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Nissan Qashqai+2

Nissan's big success story - now even bigger...

The Qashqai has been a huge success story for Nissan, with buyers lapping up the chunky SUV looks and high driving position - along with the option of four-wheel drive. It's no off-roader, but it's a great choice for families who want something a bit different from a bog-standard saloon or hatch.

The "+2" means two extra seats squashed into the back, to turn the Qashqai from a five-seater to a seven-seater, along with a 21cm increase in the car's length. It's also taller, with a longer wheelbase. As you'd expect, the rearmost seats are fairly tiny, and quite difficult to get into - but it's a potentially useful people-lugger for a large family with two tiny tots.

Given the height of this crossover SUV-hatchback, it rolls more in the bends than a comparable hatchback - and more, too, than the five-seater Qashqai. But Nissan has still pulled off the clever trick of making a good compromise between body lean and an over-stiff ride. Given the dimensions, the suspension is one of the really impressive bits of the car, along with an upmarket cabin and gloriously comfortable seats.

Our test car had the 2.0-litre diesel engine, which gives you plenty of pulling power from low down in the rev range and zooms you up to 62mph in 10.5 seconds. It isn't a very 'flexible' power unit, however. By which I mean you have to work the gearlever to make sure you are able to nip quickly onto a busy roundabout, say, and then accelerate out of it. Until I got used to the gearing, there were a number of occasions when I found myself unexpectedly in the wrong gear, and hence the car accelerated less rapidly than I hoped as I pulled out into the traffic. Nor is that 2.0-litre diesel particularly smooth or quiet. If I could put up with the fuel economy and emissions, I might be tempted to go for the 2WD 2.0 petrol model, which claims the same 0-62mph time (of 10.5 seconds), will presumably offer you a quieter journey, with more progressive power - and it's a whole lot cheaper to buy.

We had the top-level Tekna trim and the optional 4WD in our test car, which makes it the most expensive Qashqai+2 in the range, at £26,095. That sounds steep - but you do get lots of high-tech equipment, such as the rear-parking camera, as standard. And that camera is very useful, as rear visibility isn't one of the Qashqai's high points. If this is beyond your budget, however, don't stop reading, because the seven-seater Qashqai starts at £16,995, while the five-seater model is available at an even lower £15,695.

As for the need for 4WD, it all depends on your lifestyle. I used the Nissan to get to the Goodwood Revival meeting this year, and switching it from 2WD to 'automatic' 4WD was an easy solution when it came to crossing wet grass in the parking area. Not altogether necessary given the warm September weather but, had it been a rainier weekend, the extra traction would have been a real bonus. I've seen people get stuck in muddy car parks too often to turn my nose up at all-wheel drive. But even without it, the Qashqai+2 is a truly attractive package that I really loved using. And I didn't want to give back.

True, it will cost you more than a more ordinary family car but, to me, it's worth the difference. This is the heart of the Qashqai's success. Buyers love the looks, the seating position, the sense of (almost) premium luxury, and they're willing to pay a bit more. I don't blame them.
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