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Nissan’s star models about to shine

Getting on: Nissan is set to unveil a concept version of its next-generation X-Trail at the Geneva motor show next month, which should replace the current model (pictured) in showrooms around 2013.

Show time approaches for new X-Trail and Pulsar sedan as Nissan builds momentum

7 Feb 2012

TWO of Nissan Australia’s key models in its race to become Australia’s leading full-line importer are set to break cover over the next two months, at the Geneva and Beijing motor shows.

The all-new third-generation X-Trail compact SUV is expected to be one of the Nissan highlights at next month’s annual Swiss extravaganza, where it is set to be shown in concept form, while the sedan version of Nissan’s born-again Pulsar – due in Australia alongside the five-door hatchback in 2013 – is being prepared for China’s biggest auto show of 2012 in April.

The X-Trail and Pulsar will be core products in the new-look Nissan range alongside the new, more car-like Pathfinder to be sourced from the United States from the second half of 2013, as well as the Navara ute and Micra light hatchback and its sedan version, the Almera, that is due in Australia in the middle of this year.

A Maxima replacement sourced from the US is also on the cards, but maybe not until 2014.

So far for Geneva, Nissan has only revealed plans for an all-new light hatchback concept, called Invitation, that is designed to go into combat against the likes of the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta in Europe from 2013.

12 center imageLeft: Next-generation Nissan Pulsar hatch. Below: Invitation concept.

The Invitation appears to be a Europe-only exercise, to supplement the Micra hatch and Juke crossover in that market.

Nissan Australia general manager Jeff Fisher told GoAuto that the concept was “not on our scope right now”.

The super-efficient five-door hatchback is likely to be underpinned by the same European B-segment platform – called V platform in Nissan-Renault Alliance-speak – that will also spawn the all-new Renault Clio, to be revealed later this year at the Paris motor show.

The one-size larger Pulsar – known in China and Japan as the Tiida, and in North America as Versa – was unveiled in five-door hatch form at the 2011 Shanghai motor show in China, where it is already on sale.

The long-awaited sedan version – which might have been delayed by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan – is now set to break cover under Tiida badges at Bejing, a year after the hatch.

Powered by a choice of turbo-charged or normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engines, the new Pulsar is due to arrive in Australian showrooms in a staggered launch in early 2013 as a replacement for the slow-selling Tiida, becoming a critical plank in Nissan Australia managing director Dan Thompson’s plan to propel his company to import leadership, ahead of current champion Mazda.

When it arrives, the Pulsar will shoulder much of the small-car load now carried by the Dualis, which will then take more of a back seat as a niche model in the Nissan range.

Also central to this Nissan growth plan is the new X-Trail, which is expected to turn up at Geneva alongside the Invitation.

The current X-Trail – also built on the Nissan’s B-segment small-car platform – was revealed at the 2007 Geneva show before going on sale later that year, and if Nissan follows the same script, X-Trail again will appear in Switzerland before arriving in European showrooms as a 2013 model.

That means it is likely to hit Australia in 2013, which is shaping up as huge year for new Nissan product.

The current X-Trail is Australia’s third best-selling compact SUV, just behind the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4, having enjoyed a healthy 23.5 per cent sales growth in 2011, to 12,089 vehicles for the 12 months to December 31.

In the Nissan stable, X-Trail is the second biggest seller behind Navara (21,675), and ahead of both Micra (9509) and Dualis (9214).

The new model will be tasked with taking compact SUV leadership, while the Pulsar target is a top-three sales position in the small-car segment currently dominated by the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and Holden Cruze.

Last year, Nissan came third behind Mazda and Hyundai in the battle of the importers, with a 7.3 per cent market share compared with Mazda’s 8.9 per cent and Hyundai’s 8.3.

It remains to be seen if the new Invitation light car could be squeezed into the Australian range alongside the Micra/Almera, presuming it is available and the business case stacks up.

More stylish than any of the other Nissan small and light cars, the Invitiation is said to achieve class-leading levels of fuel efficiency and emissions.

“Nissan is aiming for an ultra-low CO2 emission target of under 100g/km for the most frugal model and with all versions eligible to wear Nissan’s Pure Drive badge,” the company says in its media release ahead of the Geneva show.

Details of the powertrain line-up have not been revealed, but the concept will be endowed with an ‘around-view monitor’ (AVM), providing a bird’s-eye view of car for ease of parking, and safety technologies that Nissan calls ‘safety shield’.

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