Cars - The Naked Truth - December 2017
An essay by Nigel Cooper
I’ve written this essay to bust a few common myths and misconceptions on various aspects of buying and owning a car. I’ve focused on some of the most common topics that pop up during ‘car’ conversations. Quite often when the below topics come up in conversation majority of the people I speak to get it wrong, have the wrong information or simply go along with what everybody else (who also typically impart incorrect information) has been saying for years. One typical example is the old, ‘Buy a diesel car, you’ll save so much money on fuel,’ which, in most cases (those who drive less than 20,000 miles per year, which is most of us) is incorrect.
Below I cover the topics of: Auto vs Manual, Petrol vs Diesel, German cars vs Ford & Vauxhall, and a final note on so-called Japanese cars. My views are carefully considered and well researched.
AUTOMATIC VS MANUAL
It seems to me that most people are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to knowledge of automatic and manual cars and when I ask them, ‘Why do you drive a manual car?’ the answer is always something along the lines of, ‘I like being in control.’ Yeah right. I’ve sat in cars with these drivers and witnessed the way they drive: they leave it too late before changing gear allowing the engine to rev too high, simply encouraging gaskets to blow, valve guides and piston rings to wear prematurely, not to mention untold other engine damage. Or there are those who change gear too soon, when the revs are too low, which can be detrimental and damaging to the mechanics of the car for a whole multitude of other reasons. Then they don’t bother changing down through the gears when approaching traffic lights, instead they just knock that gearstick into neutral and let the car ‘coast’ up to the traffic lights hence not in ‘control’ of anything. Fact: if a car is not in gear and is coasting the road grip and steering are compromised as there is no power going to the drive wheels and, god forbid, if you have to do an emergency stop while not in gear the car is practically going to do a waltz all over the road, which could lead to an accident, especially if you are ‘coasting’ around a corner when this happens.
Next, these ill-informed people will through the old, ‘Ah, but automatics are unreliable.’ Again, this is totally wrong and I have to scratch my head and wonder when I hear this ridiculous comment. Don’t these so-called expert ‘manual’ car drivers stop to think about the mechanics of a gearbox – be it auto or manual – for one second? If they did they would realise that a) the days of the DAFF auto box or silly 3-speed auto boxes when out with the Ark, no respectable car maker has used such silly auto boxes since the 1980s. These days automatic gearboxes utilise 6, 7 and even 8 speed technology and some – VW and Audi for example – use DSG (direct-shift gearbox) technology that uses two internal clutches. This basically means that you don’t feel the gear change at all because there is a second clutch spinning away in anticipation of the next gear. This also means that the fuel economy on DSG auto boxes is better than the manual counterpart.
As for reliability, well, manual drivers know this. Your manual car has a whole arsenal of things that can – and do – go wrong. For a start there is the clutch, why do you think there are so many clutch companies out there, the likes of Mr Clutch and various other clutch centres, you guessed it, because clutches wear out every few years. Then you have a more sophisticated ‘pedal box’ which can break because of the added clutch element and can cost anywhere from £700 to £1,800 to replace. Then there is the synchromesh and the selector mechanism; the latter mechanical part breaks more than you might think. Oh yes, I almost forgot, the gearbox itself ;) Basically, there are five major things that can go wrong with a manual gearbox. If you drive an automatic car there is one thing that can go wrong and one thing only, the gearbox; that’s it.
Besides, who wants the hassle and inconvenience of having to mess about with that gear stick and clutch pedal, having to constantly use your left arm and left leg like that? It’s only in the UK that we are obsessed with making life difficult for ourselves, our friends across the pond get it, we should too considering we Europeans practically invented the bloody car – Germany in around 1885 if you must know. I don’t even think America had been invented at that time ;)
Still not convinced? Well think about this next time you find yourself approaching a roundabout with your right hand on the steering wheel and a nice drive-through cheeseburger in your left. As you approach the roundabout and enter it and start to turn right and feel that fifth gear is just too damn high and the car is about to stall and you have to reach for that damned gearstick to change down to third or second. You’ll have a few options here, a) you can squash your cheeseburger into the gearstick as you struggle to change, wrecking your meal. b) You can balance the junky burger on your left knee (yes, it has to be left because your holding the cheeseburger with your left), but then when you press the clutch pedal the up/down movement of said knee topples your burger into the footwall, where it will almost certainly get covered in dust, filth and all sorts of other crap as manual car drivers don’t tend to vacuum their cars. You get my point here. I really can’t think of a single tangible reason for driving a manual car.
