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Category Archives: Crossovers/SUVs

What I think: 2018 Nissan Qashqai

If you want to know why auto-industry insiders think small SUVs will soon run compact cars into the ground, you don’t have to look much further than Nissan’s lineup. The Japanese company helped kick off the small-crossover craze with its oddball Juke in 2011, but has recently committed to a more mainstream approach signaled by the Juke’s forthcoming replacement with the Kicks, and the arrival of the Qashqai you see here.

Nissan has sold the Qashqai in Europe and elsewhere for a number of years, and while the name is new to us, this little utility shares its underpinnings with the familiar Rogue, a vehicle that lives at the large end of the compact-crossover spectrum and has done very well for Nissan in North America.

The Qashqai’s basis on the nicely-sorted Rogue is a good starting point that makes it a smooth driver, though more road and wind noise gets into the cabin than we remember from our last Rogue test drive.

Doing the work is a 2.0-litre that makes 141 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque. With that motivation under the hood, performance is fine, but you’ll get more straight-line satisfaction from stronger competitors like the Fiat 500X (180 hp) and Mitsubishi’s RVR (optional with 168 hp).

And while the Volkswagen Golf wagon is not technically a crossover, its Alltrack AWD option positions it as a competitor to cars like the Qashqai, while offering both more power and interior space.

Basic front-drive Qashqai models come with a manual transmission, but the continuously variable automatic (CVT) is mandatory with AWD. It’s not an exciting way to put power to the road, but it does so while mimicking the stepped gear changes of a traditional automatic and avoiding the droning engine note that annoys us in many other CVT-equipped cars.

While I normally ignore eco-minded drive modes, in the Qashqai this feature softens jumpy throttle response and makes it easier to drive smoothly. All we wished is that the car would remember which setting was engaged when the car is turned off; the button is awkwardly placed down by the driver’s left knee, which proved a pain given that we used it every time we started the car.

Button placement aside, if the idea behind it is to make the Qashqai more fuel-efficient, our test was inconclusive, because cold weather bumped fuel consumption to an average of nearly 11.0 L/100 km in mostly highway driving — much higher than Nissan’s estimates of 9.1/7.5 with the optional all-wheel drive system. That said, the AWD worked well during a week spent in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, including the aftermath of a 20-cm snowfall.

Nissan says a FWD model with the CVT is nominally more efficient than my AWD tester, but given my experience with other vehicles offered with both types of drivetrains, a front-drive model could turn out to save more fuel in real-world driving than those estimates suggest.

Despite its small footprint, the Qashqai is plenty roomy (bulky winter clothing notwithstanding). Two of us were cozy but not cramped in the front seats, and the rear bench offers perfectly useful head- and legroom for adults, including lots of toe room under the front seats. Predictably, cargo space is limited, but the trunk floor can be adjusted downward a couple of inches to add a few valuable litres of volume.

Our test vehicle was the mid-range SV trim with AWD, a $26,798 vehicle that includes niceties like heated front seats and steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control. If you want a touchscreen-based infotainment system, you have to spring for the $29,498 SL trim, which also gets navigation and leather seating.

As good as I remembered the Rogue being when I last drove one in 2013, I wondered if the mechanically similar Qashqai would feel dated next to other automakers’ more modern crossover designs. Not at all: This is a nicely done little utility that I think buyers will find just as easy to live with as the Rogue. All I’d suggest is that if fuel economy is a priority for you, think hard about how much you need four-wheel traction.

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Posted by on January 7, 2018 in crossover, Crossovers/SUVs, Nissan

 

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What I think: 2015 Porsche Macan

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The Macan is Porsche’s first compact crossover. This is a profitable vehicle segment, and Porsche seems keen to take advantage of that with a car that is far from a bargain even compared to other German models. Have a look at my review of the Macan at Autofocus.

 

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What I think: 2015 Chevrolet Traverse

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It’s not difficult to make a big crossover interesting: what’s difficult is making something that’s interesting and still appeals to the mass-market consumers who buy these family-friendly vehicles. The Traverse does some things well, and others not-so-well, but does them all with a distinct lack of personality. Read my full review at AutoFocus.ca.

 

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What I think: 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

2015 volkswagen tiguanIt’s normally easy to like a Volkswagen. They build great small cars, spacious family cars, and the Touareg mid-size crossover is a fantastic vehicle hampered only by a high price and VW’s upscale aspirations. Maybe it’s those same high hopes that left me disappointed in the company’s Tiguan compact crossover. Read my full review at TractionLife.com.

 

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What I think: 2015 Chevrolet Suburban

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When I was a kid in the 1980s, my best friend’s parents had a Chevy Suburban that they used to tow an RV large enough to accommodate their family of five. Having grown up around the small Japanese cars my dad drove, I was amazed by this beast of a truck that, if I recall correctly, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride in just once.

