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Geneva show: Nissan previews baby Dualis

Bug eyes: The Nissan Qazana is a London take on a new-generation crossover.

Nissan Europe designers present the concept for a small UK-built crossover vehicle

4 Mar 2009

NISSAN’S London-based European design studio has created a concept vehicle that aims to “reshape the small five-door” as early as next year, and the result was unveiled overnight at the Geneva motor show.

The Nissan Qazana is said to preview a small crossover that will be built at the company’s Sunderland factory in the UK as a baby brother to the Qashqai, which is sold as the Dualis in Australia and is also built at Sunderland.

Production is scheduled for mid-2010, when Micra production is expected to cease at Sunderland, and the company told the BBC it would secure as many as 2000 jobs at the plant and with local suppliers.

In an official statement issued in Geneva, even Nissan Design Europe vice-president Alfonso Albaisa said the Qazana’s significance should not be underestimated.

“Qazana is a concept car and was created specifically for the Geneva Motor Show ... but it should not be dismissed as just a design study,” said Mr Albaisa. “It gives a clear direction of how a future small car from Nissan could look.” Mr Albaisa said that “cars have been dull for too long” and that the Qazana was a “non-conformist car that shows that mind-numbing motoring could be a thing of the past”.

“When it comes to design, Nissan has developed a reputation for constantly delivering something different.

“The global success of Qashqai has proven that the car buying public is fed up with the conventional … but we are not prepared to sit on our laurels.

“Qazana might seem a radical solution, but important elements of the concept do point to a future Nissan production vehicle.”

12 center imageAlthough the Qazana appears to have only two doors, it also features a pair of Mazda RX-8-style rear-hinged “half doors” to provide clear access to the rear seats, unencumbered by B-pillars. All of the doors are electrically operated.

Nissan issued no technical details for the Qazana, other than it is 4060mm in length, 1570mm tall, 1780 wide and has a wheelbase of 2530mm.

Compared with the Tiida hatchback, the crossover – which Nissan describes as an alternative to the traditional family hatchback – is 145mm shorter overall and sits on a 70mm shorter wheelbase, but it is 35mm taller and 85mm wider than Nissan’s current small car.

Nissan describes the car as “an intelligent, all-wheel drive crossover which is masculine, agile, lean, and designed for the tough city streets”, like a modern day beach buggy or a four-seat motorcycle.

Qazana lead designer Matt Weaver said it was designed to be sophisticated but fun and that, “in the same way that Nissan re-wrote the rule-book when it introduced Qashqai two years ago, so Qazana is ready to do it again”.

“It’s a hugely optimistic car, which is no bad thing in these difficult times,” said Mr Weaver.

“Had it been created in the 1960s, it would have counted camper vans, bikes and buggies as its rivals. Infused with that same spirit, there’s nothing quite like it available today.

“Qazana follows in Qashqai’s wheel tracks by challenging convention.

“Externally, Qazana adds a number of existing Nissan design cues – including a variation on the ‘boomerang’ rear light theme from 370Z – to a highly distinctive shape that’s unlike anything else in the company’s current design portfolio.” Mr Weaver said that the Qazana mixes SUV and sportscar styling cues, with a tall stance, truncated rear styling and short front and rear overhangs to create a feeling of robustness and strength, while the low roofline, an assertive side window graphic and broad shoulders hint at a sporting ability he believes is absent in traditional all-wheel drives.

At the same time, rounded elements – notably the wheel arches and bonnet – are designed to evoke a friendly ambiance and provide a link with existing Nissan crossovers, with a rising window line at the rear that is also found on Murano and Qashqai/Dualis.

Nissan claims the glasshouse, with a high waistline and slim side windows, resembles a crash helmet visor and echoes a style first seen on Mixim, Nissan’s electric coupe concept shown at the 2007 Frankfurt Show.

Two thin glass inserts run the full length of the roof, allowing slithers of natural light into the cabin.

The prominent flared wheelarches include soft rubber spats around the edges make the 20-inch black chrome alloy wheels look much smaller.

While the front of the car has a bug-eyed look with its big rally-style main headlights set within the bumper, the rear is dominated by a venturi-style skid plate. Daylight running strips are mounted high on the wings on either side of the bonnet.

Interestingly, no air passes through the one-piece acrylic grille. Instead, cooling air passes to the radiator through the five large holes located in the lower graphite-coloured portion of the bumper.

The centrally mounted touch-screen that dominates will deliver vital information relating to Nissan’s next-generation fully electronic four-wheel drive system as well as controlling the sat-nav, ventilation, communications and other vehicle systems.

Interior designer Paul Ray, a keen motorcycle rider, said he was inspired by bike design and shaped the centre console and armrest like the fuel tank and seat of a sports bike.

Rather than completely enveloping the carbon-fibre seats in leather, elements of the lightweight seat structure appear to have ‘broken through’ the covering. Similarly, the metal sections of the centre console seem to have forced their way through the leather covering while the internal door-frame is part exposed so that the door pull appears to be hewn from solid metal.

“I enjoy the sensation of being at one with my bike and wanted to capture that feeling in Qazana,” said Mr Ray. “The way the structure appears through the fabric of the interior also reflects motorcycle design and construction.”

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