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Geneva show: Nissan aims Hi

Hi-Cross SUV sets the style for Nissan’s next-gen crossovers, including X-Trail

7 Mar 2012


NISSAN’S Hi-Cross concept that appeared at the Geneva motor show overnight is not so much a precursor to the next X-Trail but to all the Japanese company’s next-generation crossover vehicles.

Murano, Dualis and Juke are also likely to take styling cues from the Hi-Cross, with its soft lines and bright chrome V-shaped grille.

Nevertheless, the Hi-Cross is an almost perfect fit size-wise for the X-Trail, which is due for replacement in 2013.

It may also become a single-model replacement for both the X-Trail and Murano, alongside the new, softer Pathfinder that will be imported from the United States from late 2013.

The Hi-Cross was one of two world debutantes on the Nissan stand at Geneva, with the other a concept premium light car called Invitation – at least for now – that Nissan has confirmed will go into production at its UK plant in Sunderland.

Of most immediate interest to Australian car buyers is the Hi-Cross, which Nissan Australia managing director Dan Thompson described as “a mix of a lot of future crossover products”.

12 center imageLeft: Nissan Hi-Cross concept. Below: Nissan Invitation.

If it does translate into X-Trail as expected, it could mark the arrival of hybrid technology and seven-seat accommodation in the Nissan compact SUV, which last year was the third-best-selling compact SUV in Australia.

Mitsubishi’s all-new Outlander, which was also revealed in Geneva, also boasts these attributes, signalling a major elevation of both vehicles in terms of technology, family practicality and – in fully-equipped models – potential cost.

While the Outlander hybrid drivetrain is a plug-in system, the Nissan equivalent in the Hi-Cross is a conventional hybrid system that charges its lithium-ion batteries – taken from the Nissan Leaf electric car – by regenerative braking.

However, Nissan executive vice-president Andy Palmer said the system was based on new technology derived from Nissan front-wheel-drive models, modified for four-wheel drive.

He said the “one-motor, two-clutch” system was mated to Nissan’s latest continuously variable transmission (CVT) for better fuel economy.

“In short, the Hi-Cross offers you the performance potential of a 2.5-litre with the fuel economy and emissions of a much smaller car,” he said.

Mr Palmer said the lithium-ion battery was coupled to a 2.0-litre supercharged direct-injection petrol engine.

The two-clutch system means the petrol engine can be disengaged from the CVT, allowing the vehicle to run on electric power alone.

The three-row interior accommodates seven, with a fold-away third row like those usually found in bigger SUVs and people-movers.

Mr Palmer told GoAuto that the size of the Hi-Cross indicated a vehicle that was a little too big for Europe, but more acceptable for markets such as Asia, South America and Australia. In other words, X-Trail territory.

Big 21-inch wheels are unlikely to make it into production – at least as a standard item – but the characteristic V-shaped Nissan grille will, most likely with the accompanying new headlamps.

Nissan says “potential new design language” is evident in the ‘character line’ extending from the bonnet down the flanks to the D-pillar.

Less likely for Australia – at least in the short term – is the Nissan Invitation, a Honda Jazz-like five-door hatchback built on the same V platform as the Micra hatch and its sedan sibling, the Almera.

The Invitation is likely to lose that name when it goes into production in the UK in the middle of next year.

The car will be a step above Micra in technology and equipment levels, and will be aimed at European hatchbacks such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.

Mr Thompson told GoAuto that Australia was likely to stick with Micra – now imported from Indonesia – and the upcoming Almera sedan, as they were a better fit for the price-sensitive Australian market.

He said the arrival of the Invitation was a good example of the quandary thrown up by Nissan’s expanding global product line-up – which models to take.

That quandary might get harder, as Mr Palmer did not rule out Invitation production at plants other than Sunderland, saying that, because it was built on Nissan’s widely used V platform, it could be produced in places such as China, Japan and Thailand.

Thai production would put the car in Australia’s backyard.

Nissan claims the Invitation will be the first car in its class to get an ‘around-view monitor’ reversing and parking system, as applied to vehicles such as Infiniti luxury SUVs.

Nissan’s Safety Shield warning system will also be available.

No powertrain details were provided in Geneva, but Nissan said the car would offer class-leading fuel economy thanks to light body construction, a fuel-efficient powertrain and effective aerodynamics.

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