Nissan cash cow?

"I have a Nissan Cash Cow to deliver to you." At least that's what I thought the guy on the phone said. The thought of a car that I could milk for money, sounded pretty attractive, but, unfortunately I think he had just fallen foul of the recent Oriental liking for strange names.

But, while the Kia Cee'd may be someone's made up name. Apparently the Nissan Qashqai (pronounce it 'cash kai' as the Nissan press pack helpfully advises), is in fact a nomadic tribe from Iran. So, the same sort of name as Volkswagen's Toureg then - it was named after Nomads on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Nissan Qashqai

But whereas the Touareg definitely has the ability to go nomadic across deserts, the Qashqai does not. It may look like an off-roader, but four wheel drive is only available as a £1,600 option on two-litre models.

So essentially this is a family hatch made more appealing by the addition of a smattering of off-road action-man styling. Certainly this car has some character about its external appearance - something that medium-sized Nissan family saloons and hatchbacks haven't always had.

Unfortunately, I think the interior is still a let down. The grey cloth upholstery had a red relief check pattern that looks a tad 'public transport utilitarian' in style. The dashboard is an unexciting mix of shiny black and grained plastic. The most important tactile area of any car, the steering wheel, although stitched like fine leather rim, has a rather unpleasant grained plastic feel in the hands.

It may not win in the style stakes, but the interior is practical, helped by the taller off-road-style stance.

The test car was also a really light an airy place to be, because it had a ginormous glass sunroof. At the flick of a switch the headlining slides back to reveal a huge glass panel covering almost the entire roof.

My test car was the £16,099 Nissan Qashqai 1.5dci Acenta (where do they get these names?) so I did fear that it would be a little underpowered. The 0-62 of 12.2 seconds tended to confirm this.

But this is a willing power engine and I honestly never felt really thwarted by the lack of horses. The Qashqai actually feels a little quicker than those figures suggest.

One area in which the Qashqai really does excel is safety.

Perhaps the off-roader look really does help, because the Qashqai achieved the highest score for adult occupant protection in the past ten years. So the appeal to the family motorist is enhanced. Off-road looks, practicality and safety - all at a keen price.

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