Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren't

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren’t

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Tesla to charge owners for using Supercharger network

Tesla to charge owners for using Supercharger network

Tesla to charge owners for using Supercharger network

Tesla has announced it will start charging for use of its electric car charger network – with buyers of all new Teslas from 2017 hit by “a small fee”.

The Supercharger network consists of more than 4,600 charging points around the world, allowing Tesla owners to charge their car to 80% in around half an hour.

In a statement released today, the Silicon Valley carmaker said: “We’ve designed our network so that all customers have access to a seamless and convenient charging experience when they’re away from home, as our intention has always been for Supercharging to enable long distance travel.

“That’s why today we’re announcing a change to the economics of Supercharging – one that allows us to reinvest in the network, accelerate its growth and bring all owners, current and future, the best Supercharging experience.”

The move follows that of UK green energy provider Ecotricity, which recently announced it would start charging a flat fee of £6 for electric car owners to use its chargers at motorway service stations.

Like Ecotricity, Tesla suggests its charging network is there to aid its electric car owners complete longer journeys – rather than to be used during regular day-to-day use.

However, Tesla isn’t saying how much it will cost owners to charge up their car. And, curiously, the charges will only apply to new vehicles ordered after 1 January 2017.

Cars sold before this date will continue to be able to use the network free of charge – and this benefit will last the length of the car’s life, passing on to subsequent owners.

Rumours had already suggested that the new cut-price Model 3 wouldn’t be eligible for the free charging when it goes on sale late in 2017.

“There will be a small fee to Supercharge which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car,” explained Tesla. “All cars will continue to come standard with the onboard hardware required for Supercharging.

“We will release the details of the program later this year, and while prices may fluctuate over time and vary regionally based on the cost of electricity, our Supercharger Network will never be a profit centre.”

McLaren 675LT Spider

2016 McLaren 675LT Spider review

McLaren 675LT SpiderThere weren’t many high-points in the last series of BBC Worldwide’s Top Gear, but seeing F1 driver Jenson Button spank a McLaren 675LT around Britain’s Dunsfold Aerodrome was certainly one.

In the hands of the Stig, the car went on to break the lap record, its time of 1min 13.7sec quicker than a Pagani Huayra or BAC Mono. Clearly, this unreasonably-priced car had something special. Now, we’ve got our hands on one to find out what. 

Before we continue, a minor caveat. McLaren nerds will have clocked our test car is a convertible 675LT Spider, whereas Top Gear’s lap time was set in the fixed-roof coupe. However, both use an identical 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8, and the Spider is just 90-lb heavier. That means matching 0-62mph times of 2.9sec, plus a mere 2mph difference in top speed (205mph for the coupe, 203mph for the Spider).

Nit-picking over such details is, of course, what McLaren does best, and numerous minute modifications transform a ‘standard’ 650S into a 675LT. One change is immediately apparent, though: the longer rear bodywork, or ‘Longtail’ of the car’s name. Originally a nickname given to stretched versions of the McLaren F1 GTR race car, Longtail is set to become Woking’s performance sub-brand. What ‘GT’ is to Porsche, in other words.

Apart from a power boost to 675-horsepower (a devilish 666-bhp in old money), the LT gets lower, stiffer suspension and a wider track than the 650S. It also produces 40% more downforce, aided by a huge rear spoiler/airbrake that pops up in your mirrors when you haul on the anchors. Lighter wheels, carbonfibre seats, thinner glass and reduced sound-deadening contribute to a 220-lb weight saving.

Ducking under the McLaren’s dihedral door, then sliding over its wide sill is not a move that can be performed gracefully – even with the roof down. However, once ensconced in the thinly-padded seat, the driving position is fantastic. Cocooned by carbonfiber, you look ahead over a low scuttle and wraparound windscreen that recalls the original Honda NSX. Or indeed a Le Mans racer.