And, as a final point, there was a point when Porsche didn’t make the 911 Turbo in manual, you could only get it as an automatic. This is also the case with many sports cars and it’s certainly the case with formula 1 racing cars, why? Well, imagine for one second that you own a fast sports car that does 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds. Now, if that car had a 6 speed manual gearbox and it takes approximately half a second to press the clutch, shift the gear, bring the clutch up to biting point and accelerate, well, you do the math, six gear at half a second each, that will take you 3 seconds just to do the gear change, while all that shifting and clutching is going on the engine and gearbox are not connected hence you are waiting time and not actually ‘accelerating’ at all, which means your 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds would be impossible to achieve as this would leave just .8 of a second to get from 0 to 60. In reality, it would take you – well, not you as you are not a professional racing driver like Lewis Hamilton – closer to 6.8 seconds, but realistically, because you’re not a professional, probably 8 seconds. This is why the Porsche 911 Turbo is preferred in Auto with a DSG gearbox that can change quicker than a hooker going for a ‘most clients in 24-hours’ world record. Basically, quicker and more efficiently than you or I – or even Lewis Hamilton – ever could. Moreover, most BMW cars from the 5 series up and most Jaguar and larger Mercedes are only available as automatics.
Oh, ok, this is definitely the final point and it is for those learner drivers, or more to the point, their friends who say, ‘Don’t learn in an automatic because you won’t be able to drive a manual.’ Oh My God, what a silly answer. Well, here’s what I’ve got to say to those guys. Where in the world does it say that once you take, and pass, your test in an automatic car that you can’t later – perhaps a year later when you’ve got some driving experience under your belt – that you can’t to and take your test again in a manual car to add the ‘manual’ category to your licence? Not that anybody in their right mind would want to move over into the depressing world of manual cars when they have experienced the luxury and comfort of driving an automatic.
PETROL VS DIESEL
The topic of petrol vs diesel is almost as clear-cut as the auto vs manual above. When a friend of mine proudly shows me their brand new diesel car and I ask, ‘Why did you buy a diesel and not a petrol?’ the answers I get are always the same, absolutely laughable. Most diesel drivers are totally deluded and totally ill-informed and they are the same people who will ask the car salesman to choose the colour of their cars for them. I’ve even been into car dealers myself, all makes and models, and asked, ‘Should I buy a diesel or a petrol,’ and the answer I get is equality laughable. The salesman will typically say, ‘If you do more than 12,000 miles per year, buy a diesel.’ Well, this is a total load of twaddle. As for my friends who buy diesel cars and say, ‘They are cheaper to run and you get better mpg,’ (miles per gallon), well, I’ve never heard such talk. Don’t these people know that there are two sides to every coin? What these people don’t realise is that while – during their pitiful 12,000 miles per year (the national average done by your average driver) they might be saving approximately £600 to £900 per year in fuel, they are paying out waaaaaaaay more than that in other areas. Ok, the car salesman who says, ‘If you drive more than 12,000 miles per year, buy a diesel,’ is so wrong for the following reasons. First up, most people who do the national average millage are doing mostly town and B-road driving, which is very bad for diesel engines, and in turn, gearboxes. Here’s why. Diesel cars have a few very expensive components to them, components that petrol cars do not have such as a DMF (duel mass flywheel, in the case of manual cars, Automatic cars don’t have a DMF, they have a torque converter in the gearbox itself, even more reason for not driving a manual). The DMF is a large mechanical part that goes between the engine and the manual gearbox, if it was not there the gearbox would break because the torque that comes out of a diesel engine is so strong it would rip through the cogs and mechanical parts of the manual gearbox. So, the DMF acts as a cushion between the engine’s extreme torque and the delicate manual gearbox. But, if you primarily do town and B-road driving the DMF is going to get a lot of action and every time you change gear the large springs inside the DMF get stretched, worked and put under extreme pressure and, eventually (typically about 25,000 of town driving) it will give up the ghost and will need to be replaced at a cost of anywhere from £700 to £1,500. So, already, that money you saved in mpg has already been swallowed up by the other evil hand of diesel.
