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The 2020 Nissan Qashqai.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

According to a cursory search on the internet, the Qashqai are a nomadic, Turkic-language-speaking people who settled in the mountains of southwestern Iran in the 15th century. When the border with the United States reopens to travellers, feel free to trot out this little fact for Americans puzzled by the badge on the back of the small crossover that’s sold as the Rogue Sport down there.

“Surprised you didn’t know that,” you can say. “Common knowledge, really. And the name’s pronounced CASH-kai.”

On a family camping trip a few hours northeast of Vancouver, the Qashqai’s Canadian name proved to be fitting. Nissan’s compact crossover is not particularly sporty, but with solid fuel economy and a comfortable ride, it will work well if you’re a bit nomadic yourself.

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While small and nimble enough for urban environments, the Qashqai is a solid, comfortable highway drive.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

That is, as long as you’re not a nomad in a hurry. With a modest 141 horsepower from its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, the Qashqai offers adequate acceleration but is unhappy to be rushed. The feel of Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) is far more responsive than it has been in the past. Programmed shift points that artificially mimic a conventional transmission mean there is less of a “rubber-band” lag when you accelerate or brake.

Steering is very light and a bit numb, but handling is satisfactory. Nipping along some back roads through the rolling-hill country around Merritt, B.C., the Qashqai felt well-composed and light on its feet. Body roll was minimal.

More importantly, the little Nissan displayed refined road manners. Despite 19-inch alloys – large wheels often crash their way over bumps – the Quashqai floated along serenely, better than you’d expect from a compact crossover. Road noise was pleasantly muted.

Even on 19-inch alloy wheels, the Qashqai's ride is comfortable and quiet.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

All the better to enjoy a podcast or two as selected by my five-year-old rear-seat passenger (her favourite: Brains On!, a kids’ science program). The Bose-branded stereo is quite good, helped out by the relatively quiet cabin. Further, the Qashqai now comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, just the sort of thing to make road-tripping easier.

Manoeuvring around the campsite – or any parking spot – is made easier by Nissan’s 360-degree camera system. The Qashqai is a popular model in European markets for its small physical footprint and is well-suited to both urban and slightly-more rugged settings. It’s small enough for tight parking garages, yet quiet and comfortable enough to handle highway miles.

The Qashqai has effectively supplanted the Sentra as Nissan's go-to economical family vehicle.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

As the second-most-popular vehicle in Nissan’s lineup after the larger Rogue, the Qashqai has essentially supplanted the Nissan Sentra as a small family car that combines utility and economy. As to the latter, it’ll burn a little more fuel than a compact sedan but returned a respectable 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres in mixed-use driving.

Add in hatchback practicality and available all-wheel drive, and the Qashqai could well serve as the main vehicle for a younger family. Bolt on a roof box for a bit of extra cargo capacity when needed and you’ve got an urban runabout that can handle longer trips.

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Call it the Rogue Junior, combining the flexibility that most consumers now expect from a crossover in a more efficient and affordable package. The Nissan Qashqai may have a name that’s hard to pronounce, but its broad appeal is easy to understand.

Looks

The Qashqai received a visual refresh for this model year.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

Refreshed this model year, the Qashqai is a handsome-looking machine, with a profile that’s a little more stylish than the larger Rogue and a little more grown-up than the funky Kicks. Those 19-inch wheels fill the wheel wells out but will add expense when it comes time for tire replacement. The 17-inch wheels on the mid-range SV model look just fine and are a more reasonable choice.

Interior

The Qashqai's interior is comfortable, though feels less upscale than that of some competitors.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

Nissan’s interior game is strong on comfort, a little behind on perceived quality. The Qashqai’s plastics can’t match the upscale appearance of rivals from Hyundai, but its seats are supportive and ideal for long-distance driving.

Performance

The basic front-wheel-drive Qashqai can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission, but most buyers will go for the automatic shifting option. The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is as smooth as anything, but some owners of 2010-2016 Nissans have complained of problems with the reliability of the CVTs in their vehicles. Nissan extended its powertrain warranty in some previous models to 10 years, but here your warranty coverage is an industry-standard five years or 100,000 kilometres. There do not appear to be any specific complaints about the Qashqai’s transmission, but it would be nice to see Nissan stand behind its technology with a longer standard drivetrain warranty.

Technology

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features in the Qashqai's infotainment suite.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

Nissan’s advanced driver-assistance suite is called ProPilot Assist. It comes on SL trim models only and includes automated cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Both systems work well and take some of the chores out of slogging your way through city traffic.

Cargo

The trunk floor can be lowered to expand the Qashqai's cargo capacity.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

Active families of four or five are going to want the larger Rogue for the added cargo capacity. However, the Qashqai’s configurable trunk has a floor that can be lowered for a useful 678 L of capacity, flattened out when folding the seats down or divided for the grocery run.

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The verdict

Designed for comfort, efficiency and ease-of-use, the Qashqai has plenty of features that make both everyday driving and longer road trips pleasant.

Tech specs

The Qashqai is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

  • Base price/as tested: $21,598; $34,233
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/drive: manual transmission/CVT; front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy: (litres/100 kilometres) 9.0 city, 7.7 highway
  • Alternatives: Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

Vehicle was provided by the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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