TO stand out in a crowded SUV market any new model needs to have a USP and the latest Nissan Qashqai certainly has just that.

The e-Power version does things differently to many of its rivals with an electric motor that drives the compact crossover and a three cylinder petrol engine set up only to charge its batteries.

Limited electric only driving is available with the 1.5 turbo petrol engine only needed if the car detects low battery levels. Most of the time you can hear the petrol engine cutting in and out as required and there is an EV only setting when enough charge is available.

This gives the smooth driving of a true EV without the spectre of range anxiety. Another advantage is no need for external charging so no lead or plugging in as with most other hybrid cars.

The battery is bigger than usual at 2.1kWh while the combustion engine never directly powers the wheels and is only running for around half of the time. Nissan calls it a Variable Compression unit which can adopt a high compression state for more performance or low compression to improve fuel economy.

Progress along the road is via a single front-mounted 187bhp motor meaning a respectable 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds and top speed of 105mph.

Nissan says the car is a stepping stone for those not quite ready to go fully electric and it does feel more like a full EV rather than a hybrid. This is further boosted by the ‘I-Pedal’ feature, which increases the energy regeneration when the driver lifts off but can be switched off if preferred.

As the e-Power spends more than half its time with the engine switched off that means healthy official figures of 53.3mpg and 119g/km of CO2 – although over a week’s driving with some long journeys and lots of city motoring I only managed to use half a tank of fuel! This included a

200-mile round trip to the Lake District for a motoring event when the Qashqai proved to be a comfortable motorway cruiser that was also right at home on twisty Cumbrian lanes.

There are five driving modes (sport, normal, eco, snow and off-road) an in the former the Qashqai feels quite brisk. Inside there is a premium feel in our Tekna version which comes with plenty of equipment including a comprehensive head-up display, the larger 12.3-inch ‘Nissan Connect’ touchscreen infotainment and sat-nav system, a hands free powered rear tailgate and a whole raft of safety systems.

Also on the standard kit list are wireless phone connectivity and charging, front and rear USB ports, electric driver’s seat, rear privacy glass and auto climate control.

Practicality is unchanged from other models in the range which means you get 505 litres of boot space and amply room for five adults with plenty of head space.

The e-Power in Tekna form is £38,140 but the £35,120 N-Connecta keeps the key tech items of the Tekna including the larger infotainment screen and is expected to be the best seller in the UK.

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By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth