SUVs square up: Honda CR-V vs Nissan Qashqai

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Author: | Updated: 21 Jul 2015 10:41

Honda’s CR-V compact SUV has been refreshed for 2015, but do the changes make it more competitive when compared to the daddy of this segment, the Nissan Qashqai?

Honda CR-V v Nissan Qashqai Front Static

Exterior

When Honda facelifted the CR-V, it’s probably fair to say that it spent more time working on the running gear and the interior than the exterior. Apart from the grille, there’s little to differentiate a 2015 CR-V from a 2014 model, but that isn’t a huge issue. Admittedly, the kink in the tailgate is a bit awkward, but that’s part of the CR-V’s identity, and the rest of the car looks fine, if a little uninspiring.

The Qashqai, in contrast, has been brought along a lot since its introduction in 2010. For 2014, the compact looks were ditched in favour of a much more modern design full of Lexus-like angles, albeit a little more subtle than anything built by Toyota’s luxury arm of late.

It has become familiar thanks to its popularity, and that makes us think it’s less handsome than it really is.

Honda CR-V v Nissan Qashqai Rear Static

Interior

Although Honda has worked on the CR-V’s cabin, a few tacky bits and bobs let down an otherwise reasonable space.

The satellite navigation, for example, is a Garmin unit that’s very clear, very easy to use and decently quick to respond to inputs, but it’s let down by mediocre graphics and a line of plasticky function buttons.

We have the same issue with the instrument binnacle, which is more than clear enough and even features an LCD screen, but it’s still very old school, and the gear lever falls into that trap of being perfectly acceptable in function but somewhat lacking in form, too. It feels cheap and poorly finished in your hand and the ‘leather’ gaiter is like something from a 1990s Nissan – a pity when it’s ergonomically positioned and boasts a short throw and slick action.

Honda CR-V Interior

As soon as you take a seat in the Nissan, however, it’s clear that it’s the better built car. Not only are the materials used better than the Honda’s but the general fit and finish is much more solid.

It isn’t fault-free though. A raft of hollow, cheap buttons on the steering wheel and a generally dull and uninspiring cabin make it feel like it’s been built to a budget. It has issues with its touchscreen, too. It works reasonably and the incorporated Around View camera system is excellent, but it too is showing its age and diminutive buttons on the display are occasionally frustrating, especially on the move.

Quality isn’t the be-all and end-all, mind you, and the CR-V claws a bit back in the practicality stakes. A 589-litre boot is a good showing compared to the Qashqai’s 430-litre space, and though the difference is less marked when the rear seats are folded, with the CR-V’s 1,669 litres still eclipse the Qashqai by 84 litres.

There’s a decent amount of kit to be had, too. Both our test cars came in the second-from-top specifications, and both had satellite navigation, heated front seats, reversing cameras and so on as part of the standard equipment.

Nissan Qashqai Interior

On the road

If you’re looking for a fun drive, you’re unlikely to be looking at an SUV, so the fact that the Qashqai is the more capable car through the bends is pretty much irrelevant.

Ride comfort, on the other hand, will swing it for more drivers, but in that area it’s more or less a dead heat. Both cars soak up the bumps admirably thanks to long-travel suspension.

It’s the Qashqai’s combination of comfort and handling that clinches it though. Where the Qashqai is composed and relatively agile, the Honda is let down by body control almost reminiscent of an old Cadillac – it isn’t quite like seasickness, but when you either aren’t used to it or don’t expect it, it can make you feel a bit queasy.

The Qashqai’s more refined too, although it must be said that the nine-speed automatic transmission offered in the CR-V does a very good job of keeping the diesel engine subdued, thus negating the Nissan’s advantage. The six-speed manual’s likely to be the more popular choice though, so the Qashqai gets the nod.

When it comes to towing – a job cars like these are often used for – the larger CR-V should fare well, but its 1,700kg is some way of the pace in a segment where the leaders can tow two tonnes. The Qashqai has the same problem, but its maximum of 1,800kg edges the CR-V.

Nissan Qashqai Front Static Low

Running costs

In diesel form, which is the more popular choice for cars in this segment, both come with relatively small engines. The Nissan is fitted with either a 1.5-litre, 109bhp unit or a 1.6-litre with 128bhp, while the CR-V gets a 1.6-litre with either 118 or 158bhp depending on whether you want two- or four-wheel drive.

As a result, neither car is especially quick – you won’t be getting any sub-9-second 0-62mph times – but the CR-V is marginally faster, its 1.6 getting it to 62mph in 9.7 seconds compared to the equivalent Qashqai’s 9.9.

More importantly, though, both are economical. Assuming you’ve gone for front-wheel-drive, the most frugal CR-Vs will be the lower-spec S and SE models with the 118bhp diesel, but even their 64.2mpg thirst and 115g/km CO2 emissions can’t compete with the 1.5-litre Qashqai’s headline figures of 74.3mpg and 99g/km.

Honda CR-V Front Static

That said, the 1.6-litre, 128bhp Qashqai is probably a better comparison, not only because of its size and power, but also because of its 64.2mpg economy and 116g/km CO2 emissions.

Despite that closeness between the two 1.6-litre engines, if you’re really worried about monthly running costs you’ll have to go for the Qashqai. It has a starting price around £4,000 lower than the CR-V and the average business leasing deal (£242, 6+36 10k miles) is about £30 a month cheaper than that of a diesel CR-V.

The verdict

The Qashqai has to win this test, despite the CR-V having much to commend it. For all the diesel engine’s punchiness and the ride’s bump-busting squidginess, it can’t match the Qashqai’s uncanny all-round competence. Okay, it’s a Jack of all trades and master of none, but it’s more or less weakness-free. No wonder it’s one of Britain’s favourite cars.

Honda CR-V vs Nissan Qashqai: at a glance

  Honda CR-V 2015 Nissan Qashqai

Length (mm)

4,605

4,377

Width (mm)

1,820 (2,095 inc. mirrors)

1,806 (2,070 inc. mirrors)

Height (mm)

1,650 (excl. antenna)

1,590

Wheelbase (mm)

2,630

2,646

Boot space (l) (seats up/down)

589 / 1,669

430 / 1,585

Kerb weight (kg)

1,541-1,712

1,318-1,518

Max towing weight (kg)

1,700kg (1.6 i-DTEC 4WD 160)

1,800kg (1.6 dCi 163 4WD)

Petrol engines

2.0-litre i-VTEC 2WD 155 (153bhp)

1.2 DIG-T 115 (113bhp), 1.6 DIG-T 163 (161bhp)

Diesel engines

1.6-litre i-DTEC 2WD 120 (118bhp) / 4WD 160 (158bhp)

1.5 dCi 110 (109bhp), 1.6 dCi 130 (128bhp)

Trims

S, SE, SR, EX

Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium, n-tec, n-tec+, Tekna

Fastest (0-62mph, top speed)

1.6 i-DTEC 4WD (9.7s)

1.6 DIG-T 163 (9.1s, 124mph)

Greenest (economy, CO2 emissions)

S 1.6 i-DTEC 2WD 120 (64.2mpg, 115g/km)

Visia 1.5 dCi 110 (74.3mpg, 99g/km)

Cheapest

S i-VTEC 2WD 155 (£22,345)

Visia 1.2 DIG-T 115 (£18,545)

Priciest

EX i-DTEC 4WD 160 (£34,120)

Tekna 1.6 dCi 130 4WD (£28,910)

Average lease price (diesel, 6+36 10k)

Business: £274/month
Personal: £338/month

Business: £242/month 
Personal: £289/month

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