photo-2Immediate thumbs up for the Nissan Qashqai as I approached it: in the Ink Blue of the test car, in big-wheel’d Tekna spec, it looked absolutely superb.

A few days of noticing admiring glances have underlined this. A head-turning crossover, for all the right reasons. Nissan Paddington ought to be chuffed to bits.

My adulation continued when I stepped inside and discovered a wonderful cabin, all high quality materials, premium design and general appeal. The cabin in the old Qashqai was one of its weakest points; it dated much more quickly than the rest of the car. This rectifies that, and how.

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Just one point of alarm when I set it up ready to go (zeroing the odometer, trip computer, that sort of thing): it was showing 29mpg average. Yikes! Intrigued, I delayed the reset to see if it was a short-term post-reset misrepresentation. It creeped up to 29.3mpg after six miles. It appeared to be quite representative.

For an engine that should be doing over 50mpg officially, this was a bit worrying. So I reset and drove 100 miles to work. Result? 39mpg. That’s a bit more like it. I drove through central London then up the M1 again: 35mpg. Hmm.

Nothing for it but to reset the trip again, then engage everyday driving mode. No rushing, no revving through the engine to see how smooth it actually is (very smooth, actually). Just normality and if, in places, that means meek and mellow, then so be it.

Another 100 miles later, what was it showing? 49mpg. Blimey. And today, a shorter run to Coventry and back saw the 51mpg mark breached.

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Which proves something: downsized modern turbo petrols can be almost as fuel efficient as diesels, while offering better smoothness, slightly cheaper fuel and lower levels of particulate and NOx emissions. In a world of default diesel, it’s pleasing to discover yet another small petrol that works much better than you’d think.

But like the Ford 1.0-litre Ecoboost, it seems there’s a word of caution with Nissan’s 1.2 DIG-T Qashqai: really pedal it hard and economy will plummet. You can have small engine efficiency or big engine performance, but not at the same time.

Which seems like a fair trade to me. What about the rest of car buyers who assume those official fuel economy stats mean they can enjoy the richness of torquey response for free, though..?