Nissan Qashqai e-Power review: the electric family SUV that you fill with petrol

2022 Nissan Qashqai e-Power review
2022 Nissan Qashqai e-Power review

Strange noises accompany driving off in Nissan’s best-selling family SUV in this hybrid form, which Nissan (studiously avoiding that H word) editorialises as e-Power. First the petrol engine starts and revs hard for a couple of minutes and then stops, despite the road speed not changing.

All this is accompanied by a plaintive howl from the back of the car as Herbie our Labrador gets his paw caught in a large hole which doubles as a handle in the false boot floor. For a company which claims it exhaustively tests all its cars with a large panel of non-professional drivers from all walks of life (though clearly not dog owners), that second noise shouldn’t really happen. The first, however, is part and parcel of this Qashqai’s driving experience.

More efficient hybrid

For this is a car which the industry has rarely managed to deliver; a hybrid in which the combustion engine doesn’t transmit power to the road. There are good reasons to allow the engine to drive the wheels, such as in the new Honda Civic Hybrid, which uses the engine in high load conditions because its maker claims that’s the most efficient.

Nissan, however, claims this series hybrid is more efficient still, because the front-mounted 156bhp electric motor drives the front wheels directly and the 188bhp/243lb ft 1.5-litre, three-cylinder variable-compression petrol engine acts merely as a generator, which means it can be optimised to that role. It uses the staggeringly complex variable compression ratio system first seen on cars made by Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand, along with ingenious cylinder and intake port shapes to encourage more complete combustion.

There’s a generator and inverter and also a smallish 1.97kWh lithium-ion battery, which is used for manoeuvring and as a buffer. Unlike the battery of a purely electric car, this one doesn’t occupy a vast amount of space and add cost, weight and embodied CO2.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power review electric SUV engine road test drive - Jeff Gilbert
Nissan Qashqai e-Power review electric SUV engine road test drive - Jeff Gilbert

Claimed performance is a top speed of 105mph, 0-62mph acceleration in 7.9sec, with a fuel economy of 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 122g/km.

The Qashqai goes into one of the biggest markets in Europe, a market where price, practicality and cost of ownership hold more sway than the badge on the bonnet. For many buyers in this segment it is their only vehicle so it has many roles, some of which battery cars can’t quite yet perform.

Nissan, while in some senses a pioneer of all-electric motoring with its Leaf, the first version of which went on sale in Europe in 2011, tacitly admits that public resistance to battery electric cars and their drawbacks means there is a need for hybrid systems such as e-Power, which it calls “bridging technology”. Certainly our readership seems quite interested in the e-Power Qashqai, which Nissan has been strangely slow to get into our hands.

The nitty gritty

The e-Power versions cost from £32,950 for the entry-level Acenta Premium to the £40,980 top-model Tekna + (our Tekna test model was £38,140 although its two-tone paint added £1,145). This is a quantum leap from the standard Qashqai, which starts at £26,045; Nissan bullishly thinks that the e-Power will occupy some 40 per cent of all Qashqai sales in future.

It’s 4,425mm long, 2,084mm wide with mirrors, 1,625mm high and weighs 1,6362kg, which is about 300kg more than a standard combustion-engined Qashqai. The boot space is 479 litres (it’s 504 litres on the cheaper Acenta Premium model) and 1,415 litres with the rear seats folded onto their bases. When you’ve freed your dog’s paw, those holed floor planks reveal quite a large space underneath, which on top models is filled with a bass speaker.

The purely electric Ariya is larger, at 4,595mm long, and starts at £46,145, so in Nissan’s world of electric motoring the Qashqai e-Power is quite a bit cheaper.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power review electric SUV exterior rear road test drive - Jeff Gilbert
Nissan Qashqai e-Power review electric SUV exterior rear road test drive - Jeff Gilbert

A petrol electric car

But the e-Power is an electric car into which you pour fuel, so how does that work? Surprisingly well, actually, although to be fair hybrid diesel-electric trains and plant equipment have been running for years with no major problems.

