Road Impressions – Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta +

The Nissan Qashqai, originally launched in 2007, is one of those vehicles – certainly in the South African scenario – that came from left field and rather surprised everyone.

It was launched locally at a time when Nissan was not exactly enjoying monster sales success and had a product spread that included the ageing Tiida – so the appearance of a stylish, modern compact crossover was something of a revelation, even if it had a somewhat unpronouceable name that too easily became ‘cash cow’.

For Nissan, quite happily, it was just that and remains one of the company’s top selling units in markets around the world.

The original Qashqai replaced the off-road capable body-on-frame Mistral/Terrano II as Nissan’s SUV offering and is named Qashqai after the people living in mountainous Southwestern Iran. Qashqai means ‘A horse with a white forehead’.

The car slotted in below the X-Trail in the Nissan range and partially replaced the conventional Primera, even though it took the production place of the smaller Almera in Europe. In terms of size went up against compact MPVs such as the Peugeot 5008 and compact SUVs like the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV 4, Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Since the first Nissan Qashqai was launched in 2007, 3,3-million units have been sold globally. The wide-ranging changes to the upgraded model were based on customer feedback and industry insights and designed to establish new levels of luxury in the mid-sized crossover segment.

Fast forward to January 2018 and the revamped Qashqai is launched with emphasis on its role as an urban crossover and city partner.

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Inside, the Qashqai is more sophisticated and upgrades are more driver-oriented and start with a sporty new D-shaped steering wheel, which has a horizontal base to make entering and exiting the Qashqai easier. The four-way controllers on the steering are new and offer customers more intuitive use to reduce ‘eyes off the road’ time.

The interior door handles and air vents are now finished in higher-quality materials with new stitching being added to the centre console armrest. One-touch power window switches are now available across the range and all windows can now be opened and closed remotely via the key fob.

The front seats have been completely redesigned with tapered shoulders to offer additional support while also improving visibility for rear passengers and the integrated microphone for hands-free telephone use has been moved to the overhead lamp unit for improved performance.

Luggage needs are taken of by a 430-litre boot, which increases to 680 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats are folded flat.

The new Nissan Qashqai

The exterior gets an integrated new front bumper and face with the latest incarnation of Nissan’s iconic ‘V-motion’ grille.On the halogen lights, the ‘boomerang’ Daytime Running Lamp signature is new and consists of nine LEDs. The clam-shell bonnet and rear bumper have also been redesigned.

There are new 17-inch and 19-inch alloy wheels, designed to reduce drag and all the enhancements result in an increased overall length of 17 mm to 4 394 mm while the width (1 806 mm) and height (1 595 mm) remain unchanged.

Our test unit, positioned on below the top of range Tekna, sported quite aggressive wheels (on 225/45R19 rubber) that seemed at odds with the much more gentle lines of the body.

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The Qashqai’s ride, handling and steering have been improved  and dampers have been retuned, the anti-roll bar stiffness has been increased to maintain handling performance.

Significant improvements have been made throughout the new Qashqai to improve noise, vibration and harshness levels and they include more sound insulation material, additional sealing and the rear door glass is thicker to improve rear passenger experience. There is also less engine noise thanks to powertrain calibration improvements.

The in line four cylinder 1,5-litre diesel engine can best be described as ‘brave’ in that it is willing enough to try and take on the Korean and Japanese opposition but simply does not have the muscle – its 81 kW at 4 000 r/min and 260 Nm between 1 750 r/min and 2 500 r/min meaning it needs 11,9 seconds to get from rest to 100 km/h.

On the up side, though, cruising the (undulating) highway at a genuine 120 km/h on cruise control produced a consumption average of 4,6 l/100 km. In varied conditions and including giving it the full wellie on the twisty section of the test route, it remained extremely frugal and returned 5,5 l/100 km.

The Qashqai is comfortable to be in and the raised seating position provides the driver with a clear view of what is going around him – all ideal as the city car Nissan is punting.

However, accepting that some rowing through the manual gearbox will be needed on longer, steeper hills, the 800 plus kilometres per tank ‘wallet-friendly’ nature of the car plus those comfort features, make it versatile enough for the long haul as well. With just 109 g/km of CO2, it also does it bit for the environment.

With six air bags, hill start, anti-lock braking and several other safety systems, the Nissan Qashqai maintains its five-star Euro NCAP Safety Rating.

The Qashqai is backed up by Nissan Assured including 24-hour roadside assistance and has a 6-year/150 000 km warranty, and a comprehensive 3-year/90 000 km service plan.

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We are one

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in South Africa has merged its individual national sales companies to complete the integration locally of the world’s seventh largest car maker.

While FCA South Africa has been under a single management team since 2012 in line with the global merger, Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa and Chrysler South Africa have been operating as separate financial entities. The administrative merger of the entities from will formalise Fiat Chrysler Automobiles South Africa (Pty) Ltd as a single trading entity.