Next, since the government decided that all that horrible black smoke that used to come out of the exhausts pipes of diesel cars was bad for the environment car manufacturers were forced to do something about it. So, they came up with the ‘particle filter’ which is supposed to burn up – internally – excess carbons that come from diesel fuel, which they do, but only while driving in access of about 60 mph and for a sustained amount of driving, say more than 30 miles without any stops and without dropping the speed below 50. So, if you primarily do town and b-road driving the particulate filter will ‘clog up’ as the diesel engine and filter cannot self-absorb the co2 emissions. When this happens, and it will, the particle filter will set you back between £900 and £1,500 every couple of years.
Ok, next, instead of good old fashioned spark plugs – like those found in petrol cars – at a cost of £1.75 each (even for decent Bosch ones) diesel cars use four glow-plugs instead, costing around £175 each, and these need replacing every third service so you’ll be spending about £500 every three years on these, instead of £6 per year on regular spark plugs that us wise petrol-heads use.
Next up are the parts and servicing. Parts are generally much more expensive for diesel cars, and there are more parts involved and more complex stuff that goes with it compared to petrol cars. Diesel cars are also unreliable compared to petrol cars so they will be in the garage more often, and cost more to fix when they are.
Still not convinced. Ok, they say that diesel engine technology has come a long way since the clattery, noisy old oil-burners from the 70s and 80s – not so. Today they sound just as noisy and clattery as they ever did. If a friend of mine pulls up outside my house in a diesel car – even a modern one – he doesn’t have to honk the horn to alert me that he’s there, I can hear it like a WW2 Sherman Tank as it rattles and clatters onto my drive, and I’m talking brand new BMWs here.
They sound like old black London cabs, always have, always will. Seriously, you should only consider buying a diesel car if you drive more than 25,000 (absolute minimum) miles per year and, more importantly, that at least 80% of that is motorway driving for reasons explained above i.e. town driving and B-road and a diesel car is a very bad combination indeed.
Why or why would you want to drive a noisy, ratty tatty horrible diesel car that is unreliable and cost a fortune to repair and maintain when you can have a proper petrol car, as driven by those who know?
GERMAN VS FORD & VAUXHALL
I’ve left the best until last. Just recently I bought a 4-year old Vauxhall Astra because it was the top of the range ‘Elite’ model and it came up really cheap so I snapped it up. Before this I have always driven: BMW (loads of them, 3 series, 5 series, 7 series, Z4’s, the lot), Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar etc. Basically, decent, well-built cars that are a privilege to drive; oh, the ‘badge’ is a bonus too.
So, the question here is, why do people bother to buy cars made by Ford and Vauxhall (Peugeot, Citroen, Renault Fiat or Kia come to that) when you could be driving a nice BMW, Audi or Golf? Ok, I know what you’re thinking, the ‘cost’ right? You’re probably thinking that BMW, Audi and Golf are expensive to buy, run, maintain and that the parts cost a fortune right? Wrong, this is far from the truth.
I’ve only had my Astra a little over a month now. It is the first Vauxhall I’ve owned, and it will be the last, for the following reasons. A few bits have gone wrong on this relatively low mileage car, the ‘pedal box’ for example has developed some sideways play on the clutch (yes, it’s a manual, after all that stuff I said about manual cars being crap, well, I thought I’d buy the car because it was so cheap, a decision I now regret). This little bit of sideways play is simply down to a rubber washer at the top of the clutch pedal that has perished, but my local (or any) Vauxhall dealer can’t simply repair it because the pedal boxes on most modern Vauxhall cars are ‘sealed units’ which means, throw them away and replace them. Now, the part is just shy of £600 and, because the dashboard, steering wheel and steering column all have to come out just to get to the damn thing, the labour is costly. My local Murketts Vauxhall dealer charge £90 per hour labour, plus vat, and it takes four hours to do the job I’ve been quoted £1,100 to sort out a little bit of play in the clutch pedal. Now, my point here is that BMW and Audi and VW cars don’t have ‘sealed unit’ pedal boxes so if this fault developed on one of those German cars it is simply a case of replacing the rubber grommet or washer, the part costing less than £5. And, you don’t have to pull half the car apart to get to it either so the total cost would be less than half of the Vauxhall equivalent repair. I was surprised that most Vauxhall dealers charge between £90 and £100 plus vat per hour labour so I got down to some research to see how Vauxhall prices compared to the likes of BMW, Audi and VW. Oh, to be fair, I threw Ford into the mix too. Here are my findings.