The trick is to size the engine, generator and battery buffer in a way to make peak power demands less frenetic; in that respect Nissan appears to have hit the mark. The e-Power pulls away briskly without the engine revving crazily and there’s plenty of overtaking power should you require. Other than that, it just gets on with it. There are the odd moments when the engine surprises everyone when it fires up while you are stationary, but for the most part, the drivetrain complexity is out of sight and sound. Just a note to say that the brakes are powerful, with an exemplary mix of regeneration and friction braking.

The rest of the car is pretty much standard Qashqai; comfortable (for humans at least) with spacious seats, lots of storage space and a mostly well thought out balance of switches and the touch screen. Those buttons, though, particularly the engine start, demand a firm, positive push or you sit at the wheel trying in vain to get the thing to move. The central touch screen is relatively simple to use and the sound system is pretty good.

The 19-inch wheels on the Tekna version ride through bumps tolerably well, though the N-Connecta at £35,120 on 18-inch wheels probably has more compliance over the flood-damaged roads we seem to encounter everywhere, and saves you over three grand in the process.

On softly undulating country roads, the body control is pretty good, though that extra 300kg gives a slightly sharper ride and more lurch and heave than encountered in a standard Qashqai.

We always say that cars like this aren’t designed to handle well, but actually the Qashqai is really rather good, with decent steering on-centre response, damping control and a neat turn into corners. No, it’s not fun in any known meaning of the word, but if you need to hustle (late for cubs, a cry from the rear seats for a toilet), then the Qashqai will manage the task competently just as it does most everything else.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power review electric SUV interior road test drive - Jeff Gilbert
Nissan Qashqai e-Power review electric SUV interior road test drive - Jeff Gilbert

The Telegraph verdict

No, it’s not a battery electric car, but it’s lighter and less expensive, and filling the 55-litre tank takes less than a couple of minutes. This gives a range according to our tested fuel consumption of 624 miles, so stick that in your CCS port…

That makes a rather compelling argument if you only have one car, you don’t have off-street parking nor a wallbox and frequently do cross-country journeys where EV charging seems more elusive than the charge companies would have it.

And no, you won’t be able to boast about how you are saving the planet at your supper parties, but if you want a smart, reliable, thoroughly competent car that's designed-and-engineered in Britain, look no further.

The facts

On test: Nissan Qashqai e-Power

Body style: five-door C-segment SUV

On sale: now

How much? £32,950 to £40,980 depending on spec, £38,140 (as tested)

How fast? 105mph, 0-62mph in 7.9sec

How economical? 52.3mpg (WLTP Combined), 52mpg as tested

Electric powertrain: 1.97kWh lithium-ion battery, with 156bhp electric motor driving the front wheels

Charge times: n/a          

Electric range: n/a

Maximum engine power/torque: 188bhp 154bhp/184lb ft

CO2 emissions: 122g/km

VED: £180 first year, then £155

Warranty: 3 years, 60,000 miles

Spare wheel as standard: no (not available)

The rivals

Kia Niro EV

from £36,245

2022 Kia Niro EV
2022 Kia Niro EV

The latest version has full-on SUV looks in spite of the fact that the original Niro was claimed not to be an SUV. It’s still the go-to model among EV family hatchbacks, with a 285-mile range from the 64.8kWh battery. It’s well built and reasonably equipped even in the lowest ‘2’ spec, and in this iteration, it rides and handles reasonably.

MG4 SE long range

from £28,495

MG4 SE long range exterior - Richard Parsons
MG4 SE long range exterior - Richard Parsons

While the MG4 range starts at £25,995 for the SE with a 51kWh battery and 218-mile range, this is the more useful model with a 64kWh battery delivering 281 miles of range and 0-62mph in 7.9sec. Drives well, with a fine combination of ride and handling. Its looks will take more getting used to, as will its pretty awful software interface and touchscreen.

Ford Kuga ST-Line PHEV 2.5 Duratec

from £37,675

2021 Ford Kuga PHEV
2021 Ford Kuga PHEV

One of the top-selling plug-in hybrids and deservedly so, even if the 2.5-litre engine is a bit growly. Good looking and practical with a nifty hybrid system which can save on fuel consumption. Good ride and handling but you’d best avoid the optional largest wheels.