The turbocharged V8 fires with a brusque bark, but there isn’t the theatrical throttle-blip of a Lamborghini. Its steering feels weighty but super-sensitive (the rack is actually quicker than McLaren’s P1 hypercar), while the ride is markedly firmer than a 650S. Even so, with Normal driving mode selected, the 675LT will potter along with the docility of a tiger basking in the sun, its seven-speed semi-auto gearbox shifting up early to save fuel.

Time to let the tiger show its claws. We switch to Sport and select manual mode for the gearbox, clicking down a couple of ratios with the exquisite carbonfiber paddles. By God, this thing is quick! Power delivery is progressive: a steady shove becomes a kick in the back above 3,000rpm, followed by a controlled explosion beyond 5,000rpm. The 675LT hurls you towards the horizon with a ferocity that’s intoxicating, addictive and mildly terrifying in equal measure.

Fortunately, the McLaren isn’t a mad, bad supercar of the old-school: ready to spit you off the road at the first whiff of a wet corner. On damp tarmac, we could feel its track-focused Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tyres (19-inchers at the front, 20s at the back) occasionally breaking traction, but the car’s supple chassis and incisive steering inspire confidence. The 675LT’s performance might intimidate: its chassis does not.

That’s not to say the Big Mac won’t kick out its tail, as anyone who watched Jenson Button obliterate a set of tyres on Top Gear can confirm. Any car with 675hp – nearly twice the output of a Porsche Cayman S – coursing through its rear wheels will do the same. But it’s the finely-honed finesse of this mid-engined monster’s handling that impresses most. Roofless or not, there’s a feeling of absolute, carbonfiber-clad rigidity that’s common to all McLarens.

Ah yes, the roof. McLaren originally built 500 675LT coupes, but demand was such that they followed-up with 500 Spiders. These sold out within two weeks and are now fetching premiums well beyond the $350k asking price. The car we drove, which had cosmetic mods from McLaren’s in-house MSO customisation service, including a 24-carat gold-lined engine bay à la McLaren F1, is estimated to be worth over $500k.

But forget fresh air: the main advantage of that electrically-folding hard-top is allowing you to hear the unfettered snarl of that visceral V8. McLarens have been criticised in the past for sounding a bit dull, but the 675LT’s 23-in longer titanium exhaust adds both decibels and drama. At lower revs, turbo whoosh and wastegate whistle are the dominant noises, but stretch the V8’s legs and its tone hardens to a red-blooded roar. The exhaust pops deliciously in Sport mode, too.

With the roof down and windows raised, the McLaren’s cabin is pleasantly free from buffeting. And as we discovered, if you drive fast enough, rain simply skims over the top. However, there is one reason you might choose to raise the roof: other people. In this age when everyone has a camera in their pocket, a rare and exotic McLaren becomes a rolling social media event. It was frankly impossible to fill up with fuel without being questioned about price, top speed and “how fast have you had it?”. Shrinking violets need not apply.

Our route takes us away from the hills and onto a motorway. Here, the 675LT feels out of its comfort zone. The constant tyre roar would soon induce a headache (blame the lack of sound-deadening) and the twitchy steering needs regular corrections. A 650S would be a more pleasant long-distance companion. That said, we’d love to experience a 675LT on a German Autobahn. It accelerates from three-figure speeds with more impetus than most cars muster from a standstill.

Our journey ends with a much-loved B-road that ducks and dives around blind corners between high hedges. Many supercars would feel too big and cumbersome here, but the 675LT is in its element. Its chassis is so intuitive, its responses so immediate, that it feels hard-wired into your brain. There’s no opportunity for using full throttle, but that scarcely matters. Like all great driver’s cars, the McLaren also rewards at sane speeds.

We step out with ears ringing and eyeballs vibrating. Our mouth is dry, our palms sweaty. The LT is like a 650S after an intravenous injection of Thai Red Bull, and driving it is utterly intense – beyond even what many supercars can deliver. Heaven knows what it’s like on a track, or indeed how a P1 must feel with an extra 242-horsepower at its rear wheels.