I made several phone calls to: Audi, VW, BMW, Ford and Vauxhall under the pretence of being a customer with a car that needed some bits and pieces doing to it. For example, when I phoned Audi I told them I had a 4-year old TT, when I phoned BMW I told them I had a 330, for VW I had a Golf and for Ford and Vauxhall I had a Focus and an Astra. I gave them the exact year and model of each car and asked for quotes, here are the results as of September 2016.
Audi TT 2.0 TFSI as quoted by Vindis (main dealer) Audi in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Hourly labour £115 inc vat
Full service (major 3 year) £345.28 inc parts, labour and vat
Head gasket £1,596.44 inc parts, labour and vat
Water pump £590.09 all inclusive
Air con compressor £760.63 all inclusive
Front discs and pads £299 inc vat and labour
Nearside front headlamp £338.65 all in
New key £231.58 including coding
Audi TT 2.0 TFSI S Stronic as quoted by Quattro-Tech (independent Audi service specialist) in St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Hourly labour £54 plus vat
Full service (major) £259 inc parts, labour and vat
Head gasket £698 inc parts, labour and vat
Water pump £399 all inclusive
Air con compressor £450 all inclusive
Front discs and pads £199 inc vat and labour
Nearside front headlamp £250 all in
New key £230.58 including coding
Volkswagen Golf Mk6 1.4 TFSI manual as quoted by Vindis (main dealer) Audi in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Hourly labour £100 plus vat
Full service (major) £329.00 inc vat
Head gasket £1,500 inc vat 12.5 hours labour. Bots, inlet gasket, oil, filter, coolant etc
Water pump £399 including parts and 3.5 hours labour
Air con compressor £544.51 inc vat, parts and labour
Front discs and pads £259 inc vat and fitting
Front pads £149 inc vat and fitting
Nearside front headlamp £173.58 1.5 hours to do
New key £138.83, coding is £67.20 extra: total £206.03
BMW 116 as quoted by Barons BMW (main dealer) in Cambourne, Cambridge
Hourly labour £117 plus vat
Full service (major) £344.80 inc vat
Head gasket £1,048 plus vat
Water pump £509.26 plus vat
Air con compressor £919.38 plus vat
Front discs and pads £346.39 inc vat and parts
Front pads £169.00 inc vat and fitting
Nearside front headlamp £381.64
New key £167.78 inc vat
Ford Focus 1.6 manual as quoted by TC Harrison Ford (main dealer) in St Neots, Cambridgeshire
Hourly labour £102 inc vat
Full service (major) £275 inc vat and parts
Head gasket (fitted) £1,203, inc parts and vat
Water pump £439 inc vat and fitting
Air con compressor £610 inc vat and fitting
Front discs and pads £217 inc parts and vat and fitting
Front pads £99 inc labour and vat
Nearside front headlamp £204.84 inc vat and fitting
New key £185.64 supplied and programmed
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 manual as quoted by Murketts Vauxhall (main dealer) Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Hourly labour £90 plus vat
Full service (major) £339 inc vat and parts
Head gasket (fitted) £778.38 inc parts and vat
Water pump £203.11 inc vat, parts and fitting
Air con compressor £1,388.40 inc vat and fitting, or re-con £843.40
Front discs and pads £313.20 inc parts and vat and fitting
Nearside front headlamp £295.20 inc vat and fitting
New key £177.60 supplied and programmed
As you can see, these servicing, repairs and parts costs – when comparing Vauxhall and Ford to Audi, BMW and VW – are not that far apart. The hourly labour rates of all are approximately the same, all around the £100 mark, give or take £10 from genuine dealers. As for a ‘major’ service (every three years) they are all around the £350 price point, again, give or take £20 or so. As for parts, well, as you can see there isn’t that much difference there either. Front brake discs and pads for example, are coming in at around £300, give or take £40, so not a gross difference. For the most part, yes, the German marques are a little more expensive, around 10 to 15% on average, but there are a few instances where Vauxhall are more expensive such as the air conditioning compressor (these pack up about every 5 or 6 years) which, on the Astra cost £1,388 to replace, although Vauxhall will offer a reconditioned unit for £843. But when you compare that to the £590 for an Audi TT or £544 for a Golf and even the pricy BMW compressor at £919 is still cheaper than the Vauxhall. For the record, an air-con compressor for a Ford Focus cost £610, which is more than the one for an Audi TT or a VW Golf.