“We are excited to enter the next phase of FCA in South Africa,” says Robin van Rensburg, CEO of FCA South Africa. “For our customers, it will be business as usual with even more improvement in service levels thanks to the simpler and more effective systems.

“Our dealers and partners have invested with us over the past six years to get to this point and this will allow them to become even more effective.”

FCA South Africa is responsible for the sales and after-sales business of the Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Fiat Professional, MOPAR, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands. MOPAR won the Gold Achiever Award for Excellence in Logistics in 2017 and FCA’s first-time pick rate remains the industry benchmark in South Africa, benefiting customer experience directly with aftersales service efficiency.

The product future for FCA South Africa is bright and 2018 will see the introduction of the all-new Jeep Compass and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV in the third quarter.

The latter will be another in the performance SUV segment, as will the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, the most powerful and quickest Jeep SUV ever powered by the supercharged 6,2-litre V8 engine delivering 522 kW and 868 Nm of torque. The venerable Jeep Wrangler replacement will make its debut appearance in late 2018.

“We have created a vision to take us forward into 2020 in a sustainable and profitable manner, having learnt some valuable lessons from the past,” says Van Rensburg. “Customers will only benefit from this merger and the dealer network will remain unchanged. FCA’s brands will continue to succeed in the market and we look forward to the journey with our customers, dealers and partners.”

 

Land grab

Even in South Africa’s tough economic times the growth in the SUV market continues – as does the demand for tyres that equally meet requirements for top level on and off-road activity.

General Tire, a brand of Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA), has launched its latest offerings in the form of  the all-terrain Grabber AT3 and the extreme-terrain Grabber X3.

The Grabber AT3 replaces the previous-generation Grabber AT, General Tire’s multiple award-winning tyre designed for all-terrain applications. Retaining the 50/50 on/off-road bias of its predecessor, the new AT3 was developed to meet the needs of sport utility vehicle (SUV), bakkie and off-road vehicle drivers who demand the combination of exceptional off-road abilities and confident on-road manners.

In the aggressive new Grabber X3, General Tire has a flagship mud-terrain tyre that delivers uncompromising off-road performance coupled with good on-road manners. Relying on its 80/20 off-road bias, the Grabber X3 employs bold styling, matched to exceptional performance and durability for conquering the most challenging 4×4 terrains.

“The launch of the all-new Grabber AT3 and X3 represents an exciting new chapter for General Tire in South Africa,” says Ryan Visagie, Product Communications Manager at CTSA.

“Offering the latest designs and technologies in their respective segments, both tyres further raise the benchmark in terms of capability and durability, building on General Tire’s proven performance, reliability and American heritage that spans more than 100 years.”

“As one of the leading contenders in the all-terrain replacement tyre category, the Grabber AT3 continues our proud legacy with superb all-round performance and dependability,” Visagie adds. “The Grabber X3, is an extreme-terrain tyre with several innovative features that ensure it excels in the harshest conditions such as mud, dirt and rocks.”

The impressive new AT3 and X3 join the existing Grabber GT, which is specifically designed for high-performance suvs. The GT delivers outstanding handling and braking performance on dry and wet roads, allied to high comfort and low noise levels.

The local General Tire line-up is further bolstered by the Altimax passenger car tyre range, comprising the Altimax Sport for precise handling and braking, along with the Altimax Comfort, which focuses on superb comfort, refinement and durability.

 The new AT3 features three innovative technologies developed to enhance all-round performance and durability: tracgen, duragen and comfort balance.

The standard Grabber AT3 tyre range is available in 13 sizes catering for 15 to 20-inch rim diameters. Later this year, the Grabber AT3 range will be bolstered with a further nine reinforced light truck (LT) offerings in 15-inch to 18-inch sizes, which are designed for heavy duty applications.

Compared to its highly-rated predecessor, the new Grabber AT3’s on and off-road performance has improved in several key areas, including noise levels and irregular wear. Traction in snow, muddy conditions and on wet grass has been improved, along with cut-and-chip resistance.

Designed to conquer the most demanding off-road terrains, the new Grabber X3 takes General Tire’s ‘Anywhere is Possible’ brand promise to new heights. Positioned as an extreme terrain offering, it is ideally suited to three of the most challenging off-road driving conditions, comprising mud, dirt and rock – hence the name, X3.

The Grabber X3 relies on an enhanced version of General Tire’s Duragen Technology, using a three-ply construction across the range. This guarantees exceptional durability and puncture resistance.

As with the Grabber AT3, the new Grabber X3 raises the bar in virtually every sphere of off-road performance, while on-road capability has been similarly improved.

The Grabber X3 is available in a total of five sizes encompassing 15-inch to 17-inch rim sizes.

IT – not just geek stuff

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind.