Even in the shadow of the mighty McLaren F1 – still the greatest supercar ever made – the 675 feels worth of the Longtail name. It’s ridiculously quick, as evidenced by that Top Gear lap time, but also incredibly exciting to drive on real roads. This is no straight-line showpony like the Bugatti Veyron. Jenson Button said the 675LT “feels like a race car”, and who are we to disagree?  

The 675 also bodes well as an opening salvo for the LT brand. Who could fail to be excited by the prospect of a Longtail version of the brilliant 570S? Or perhaps even a more extreme take on McLaren’s forthcoming ‘Ultimate Series’ car – the replacement for the P1. Ferrari is brilliant at producing harder, faster versions of existing models (the 458 Speciale and F12 tdf, for instance) and the 675LT proves the still-fledgeling McLaren Automotive can do the same.

If you fancy a 675LT Spider in your garage, expect to pay upwards of $500,000. No wonder we felt a mild sense of relief when handing back the keys, followed by an overwhelming urge to drive it again. The car’s immediate appreciation in value shows the esteem in which it is held – and represents a tidy profit for first owners, of course.

Still, even $500k looks decent value compared to the $13 million you’ll need for a McLaren F1… 

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

The first London to Brighton Veteran Car Run took place on a wet Saturday in November 1896. Back then it was called the Emancipation Run – a celebration of the 1896 Locomotives on Highways Act, increasing the national speed limit to 14mph and scrapping the requirement for an escort carrying a red flag to walk in front of any motorised vehicle.

The run has been a yearly event since 1927 (apart from a break during WW2), and this year 426 cars took part – compared to just 37 in 1927. It started at sunrise on Sunday morning, with F1 mogul and Top Gear host Eddie Jordan ceremoniously tearing the red flag.

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

The first car in the run was also the oldest: BS 8360. The 1895 Peugeot is powered by a two-cylinder engine producing just 3.75hp and is owned by The Louwman Museum in the Netherlands.

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

The event is popular with petrolhead celebs – here’s Jodie Kidd snapped in a Pope-Waverley electric car owned by Harrods, sponsors of the event. The model was previously rumoured to appear alongside Chris Evans on the latest series of Top Gear.

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

And talking of Chris Evans, here he is, snapped in front of a bus he drove along the London to Brighton route. He’s joined by dancers Kevin and Karen Clifton, weather presenter Carol Kirkwood and One Show host Alex Jones.

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

Participants travel through touristy areas of central London in the early hours of Sunday morning – it’s an incredible sight. Here’s a 1903 Oldsmobile curved-dash runabout driving up The Mall.

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

No, this car isn’t embarrassingly breaking down in front of Buckingham Palace (although there is a fleet of RAC vans on hand just in case) – it’s actually powered by steam. We expert Her Majesty heard it coming…

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

BS 8405, pictured here, is a 1904 veteran car produced by French firm, De Dion Bouton. At the time, it was the largest car manufacturer in the world, producing more than 2,000 vehicles a year – all built by hand.

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

Spectators line the route from London to Brighton to cheer on drivers. Here, passengers in a Talbot two-seater are waving as they cross Westminster Bridge.

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

With temperatures close to freezing, cars like this 1904 Brennan offered little protection from the elements. Participants must have been very glad to stop for free cups of tea en-route!

2016 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: in pictures

As the cars headed out of London and the sun came out, the crowds turning out to watch the run didn’t dissipate. Here they are cheering on another 1904 De Dion Bouton.

To see more pictures from Sunday’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, click through our gallery on MSN Cars

Regent Street: closed to traffic but filled with cars for annual motor show

regent-street-crowds

Closed to traffic but filled with cars – this was the scene that greeted anyone who took a wander along Regent Street on Saturday morning.

The Regent Street Motor Show takes place in the heart of London’s shopping district and sees cars from the past rubbing shoulders with vehicles of the future. This year, the crowds braved the cold weather to see more than 100 veteran cars on the eve of the famous London to Brighton run.

Regent Street was built to provide a thoroughfare between two palaces owned by Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. It was also one of the world’s first purpose-built shopping streets.

