The latest Nissan Qashqai gets a new hybrid powertrain called ‘e-Power’. We went to Madrid to preview the popular Nissan Qashqai on a test track before its arrival in Ireland. Unlike most hybrids that use an electric motor to assist the engine, the Nissan’s wheels are powered by electricity alone. The Qashqai’s e-Power system has a 155hp 1.5 litre turbo petrol engine that powers an electricity generator. The generator is connected to an inverter that directly powers a 188hp electric motor that turns the front wheels. The inverter also sends power to a relatively small rechargeable battery pack. The e-Power Qashqai can run in zero emissions EV mode for up to 3km, which seems ridiculously low but counter intuitively it works well.
Styling wise the new Qashqai e-Power gets a glossy black grille and the new Nissan brand identity badging to give it a fresher look. The car is built on the CMF-C platform that can accommodate fossil fuel and electrified powertrains. The e-Power’s bonnet houses the powertrain, transmission, battery and power electronics but the car’s modified floor metal also conceals additional battery and power electronics. The platform has a longer wheelbase that aids cabin roominess and a lower boot floor to enhance boot capacity. While e-Power models were introduced in Japan in 2016 (Nissan Kick & Note) but European buyers demand more powerful variants and this is why the introduction is only happening this year. The front and rear suspension is new, as is the power steering set up. Inside the cabin there is a larger 12.3 inch centre screen that is impressive and is easier to read at a glance plus the driver’s digital display is a similar size. A new software update will enhance connectivity plus voice activation of secondary controls can be accessed by saying “Hello Nissan…”. Amazon Alexa interaction is possible, for example you could send a navigation destination from your home to your car through your Alexa device or from your car control Amazon controlled domestic items like smart switches etc.
We set off from the pit lane in EV mode but a moment later I could hear an engine hum as the car’s variable compression petrol engine started up and revved to a low level. My accelerator input had no affect on the engine revs at low speed. This odd sensation was a simple example of the engine feeding the generator to top up the battery and electric motor to turn the front wheels. Like all full hybrids the Qashqai e-Power has an automatic transmission, but unlike a Toyota CVT gearbox, the Qashqai will only rev so far and then hold its revs. The Nissan thankfully lacks that clutch-slipping high rev noise Toyota hybrid’s make – in fairness to Toyota it is becoming less intrusive with new models. Our test track was covered with a dusting of Saharan sand and this helped us feel the traction limits as the usually high grip surface was compromised. The Qashqai e-Power drove with gusto and its suspension delivered a composed ride that when combined with our high grade interior trim delivered a premium sensation. The Qashqai’s suspension didn’t overload when cornering and this made it easy to make swift progress. Slow speed urban driving is hushed and vice free. The e-Power can be hustled along and can deliver an out of character spirited drive when pushed hard. The e-Pedal ‘Step’ similar to the Leaf’s e-Pedal is selectable and this allows one pedal driving.
The e-Power Qashqai with a torque output of 330nm is very easy to use – just hit the start button select D and off you go. There are a number of driving modes including EV mode but the ‘eco mode’ impressed us most. Thanks to Nissan Leaf customers feedback the hybrid Qashqai can coast on the open road when under little load. Leaf drivers often select neutral on the open road to affectivly minimise energy consumption. The e-Power Qashqai fills a gap on the way to full electrification that Irish buyers will be happy to see filled.