The above list is kind of brief, but I have a more extensive list and every few days I phone all these dealers and add a few more items to it and it makes for shocking reading. Basically, based on about 40 quotes for 40 different jobs the top marque cars such as: BMW, Audi, VW, Mercedes and Jaguar are – for about 80% of the spares and jobs – only about 10% more expensive than Vauxhall and Ford, for the other 20% of the jobs and parts both Vauxhall and Ford were surprisingly more expensive than the top marques. So, across the board, all these cars cost about the same in servicing, repairs and parts. At the end of the day, when it comes to a service (minor or major) the sundries – engine oil, gearbox oil, brake fluid, antifreeze/coolant, windscreen washer detergent, spark plugs, oil filters, air filters, fuel filters and the like – cost the same, regardless of what car they are going in and if Audi, VW, BMW, Ford and Vauxhall all charge similar servicing fees and hourly labour rates it really does beg the question, why bother with an inferior car with a dull oval badge or a griffin on the front?
It could be argued that once any given car is out of its three year warrantee period many people won’t bother using franchised dealerships for their servicing anymore, instead choosing a good local independent mechanic, or specialist in BMW, VAG group cars, or just a local mechanic. But, the price difference between the German marques and the Ford and Vauxhalls of the world, remains the same, little to no difference, only it gets cheaper. Instead of the £100 per hour labour rates of the franchised dealers, or should I say, ‘stealers’, you’ll probably be paying £50 or so, per hour, be it a BMW, Audi, Merc, Ford of Vauxhall. I have a local BMW specialist and another Audi specialist and both these garages charge £50 per hour labour and their parts (genuine OEM) are a little cheaper too. But basically, the price difference is still little to none as the independent local mechanic will still be charging £50 per hour to fix your old Ford of Vauxhall.
Now, you might be thinking that the fuel economy and the TAX will be more for the German counterparts, not so. In some cases, BMW, Audi and Golf are more economical and cheaper on tax when comparing like-for-like. For example, a VW Golf and an Audi A3 petrol automatic cars are better on fuel then similar sized engine in a Ford Focus or a Vauxhall Astra and the TAX is exactly the same. Even if you compare a Mercedes A-class to a Vauxhall Astra or a Ford Focus, the mpg and tax are on an equal footing; I’m talking petrol cars here, but comparing diesel (if you really must go down that route) yields similar comparison results.
Ok, so you’re thinking, ‘But, the German cars cost more to buy new.’ Well, you’d be surprised, with the BMW, Audi and Mercedes, perhaps a little more, but for good reason, they are better built and use better quality components. But a VW Golf new is similar to a Ford Focus and is in fact cheaper than a new Vauxhall Astra. And, if you are looking at second hand, well, things even up. You can do a search on AutoTrader and see for yourself. A two-year old BMW 3 series with 20,000 miles on the clock is, on average, the same price as a two-year old similarly specked two-year old Ford Mondeo with similar mileage. At time of writing, a two-year old 3 series and a two-year old Mondeo, both with 15,000 miles on the clock are, on average, £19,000 each.
Personally, I would rather buy a BMW or an Audi (premium brands) over a Ford of Vauxhall, after all, they cost the same and the Audi and BMW will get you the distance, they will last longer and wear better and, more importantly, are much nicer and more refined cars to drive. Vauxhall and Ford basically start to fall apart once they hit about 6 years old due to the lacklustre build quality and their use of cheaper parts (plastic pedal stems for example, where the German car makers use metal). Basically, once a Ford or Vauxhall get to five or six years old things start to rattle, squeak, clank and generally fall apart, whereas the German counterparts do not and will go on for hundreds of thousands of miles (if maintained and serviced regularly). And, as a bonus, you get a badge too, if you’re into all that whole, ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ philosophy.
This begs the question, why oh why do the British public still buy Vauxhall and Ford cars, well, here is my theory. It certainly isn’t’ the build quality or the refined driving experience. No, it’s because most of the buying public are stuck in the past. Back in the 1980 Vauxhall and Ford were the choice of corporate fleets and the were loved by Britain’s ‘reps’ because they were – back then – cheaper to run and maintain hence it cost companies a lot less money than it would to run a fleet of premium brand cars. But, this is no longer the case. You see, over the past 30-years Vauxhall and Ford have been quietly ramping up those hourly labour rates, servicing costs and parts costs to the point that they are almost matching the German cars now, but they have been very quiet and very sneaky in the way they have achieved this. They have got ideas above their stations and they genuinely think their cars are just as good as the Germans, but we know better.
