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CHANGING ROOM; New Nissan wows even the sceptics.

Byline: By BRUCE BOOTH

IT'S funny how perceptions and attitudes change. Even going back just a year or so ago, I would have admitted to being a bit uncomfortable behind the wheel of any kind of SUV.

Imuch preferred a sporty saloon or, better still, a practical four-wheel-drive estate car with their positive grip and superb road-holding abilities.

But in just a short time, it seems the whole SUV sector has moved on leaps and bounds with araft of new machinery that offers the best features of a family hatchback/estate and the versatility and safety features of arugged offroader, but without the wallowing factor normally associated with these high-standing machines.

One of the first of the "new breed" of SUV-cum-hatchback crossover 4x4 was the Nissan Qashqai, which began to win awards even before it was released into showrooms.

So it was no surprise when Nissan decided to capitalise on this Qashqai success story with a bigger and more versatile model. As its name implies, the new Qashqai+2 has a couple of extra seats in the rear, but even Nissan admit they're just for kids.

However, I drove six colleagues from St Andrews to Anstruther ... and they all managed to alight and walk away unaided and free of pain.

Nissan designers have retained much of the original Qashqai's good looks, making the two models pretty identical from the outside.

But there are are a few changes to the original car in order to create the new sevenseater version and, to make space for the extra seats, the wheelbase has been increased by five inches.

The overall height has also been increased by more than eight inches and in order to provide more headroom for occupants in the middle and third row of seats, the roof has been lengthened and re-styled towards the rear of the vehicle, creating a flatter, taller profile.

The +2 gets larger doors than the five-seater model and the middle seat also slides forward for easier entry into the back row.

Larger side windows provide a light and airy environment for occupants of the third row of seats while a massive panoramic glass roof adds to the effect.

A pair of two-litre engines are available - the 138bhp petrol unit and the 148bhp diesel, which are the mainstay of the five-seater Qashqai range, although smaller 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines are scheduled to join the ranks next year.

The Qashqai+2 comes comes in three trim levels, starting with the lead-in petrol-powered Visia, with its competitive pounds 18,210 price tag, and moving up to the pounds 25,149 flagship Tekna automatic dCi oilburner complete with its on-board sat nav system and sumptuous full leather interior.

NISSAN QASHQAI +2 4X4

PRICE: pounds 18,210.

DRIVETRAIN: 1997cc petrol engine, driving all four wheels through six-speed manual gearbox.

TOP SPEED: 110mph.

0-60MPH: 10.9 seconds.

FUEL CONSUMPTION: Combined 32.8mpg.

WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 3, 2008
Words:490
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