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WORDS JAMES WHITBOURN

V NISSAN QASHQAI TI SUBARU XV 2.0I PREMIUM

PRICE & EQUIPMENT 20 POINTS

The top-spec petrol Qashqai is loaded with a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen, reverse camera, sat-nav, six airbags, smart-key entry, auto headlights, dual-zone air-con, a parking assistance system, leather/synthetic trim, heated front seats (powered for the driver) lane-departure and blind spot warnings, 19-inch alloys, and a powered glass roof. 16/20 The XV 2.0i Premium is a rung down from top billing, and $2350 cheaper than the Nissan. But in lieu of heated-seat luxe and big-wheel bling you get AEB, adaptive cruise, lanekeeping assistance, a tyre pressure monitor, a driverís knee airbag, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via an 8.0-inch screen. AWD and metallic paint are standard, too. 17/20

INTERIOR & VERSATILITY 20 POINTS

The Brit-built Qashqai Ti is nicely put together and reasonably classy. The leather is comfy and the glass roof lightens the mood. Itís roomy in the back though not as easy to see out of as the Subie, partly because of the rising window-line. There are no rear air-con vents either, though the Nissanís boot is usefully bigger at 430L. 16/20 The Subie gets tactile cloth and leather trim, and quality plastics and switchgear. Besides being better finished than the outgoing model, itís roomier, front and back, though the boot is still modest at 310L Ė you could always put a pod on the roof rails. The view from the back seat forward and out the sides is good, and there are rear air-con vents. 17/20

PERFORMANCE & ECONOMY 20 POINTS

Both these jacked-up hatches weigh around 1450kg and have 2.0-litre petrol fours paired with a CVT auto. The Nissan officially uses less fuel at 6.9L/100km and there may be some saving in only driving the front wheels, but real world urban figures are likely to rise to circa 9L/100km for both. CVT is stepped to erase the usual rev drone. 14/20 Subie donk differs with flat layout and stop-start system.

Uses 7.5L/100km on the official combined cycle, and draws from a tank two litres smaller than its rivalís at 63L. The CVT also adopts (seven) artificial ratio steps, but drone is the default noise during hard acceleration, sidestepped by shifting manually. The XV is flexible, but not fast. 14/20

RIDE & REFINEMENT 20 POINTS

The Nissan is reasonably refined in terms of shutting out tyre, wind, and engine noise, unless youíre flat-out uphill.

Body movements are well controlled yet the primary ride is supple, though this is spoilt by the 19s with shallow sidewalls, which relay constant jiggle into the cabin on poorly maintained urban surfaces. 14/20 Like the fifth-gen Impreza itís derived from, the Subaru XV is an extremely solid, quiet, and refined machine.

Meanwhile, it builds on the donor hatch and sedanís good ride by bringing a bit more travel and absorbency, while sticking to more sensible 17in boots than its rival to iron out urban lumps and road joins. 17/20

STEERING & HANDLING 20 POINTS

The Qashqai, even without all-wheel drive to fuel the softroading illusion, is essentially a raised hatchback and thatís how it drives (which is a good thing). The Nissan is tautly controlled, reasonably grippy, and steers with accuracy if not feel, and sitting up higher than you would in a normal hatch helps you pick your lines. 15/20 AWD and the X-Mode system, give the XV real slippery road/loose conditions advantage, and the subtle effect of active torque vectoring, which points the nose by braking individual wheels satisfies. But the highlight is the steering Ė the best in a modern Subaru Ė with a lovely fluid feel and connection from just off centre. 17/20

POINTS SCORE 75/100 82/100

VERDICT

The box-fresh Subaru brings all the gear todayís buyers expect as standard in a car, such as AEB, but its price advantage over the higher-spec Nissan might be negated, because thereís not much room for discounting. The Qashqai is due for a facelift Ė weíre expecting an update late this year Ė so weíd be surprised if you couldnít get all that Ti-level fruit for less than list price.

Yet, on value, the Subaru, with its unlimited-kay warranty, AWD, and standard metallic paint, is at least a nose ahead. Itís nicer to sit in, though itís a pity it doesnít have a bigger boot. On the powertrain front, neither sparkles, but both do the job with reasonable economy. Yet the Subaruís chassis sets it apart from the Nissan. The refined, fine-riding, sweet-steering XV takes gold.