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind. However, IT in this instance stands for Isuzu and Triton – both fairly new but long enough on the market to establish some sales traction.

Our two test vehicles are not actually going head-to-head since the Isuzu is all-wheel drive and the Triton a standard two-wheel drive. Common ground is both are double cabs and specced to appeal to the leisure market.

The leisure end of the South African LCV (bakkie) market is as intriguing as it is diverse with a large gap between the two top sellers and the other players – the two top players in the market, Toyota and Ford, both have enormous ranges with a bakkie to suit almost every level of desire.

Hilux still leads the sales race from the Ranger and then there is quite a gap to the next level where both the Isuzu and Triton compete (joined here by the likes of Fiat Fullback, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok).

Isuzu, perhaps, is out of step with the main players in terms of model renewal so, while the Triton is all-new, the KB recently had a refresh.

Key changes included a new front fascia design including changes to bonnet, radiator grille and fog lamps, new headlamps with projector and integrated LED day time running lights on LX models, new tailgate styling on extended and double cab models, rear view camera integrated to tailgate handle on LX double cab models, new 18-inch alloy wheels for LX models and a new 16-inch styled wheel for the rest of the range.

Our test vehicle carried the 3,0-litre DTEQ turbo-charged diesel engine with 130 kW and 380 Nm on offer. Combined cycle fuel consumption is 7,9 l/100 km for 4×4 double cab.

A key feature of LX models is a touch screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, internet, Wi-Fi, and smartphone integration. The screen – a 1 080 high-definition TFT unit with a 6,5-inch dimension – also acts as the display when browsing, or using the DVD player.

The Rear Park Assist reverse camera is now integrated into the rear tailgate handle on all LX double cab models.

Passive entry and start system (PESS) is a keyless entry with Start/Stop ignition button is standard on all LX double cab models. Leather is available as standard on the 4×4 auto and manual double cabs and as an option on 4×2 Double Cab derivatives.

For Mitsubishi, the new vehicle is the fifth iteration of the Colt/Triton legacy and arrived in South Africa some while after launching in markets such as Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

“From the onset, the brief to designers and engineers was to maintain the essence of the Triton, but also to improve on aspects of ride, handling and comfort to create a truly SUV-like experience from behind the wheel,” says Nic Campbell, general manager at Mitsubishi Motors South Africa.

Engineers improved 185 key areas of the Triton, compared to its predecessor, ranging from deepening and reinforcing the loading bay, revising the shape of the bonnet for aerodynamic efficiency and refining the driving position for improved in-vehicle visibility and comfort.

Other elements such as the distinct J-line between the cabin and the load bay have been reworked for benchmark interior space. This is immediately apparent to all passengers, particularly those seated in the back of the double-cab models.

The design features chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles, newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Range-specific features on the new model include an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input as well as the keyless push-button Stop/Start system.

The driver is made to feel at home thanks to cruise control, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, a reverse camera, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and leather upholstery, to name but a few of the standard creature comforts.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1,745 mm to improve cabin space, while shoulder room – both front and rear – has been improved.

The Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system.

Power delivery is rated at 133 kW at 3 500 r/min with torque peaking at 430 Nm at 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption is rated at 7,6 l/100 km in a combined cycle.

On the double-cab versions, Mitsubishi engineers have added the ASTC (Active Stability and Traction Control) system, which modulates both braking and engine power to maintain the chosen driving line in slippery conditions. The range comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

With just 3 kW and 0,3 l/100 km difference between the two vehicles, there is little to separate them there – and equally little in terms of modern luxury fittings or vehicle safety and driver aids.

Although demand for luxury SUV bakkies remains strong in South Africa, the reality is most spend their time negotiating the urban horrors of potholes and deteriorating road surfaces – so the full 4×4 options rarely find themselves doing bush duty (except, of course, for those bought by enthusiasts).

Thus, the main comparison between the Isuzu and the Triton comes in operation as daily commuter vehicles with off-road limited to unpaved surfaces rather than donga-diving.

On the dirt, the Isuzu just shades the Triton – the slightly heavier Isuzu (3 100 kg) feeling a tad more balanced on dirt roads whereas the Triton was just a little too eager to press home its slight power and torque advantage, resulting in it becoming tail happy.

Doing the daily commute, perhaps the additional torque of the Triton gave it advantage by allowing a higher gear to be held for that much longer.

On clearer roads where the two vehicles could stretch their legs, nothing in it at all and both were long haul comfortable with about equal results in terms of wind and road noise – and both of those came in at agreeably low.

In the tighter sections the Triton had a slightly better turn in to corners, but road holding was on a par – perhaps more impressive from the Isuzu as one would have expected the extra mass here would compromise it under hard cornering.

At the end of the day the choice for any buyer has to be whether they want the full facility of 4×4 or just a an upmarket, comfortable and spacious bakkie that can workhorse or trail bike hauler.