Getting good grades

A top-spec Qashqai is nice, but is it worth the spend?

ASH WESTERMAN

ACCORDING to popular wisdom, no-one buys base models anymore. Itís surely a more effective form of social suicide in certain suburbs of Australia than admitting you donít have an Instagram account, or you buy non-organic kale.

But what about in the case of the Qashqai, where thereís only two equipment levels offered? Does the lower-spec one actually count as a Ďbaseí model? And is there real value in the top-spec job?

I should be well-placed to adjudicate, as Iíve spent three months in the entry-level ST model, and am now high-flalutiní around in the top-spec Ti. If we were to ignore the engine change that came with this switch, the extra spend would be in the order of $6500. So is it worth it? Honest answer Ė er, Iím not certain. Itís difficult to be definitive, as it depends much on where you place your priorities.

First up, cabin presentation. Thereís no question the Ti is a nicer environment to slide into each day, with perforated leather seats and door panels, better trim treatment, and higher grade multimedia display. Only the driverís seat gets electric adjustment, which I rate as a borderline benefit, given that thereís no memory function and the manual controls in the ST (and passenger side) work well.

Then thereís the panoramic glass roof, which is not an option Iíd usually stump for, but it does make things far more airier and pleasant for anyone in the backseat. But probably the most obvious external indicator that you plumped for up-spec over entry level are the 19-inch wheels, seeing as they are a plus-two jump over the STís 17s. And yes, they do fill the arches more substantially and give the Qashqai a more solid stance. But the tradeoff is that the absorbent ride of the ST goes out the window, replaced by a far more reactive, often jittery passage over typical Aussie roads.

Maybe 18s would be a better compromise.

Then thereís Intelligent Park Assist, which sounds impressive, but I tried it once, then quickly slapped myself. I may not be a drift god, but I do like to think Iím a reverse parker of reasonable competence. Plus Iím a male car enthusiast; why the hell would I hand they tradeoff out parking responsibility over to a machine?

How defeatist would that be? Then thereís blindspot warning; nice to have, but not necessary if you own a functioning neck capable of 45 degrees of rotation. Likewise the lane-departure warning Ė it falsealarmed too many times in the first few days and has stayed switched off ever since. Sat-nav is occasionally handy, but the Around View camera doesnít really add a practical advantage over regular parking sensors.

So the bottom line: while Iím fan of the Tiís slicker presentation, Iím not sure itís brimming with a load of additional features I couldnít live without. At least, not $6500 worth.

FLOORED

Flat-fold seats, low loading lip and generous cargo area make Qashqai a handy hauler. It swallowed this apartment floor in one gulp.

Tall storage

Learning firsthand that your new Ferrari canít accommodate a jumbo Slurpee would not, Iím guessing, be a deal breaker for most owners. But SUVs need to play by a different set of rules, one where practicality and general livability are often as important as performance. The Qashquai stacks up well here, with generous, deep cupholders for front-seat occupants, door bins that can take full-size water bottles, and very handy dual-level storage under the centre armrest.

Gara

NISSAN QASHQAI Ti

Date acquired: August 2015 Price as tested: $35,490 This month: 852km @ 12.9L/100km Overall: 1320 @ 13.0L/100km