A diamond in the dirt

    3 November 2016

    My husband, who is a practical man, asks: ‘What is the difference between our Nissan Qashqai and that fancy white Porsche they’ve given you for the weekend? Apart from the price tag, that is. Aren’t they basically different versions of the same thing?’

    Bless him. Only a man who took seven attempts to pass his driving test could ask such an adorably silly question. By way of reply, I try to think of a suitable comparison, an analogy he will appreciate.

    ‘It’s like the difference between an ordinary, run-of-the-mill sirloin,’ I say, ‘and one of those hand-reared, grass-fed, massaged-by-virgins Japanese Wagyu steaks.’ The penny drops. ‘Ah,’ he says solemnly, ‘Now I get it.’

    ‘That’ Porsche is the Macan Turbo, the most powerful model in the range. It has a twin-turbo, 3,604 cc, water-cooled V6 engine delivering 400 hp at 6,000 rpm and 550 Nm of torque between 1,350 and 4,500 rpm. In real money, that’s 0-60 in just under five seconds and a top speed of 165mph.

    That said, the comparison with the humble Qashqai is not entirely spurious. While the Nissan and the Porsche are light years apart in terms of quality, engineering and performance, the basic concept — that of a compact sports utility vehicle, or SUV — is essentially the same.

    Blending all that is great about a traditional SUV (rugged styling, a practical interior and a high-up driving position) with the fuel economy and ease of parking of a supermini, compact SUVs are the fastest-growing sector of the car market.

    Neat enough to use in town, yet capacious enough for longer journeys, they also eat up motorways in comfort and safety. Many of the four-wheel drive versions possess decent off-road attributes (enough to get you down a dirt track, at any rate) and they are generally fuel-efficient.

    They are comfortable, too: the elevated seating position and all-round visibility makes them easy to park and drive, and they are ideal for hauling small people in and out of car seats and transporting the clutter of family life.

    You’ll see them on the motorway at half-term, laden with bikes and dogs and duvets, kids tapping away in the back on their assorted devices. They’re there on the school run, hazard lights blinking, eco-efficient engines purring as their impatient drivers scan for traffic wardens.

    Such is their popularity, especially with women drivers, that every manufacturer now offers its own version, from the humble Dacia Duster (from £9,495) to the aforementioned Qashqai (from £18,545) and beyond.

    With a starting price of £62,540, the Porsche Macan is a cut above, but it still has plenty of competition. Not least the slightly larger Porsche Cayenne, and also various models from Jeep, Audi, BMW, Range Rover and — bizarrely — Bentley.

    So while it is certainly not alone in its field, the Macan is nevertheless a uniquely pleasing piece of kit.

    The styling is a tiny bit bling, but only enough to make it stand out (and besides, why bother spending all that money if not to draw just a little bit of attention to yourself?) The interior is exquisite: everything from the seat controls to the touchscreen on the satnav to the quality of the leather interior exudes class. There are many practical touches. The dashboard politely reminds you of the correct speed limit; the lights turn themselves on and off according to necessity. There is plenty of space for your coffee. You can even adjust the width of the seat to match that of your own.

    Driving is both a delight and a doddle. It made a monster five-hour slog in stop-start half-term traffic from London to Norfolk just as pleasant as the gloriously clear run back. Bursts of breathtaking power allow for agile manoeuvring. The road hold is frankly astonishing for a vehicle of this height.

    And it coped admirably with the paraphernalia of family life: a full load of luggage, two children, two dogs and a brace of freshly shot pheasants.

    It is everything you could possibly want from a compact SUV: a stylish, practical, go-anywhere all-rounder, the ultimate family car for the ultimate modern family. In short, the car that this Nissan Qashqai driver’s dreams are made of.


    3.6 litre Twin Turbo V6
    0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
    Top speed
    Road Tax band
    From £62,540