No doubt many other kids and their families have spent time in Suburbans: it’s one of the oldest SUV names in the business, first seen in a showroom in the 1930s. About 80(!) years later, the Suburban carries on, having just enjoyed a redesign into its 12th(!!) generation for 2015.

No surprise, the Suburban’s still a big boy, stretching nearly 19 feet long. That, for the sake of perspective, is nearly a foot longer than my little townhouse is wide. All those jokes about piloting a Suburban being like driving around in your living room are suddenly much less funny.

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For all its size, Chevrolet’s designers have done a good job masking the Suburban’s bulk. It isn’t until you’re in the driver’s seat and you see, through the rear view mirror, how much SUV there is behind you that you realize how large this truck really is.

My tester was done up in top-end LTZ trim, including GM’s magnetic ride control suspension, which the company says “reads” the road and adjusts its responses every five milliseconds. That’s a fancy way of saying it makes the Suburban drive like a vehicle two-thirds its size and weight. If you ignore how the heavy rear live axle clomps over rough pavement, the ride is more like that of a big sedan, not a nearly three-ton SUV.

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Magnetic ride control does wonders in other ways, too: body roll feels nearly non-existent in aggressive cornering, and in a near-panic stop, there was none of the body-pitching-forward drama that normally accompanies that sort of maneuver. Having driven the previous-generation Chevy Tahoe (a shorter version of the same truck) both with and without this trick suspension, I can say that its effect is even more pronounced in a back-to-back comparison. The LTZ is a $71,000 vehicle before options (Suburban’s base price is around $52,500), but it’s nearly worth that for this suspension alone.

Other standard kit in LTZ trim includes heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row seats, power-folding second- and third-row seats, intelligent keyless entry, electric steering column adjustment, heated steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals (these come in mid-level LT trim, too), front and rear park assist (a backup camera is standard in all models), Xenon headlights, auto-dimming side and rear view mirrors, and a 10-speaker Bose stereo.

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As good as the suspension is at suspending the laws of physics, the truck’s ample mass reveals itself in other ways. The sole engine available is a 5.3-litre V8, rated at 355 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque, and while it has no trouble moving the Suburban at a relaxed pace, it works hard at wider throttle openings. Three tons, remember?

Fuel consumption is estimated at 15.4 L/100 km (city) and 10.8 L/100 km (highway) (impressive numbers given Natural Resources Canada’s more stringent five-cycle test, which applies to all 2015 models). However, the reality of moving this much truck around is more like 17.0 L/100 km in the city, even with a light right foot. That said, the truck’s informative trip computer says that my tester had, at some point, done as well as 9.4 L/100 km, presumably in relaxed highway driving.

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We tested the Suburban’s carrying capacity a couple of times: once with a flat-packed Ikea sofa (two large boxes fit handily, along with two passengers); and again, with a shipment of donations headed to the food bank (which started out piled five-and-a-half feet high on a skid) that also fit easily, though we suspect that load came close to maxing out the truck’s 782-kg (1,725 lb) payload.

I didn’t have an opportunity to test the Suburban’s towing capacity, but Chevrolet rates that at 3,765 kg (8,300 lb), or a little less with four-wheel drive.

There’s not much clearance under the open tailgate; even at five-foot-seven, I instinctively ducked every time I had to load or unload. Yes, that was with the power tailgate (standard in LT and LTZ models) set to open all the way; it can be toggled to open just three-quarters of the way for loading in confined spaces, like a low-ceilinged parkade.

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For anyone accustomed to how “badly” large trucks traditionally go over the road, the Suburban will be a pleasant surprise. Certainly, much of that is owed to the engineers behind the magnetic ride control suspension, but it’s easy to see how, even without it, this truck would still be a manageable and, dare I say, pleasant vehicle to use, in spite of its size.

During the course of the week, many people asked me who buys such a “ridiculous” vehicle. Well, families like my old school friend’s, I told them. There are many vehicles that can tow large trailers, and many others that can move five people in comfort, but the Suburban is one of a rare few that can do both.

If I was amazed back then by the Suburban’s sheer size, I’m even more impressed with how easy it can be to live with one—even if I don’t have three kids and an RV to haul around.

This article previously appeared in the Montreal Gazette.

 

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What I think: 2015 Subaru Outback

2015 Subaru OutbackThe Outback is the car that turned Subaru’s fortunes around: in the mid-1990s, the company took a Legacy wagon, fitted it with a lifted suspension and rugged-looking body cladding, and ended up with a massively popular small crossover. Outback is all-new for 2015, and the result is an impressive, if unexciting, vehicle. Read my full review at AutoFocus.ca.

 

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What I think: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

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Another redesigned crossover; another redesigned Hyundai. Ho-hum. The Santa Fe is certainly not much to get excited about – unless you like getting lots of kit for not much money. In that case, then, yes, there’s plenty to like here, and in a vehicle that’s really quite nice to drive.

This, by the way, was my first review for my new full-time gig, with Autos by Sympatico.

 
 

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