Nissan's licence to move the Qashqai crossover even further left-field will be granted by the introduction of a conventional five-door family hatchback next year.

The new hatch will cement the firm’s move back into the car market’s mainstream.

Designed exclusively for Europe, it is based on the latest ‘Alliance-C’ platform and is set to be built at Nissan’s Barcelona plant.

The new car will combine what product planning chief Andy Palmer calls “conventional but beautiful” design with carefully polished, secure dynamics.

“It’s not a VW Golf, but it’ll give you a similar, secure impression from behind the wheel,” said Palmer.

“I was careful that we didn’t announce the project until I’d personally signed off the suspension tuning,” he added. “What we’ve got is something very precise and predictable — relaxing to drive. But it’s also got some of the handling satisfaction you get from a Ford Focus.”

The move back into the middle ground is inevitable for Nissan, as Palmer sees it. “We’re on course to break through five per cent market share in Europe very soon and — while we make most cars for Europe right here in Europe — to become the continent’s biggest Asian brand.

“We’re at the point where we can’t continue to grow unless we re-enter the biggest segments. “Our hope is that beauty, rationality and handling polish will sell our mainstream offerings, while daring, originality and flair sells the ‘character’ crossovers.”