoors types and commuters, along with a broad range of age groups.
Nissan dealers have ordered up big, which is always a good sign.
NISSAN’S got form in this department — mucking about with model names.
As with the decision in 2006 to call the Pulsar — a name nurtured for 25 years — the Tiida.
It sank and the Pulsar came back but to fairly tame sales so far.
Now we’re about to see how the hot-selling Nissan Dualis goes as the Qashqai but Nissan is far from alone in changing names.
One brand in the 1990s had a little car with a marvellous moniker: the Suzuki Swift.
But then Suzuki put the name on ice and, instead, someone in the company’s nomenclature department
reached for a coldie and suggested Ignis, a name older Australians recall as a fridge brand.
Ignis, Swift, Ignis, Swift. Hmm, which one shall I pick? But, as with the Pulsar, the Swift name got a reprieve nearly a decade ago and has been slaying them since.
In 2005, Mitsubishi’s continued local manufacturing operations hinged largely on the latest generation of its Magna sedan.
For its make-or-break model, the company opted to go with a new name, the 380.
As WestWHEELS’ used car guru Ewan Kennedy put it: “When sitting down to build the next-generation Magna, the marketing people convinced themselves their new car was so much better than the old one that it deserved a new name. So after more than 20 years of building up a great reputation for the Magna, the name was dumped and replaced by a number.”
It failed to strike a chord with buyers and the 380 — along with Mitsubishi’s Australian car-making presence — bit the dust in 2008.
However, there are of course many models out there which have, much like Davy Jones becoming David Bowie, benefited from going by another name.
Toyota went from Starlet to Echo and then to Yaris, while Mazda dumped the 121 and 323 and rolled out the Mazda2 and Mazda3, to great success.
So I think if a new car is hotter than the one it replaces, it works.
The problem was the Tiida was as cold as an Ignis freezer.
Models: Petrol - ST & Ti; Diesel TS & TL
Prices (man/auto): ST $25,850/ $28,490; Ti $32,490/$34,990; TS auto $33,200; TL auto: $37,990
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol; 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Outputs: Petrol - 106kW/200Nm; diesel - 96kW/320Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual/CVT automatic
Thirst: Petrol 7.7L/100km (man)/6.9L/100km (auto); Diesel 4.9L/100km