And while the shops remained open on Saturday, the majority of shoppers were more interested in the sight of the capital’s free-to-view motor show. Last year, some 450,000 people witnessed the spectacle.

All of the cars taking part in the Concours d’Elegance were built before 1905, meaning they predate Regent Street, which was completed between the years of 1904 and 1925. The shops may have changed, but the veteran cars remain true to their original specification.

Concours d’Elegance victory for Latvia

regent-street-concours

The overall winner of the Concours d’Elegance was the sole surviving Krastin, one of just four cars believed to have been built by Latvian August Krastin in the United States. The book Migrants, Immigrants and Slaves: Racial and Ethnic Groups in America, says: “August Krastin built one of the first automobiles in America in 1896. His plant in Cleveland, Ohio, made gasoline and electric automobiles, farm machines, refrigerators and electrical appliances.”

In another book, Automobile Manufacturers of Cleveland and Ohio, 1864-1942, the authors Frank E. Wrenick and Elaine V. Wrenick describe Krastin as a perfectionist and an experimenter. As a result, he received numerous patents during the development of the Krastin.

“These included such innovations as a screw-type noiseless muffler, a smokeless carburettor, and a device that appeared to be a column-mounted steering, but actually controlled the clutch and shifted the transmission, while the column upon which it was mounted acted as a tiller which steered the vehicle.”

The Krastin two-cylinder runabout commanded a price tag of $2,500 and August Krastin had plans to build up to seven vehicles per week. Sadly, a fire destroyed the factory and all its contents, and with no insurance in place, the company was declared bankrupt and closed its doors in 1904.

Fast forward a century and Latvian enthusiast Austra Priede – seen photographed in the passenger seat of his Krastin – tracked the sole remaining car down to an address in Nebraska.

With the help of Riga Motor Museum, he completed a full restoration in time for the Krastin to make its debut in this year’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

Honouring James Hunt

regent-street-freddie-hunt

From veteran cars to a vintage year: 1976, the year in which James Hunt won the F1 World Championship following his epic battle with Niki Lauda. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, the Regent Street Motor Show called in James’ son Freddie, along with Hunt’s McLaren M23.

Freddie Hunt was on hand to sign autograph and pose for selfies, with the McLaren M23 joined by other F1 cars, such as the Ferrari Dino 246: the last front-engined car to win a Grand Prix race.

Other celebrities included Chris Evans, Alex Jones and Ken Bruce, with the Popmaster swapping his Routemaster for an AEC Regal single-decker for the London to Brighton run. There, he was joined by Carol Kirkwood, who appeared be taking on ‘clippie’ duties.

Bringing things right up-to-date were displays from Go Ultra Low and Transport for London, while the Steve Colley stunt motorcycle team delivered two-wheeled thrills.

Speaking about the event, Peter Read, chairman of the Royal Automobile Club’s Motoring Committee, said: “The Regent Street Motor Show really does have something for everyone: the cars on display represent motoring history in its entirety, from the earliest days of the horseless carriage to the electric vehicles we will all be driving tomorrow.

“The Regent Street Motor Show goes from strength to strength and marks one of the highlights of the Club’s London Motor Week – a seven-day celebration full of motoring events staged by the Royal Automobile Club, which ends with the famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.”

Silverstone classic racers

Jaguar Land Rover is not going to buy Silverstone

Silverstone classic racersJaguar Land Rover (JLR) has announced it has ended negotiations to buy the Silverstone circuit from the British Racing Driver’s Club (BRDC).

The two organisations have been in discussions since spring 2016 about a deal that would see JLR either buy or lease the racetrack, which is home to the British Grand Prix.

But they have now ended, reports Reuters, quoting a spokesperson from Jaguar Land Rover.

2016 Silverstone Classic: in pictures

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“Jaguar Land Rover has ended discussions with the British Racing Drivers’ Club for the foreseeable future and is not proceeding with any plans to either lease or purchase Silverstone at this time.”

JLR was said to have been planning to develop a heritage centre at Silverstone, to house some of its extensive classic car collection. Dynamic driving events would also have been an option, similar to those run by Porsche at its own Silverstone experience centre.