So, from my extensive research and many phone calls I cannot fathom a single reason to buy a Vauxhall or a Ford when you could be driving a car with a propeller or four rings on the front for the same money, the same money to own, service, repair and maintain. There are no cost differences now between Vauxhall and Ford and the German makes such as BMW, Audi and VW. Ask yourself this, why do so many companies lease BMW 1 series cars by the thousand these days, all those BMW cars on the road, majority are company cars, why? Two reasons, one, a company man pulling up for a meeting in a BMW 5 series is going to have more credibility than one who pulls up in a Vauxhall Insignia, but, most importantly, they both cost about the same to run, service and maintain.
Here, I’m going to digress momentarily while I speak about what value Vauxhall put on their own cars. I have just recently sold my 2001 (5 years old at time of writing) Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Elite in mint condition with 42,000 miles on the clock to a local independent car dealer. The story (and it’s a short story, I promise) goes something like this. I punched in my car details onto the webuyanycar.com website, describing it accurately: service history, condition, mileage, previous owners, etc, to which I was advised of a £4,550 valuation. So, I trotted along to my local webuyanycar depot (which, in my case, is Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire) and a young lady spent five minutes examining my car before returning to the office to punch in some details of her own into her computer. Now, I’m an intelligent guy so I had a good idea what was coming as she had a look on her face, that ‘look’ of worry that she probably gets ten times per day when she knows she’s going to have to give a significantly lower quote to the one I had at home, and the angry reaction that would follow. The said lady told me my car was worth £4,000 due to an bumper and a couple of fingerprints on the windscreen, which would require a team of experts several hours to clean off, obviously. So, after I expressed a few profanities I left and on my way back home I popped in to a local independent garage and asked if they’d be interested in buying my car. They were, I was offered £4,500 on the spot. I was more than happy with this, considering I’d had an advert on Auto Trader advertising it for £4,500 without so much as a sniff.
Now, the strange thing is, a few days earlier I’d taken my Astra to my local Vauxhall dealership – Murketts of Huntingdon – to ask if they’d be interested in buying my car. One of their salesman inspected the car and jotted down some notes on his form and told me he’d be in touch. He did get in touch, but a few hours after I’d already sold my Astra to a local independent. When I answered the phone I didn’t tell him I’d already sold it, well, I was curious as to what they would have offered me. I was told that he’d be happy to buy my car for £3,600. The moral of this story is that Vauxhall cars are so bad that even Vauxhall don’t want them back.
Ok, digression over, back to the point. There is perhaps one (quite pathetic) reason to buy a Vauxhall or Ford over a German car, you’re supporting the British car industry right? Well, most Fords are made in Belgium or Spain nowadays and although Vauxhall do have a plant up north, even they have just invested in a nice factory in Poland. Besides, there are not enough British people left in Britain to give a crap about supporting the British worker, of which there are few. So, there you have it, take a tip from the late Lady Diana Spencer and go and spend your hard earned money on a nice Mercedes-Benz.
A FINAL NOTE
This one’s regarding Japanese cars and the people who buy them because they are ‘Japanese’. I’m astonished at how many Nissan Qashqai’s (or Kumquat’s as James May calls them) I see on the road (lots of them Diesel, but let’s not go there). Now, I’m sure most Qashqai owners bought there cars based on the fact that they are Japanese and very reliable; not so. If you live in Japan and buy a Qashqai in Japan then there is a good chance it will have been made in Japan. But, if you live anywhere in Europe (UK included) and buy a Qashqai anywhere in Europe it would have been made in sunny Sunderland in the north of England, why? Because why would Nissan want to spend a fortune on shipping costs getting their cars half way around the world to Europe, not to mention tax and other import/export duties. So, they simply set up a factory in Sunderland and have them knocked out here instead. For the record, the Nissan Qashqai has proved to be one of the most unreliable cars built in recent years.
Honda are the same, any Honda bought in Europe would have been built in Swindon, England. Although Honda are slightly better than Nissan in the reliability stakes. There is a reason that Nissan and Honda are not as reliable as they were back in the 80s when they were all made in Japan, regardless of world market. The fact is, the Japanese are just that little bit more fastidious (like the Germans) than the British when it comes to building cars, especially when it comes to the complicated electronics and the computer side of modern cars. So basically, Nissan and Honda are about as Japanese as the Queen of England. A BMW is more Japanese than a Nissan or a Honda; geographically Germany is closer to Japan than England is ;)