The Nissan Qashqai is apparently named after a confederation of tribal clans in Iran. A curious choice, perhaps, given the rather uncertain political situation in the Middle East. But Nissan wanted to imply that its drivers would be nomadic in their nature.

I suppose it is an evocative image of freedom - sweeping from place to place across the desert without any ties or restrictions.

But at the same time, Nissan insists that the Qashqai is totally civilised and an accomplished performer both on the open road and in the city in all conditions.

Clearly, there is some contradiction here and it perhaps springs from the concept of the car as a cross-over' vehicle. This means it is a saloon car, hathcback/estate and even off-roader all rolled into one.

A few years ago when cars were strictly bracketed, this apparent hotch-potch would have been unthinkable. If you wanted to go off road, then buy a Land Rover.

But these days cars try to be all things to all people. It begs the question whether the Qashqai is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

The first box the Nissan ticks is that it is a good looking vehicle. It has a purposeful stance in that it sits higher than the average car and its lines are smooth and sculpted.

It is not too big on the outside but looks prove deceptive as the interior is extremely roomy with plenty of space for five adults and a big boot to take all their belongings.

The test car was the top spec Tekna model with a two-litre diesel engine and, unusually, an automatic gearbox.

Acceleration was brisk and it soon became apparent that the Qashqai enjoys being flung around just for the fun of it.

The steering was taught and there is minimal roll, while the brakes are quite capable of putting an abrupt and sensible stop to all this frivolity when the need arises.

Nissan still don't seem to have mastered the art of making a quiet diesel engine, however, and there is plenty of clatter from under the bonnet, especially at low speeds.

Try to set off too quickly and the automatic gearbox can give a nasty jerk as it struggles to match the throttle response, although otherwise it progresses smoothly through its six gears.

Once underway, the car handles confidently and there are no other surprises to catch unsuspecting drivers out.

And drivers can be confident of a sure-footed response with a small wheel between the seats where you can select two or four wheel drive, or choose an automatic mode which drives the front wheels ordinarily but switches to all four, if and when the going gets tough.

Inside, drivers of this model will appreciate standard leather upholstery and automatic dual climate control. The seats were comfortable, offering adjustment in most directions, apart from for the thighs, and are heated for early morning starts in the winter.

The air conditioning, which is supposedly temperature controlled, was a little too cold for my liking but the optional satellite navigation was welcome, as was the reversing camera which proved effective on more than one occasion for manoeuvering into tight spaces.

There was also a full-length glass roof with a retractable cover which gave a light and airy feel but I would have much preferred it if it had opened even half way to allow fresh air and sunshine in at the same time.

But niggles aside, I soon grew to like the Quashqai, fundamentally because it is very easy to live with.

It is spacious, practical and performs well in a variety of situations. As such Nissan has achieved its aim of designing a cross-over' - or a car that possesses universal appeal - and for that it should be congratulated.

NISSAN Qashqai dCi n 0-60 mph: 12 seconds n Top speed: 115 mph n Fuel consumption: 36.2 mpg (combined) n Price: £23,299 Car provided by Sims Nissan, Oxford Motor Park, Kidlington, call 01865 849700,