Insiders previously suggested it was this Porsche facility that was one of the sticking points in agreeing any deal. The German sports car maker’s contract apparently states no other manufacturer could use the circuit for more than 45 days a year.

The collapse in the JLR deal will be a blow for the BRDC. Silverstone is in need of further investment and the track’s losses are believed to be mounting.

Vauxhall teases 2017 Crossland X crossover

2017 Vauxhall Crossland X: new crossover could replace the Meriva

Vauxhall teases 2017 Crossland X crossover

Vauxhall has announced it’s launching a new compact crossover called the Crossland X.

It follows the naming strategy of Vauxhall’s popular compact crossover, reintroduced as the Mokka X when the model was facelifted earlier this year.

Rumours suggest that the Crossland X could replace the slow-selling Meriva – following Peugeot’s move of re-launching the 3008 and 5008 as crossover SUVs.

“Our customers’ expectations are changing, so the timing is perfect for an additional model in the Vauxhall range, which caters for a new breed of buyer,’ said Vauxhall chairman and MD Rory Harvey.

“The Crossland X will sit next to the Mokka X in our range, but their identities will be well-defined, and we anticipate that each will have its own following. More will be revealed at the start of next year, but we’re excited about the way Vauxhall’s crossover and SUV family is shaping up – and there’s more to come!”

Vauxhall is also expected to introduce a larger crossover related to the Zafira MPV at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

More than 50,000 motorists a year hit with fines on smart motorways

More than 50,000 drivers a year hit with fines on smart motorways

More than 50,000 motorists a year hit with fines on smart motorways

The number of motorists hit with fixed penalty fines by speed cameras on smart motorways has increased by 50,000 over the last five years.

An investigation by the BBC’s One Show found that 52,516 tickets were issued on smart stretches of the M1, M25, M4, M42 and M6 in 2014-15.

This has increased from 2,023 in 2010-11 – before smart motorways were commonplace.

Smart motorways use overhead gantries to change speed limits as well as open and close lanes (including the hard shoulder) to ease congestion.

These gantries often have average speed cameras monitoring traffic when lower speed limits are in place – turning off when the motorway is running at the national speed limit of 70mph.

The investigation discovered that the revenue raised by cameras on smart motorways every year increased from £150,600 five years ago to more than £1.1 million.

Police in Nottinghamshire issued 8,489 tickets along one section of the M1 last year, amounting to £425,000 in fines. In 2010, no drivers were hit with fines along this section.

Last year, Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner Olly Martins controversially suggested activating speed cameras on the M1 when 70mph limits are in place – in a bid to raise much-needed cash for the force.

“For many years RAC research has shown that a majority of motorists regard speed cameras primarily as revenue generators for the police,” said RAC chief engineer David Bizley at the time. “And it appears that the Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner harbours this view too, or at least he is using this as an opportunity to make a very serious point about resourcing.

“Motorists tell us that they would like to see better enforcement and more roads police officers, but enforcement needs to be prioritised in terms of road safety benefits and not in terms of the value of the revenues generated.”

Currently there are around 236 miles of smart motorways in the UK – and this number could almost double in the near future.

Nissan Qashqai N-Connecta 1.6 DCi quick review: the ultimate crossover?

Nissan Qashqai N-Connecta 1.6 DCi quick review: the ultimate crossover?

Nissan Qashqai N-Connecta 1.6 DCi quick review: the ultimate crossover?

The Nissan Qashqai is often credited with being the car that started the crossover boom. It began in 2007, when the original Sunderland-built Qashqai replaced the more conventional Primera. It enjoyed huge success, hitting one million worldwide sales in 2011 – and smashing its target of 100,000 a year.

A replacement Qashqai was introduced in 2013 – and that’s the model we’re testing here. Does it deserve to be the huge success it’s proving to be, or is it living on a tidal wave of popularity triggered by its predecessor?

Prices and deals

The Nissan Qashqai starts at a very reasonable £18,545, but the high-spec turbodiesel N-Connecta will set you back a slightly more eye-watering £27,160. A search of online brokers suggests you can comfortably shave £4,000 off that price.

What are its rivals?

While Nissan can lay claim to having one of the first trendy new crossovers on the market, there’s no shortage of rivals available in 2016. There’s the affordable MG GS, good-value Hyundai Tucson and popular Kia Sportage – not to mention the Renault Kadjar, which shares a platform with the Qashqai. The SEAT Ateca is now on sale, and could also be a serious threat to the Qashqai.

What engine does it use?

What engine does it use?

There’s a range of petrol and diesel engines available in the Qashqai. The model we’re testing is the more powerful 130hp 1.6-litre dCi turbodiesel.

How fast?

Even with 20hp more than the lesser 1.5-litre diesel, the 1.6 isn’t a quick car – hitting 62mph in 9.9 seconds, and a top speed of 118mph. It’s plenty for a car such as this, though, and the manual gearbox is sharp enough that you don’t mind working through the gears to extract the best from the Qashqai.

Will I enjoy driving it?

The latest Qashqai isn’t as fun to drive as the original model, and those seeking thrills should look elsewhere. But it’s a refined and relaxing car to drive, with very few of the minor grievances that plague rival cars.

The electrically-assisted power steering provides confidence, while the Qashqai feels composed through corners. Road and wind noise are minimal, adding to the feeling that you could drive this all day without feeling stressed.

Fuel economy and running costs

Fuel economy and running costs

The 1.6-litre diesel returns 64.2mpg in the combined NEDC test. With a bit of effort, this is probably achievable, while mid-50s should be easily possible with sensible out-of-town driving.

What’s the interior like?

Bland, but robust, with everything where you’d expect it to be. The seating position is high up, giving you a good view of the road ahead – but equally, good visibility means it’s easy to drive around town. Despite a large infotainment screen in the middle of the dash (we’ll come to that shortly), there seem to be buttons everywhere in our high-spec model.

Is it comfortable?

It’s very easy to find a comfortable driving position in the Qashqai. The steering wheel adjusts back and forth – as well as up and down – while the seats offer plenty of adjustment. Legroom is also decent for front and rear passengers.

Is it practical?

Is it practical?

Unlike the previous model, the latest Qashqai is only available with five seats. It offers more space than a Golf, though – the attraction of a crossover for most – with 430 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place.

Tell me about the tech

The N-Connecta model tested here comes with Nissan’s seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system incorporating sat nav, DAB radio and smartphone integration. It’s a slick system to use, while Nissan’s fancy around-view monitor, standard on the N-Connecta, makes parking a breeze.

What about safety?

Nissan knows the Qashqai is popular with families, and it hasn’t scrimped on safety. On the N-Connecta you get lane departure and emergency braking systems as standard, not to mention driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. It scored five stars for safety when NCAP tested it in 2014.

Which version should I go for?

Which version should I go for?

The high-spec N-Connecta on test here is a good choice if your budget stretches that far. However, the lower-spec Acenta offers good value for money, and the 1.5-litre diesel won’t leave most drivers feeling short-changed.

What’s the used alternative?

With a near-10-year production run so far, and the Qashqai’s popularity what it is, there’s no shortage of secondhand models on Auto Trader: more than 6,000, in fact. A £5,000 budget will get you a tidy early model from a dealer – we’d recommend a petrol engine at this age – while £14,000 buys a two-year-old second-generation model powered by the 1.5-litre diesel.

Should I buy one?

A Qashqai doesn’t make for an exciting purchase, but it is a really easy-to-live-with crossover that will tick all the boxes for many families. There are more interesting rivals out there, but the Qashqai is a quality all-round package.

Pub fact

Pub fact

The first Nissan to be built at the firm’s Sunderland plant was the 1986 Bluebird. In the plant’s first year, it produced just 5,139 cars. Last year, that number was 475,000, and it’s set to rise to more than 600,000 when the next-generation Qashqai and X-Trail enter production over the next few years.