5 March 2004

Believe it or not, this is very much how the new Nissan Almera will look when it goes on sale late next year. These first pictures of the Qashqai Geneva concept prove that Nissan is deserting the traditional jellymould hatch.

Instead, the Qashqai signals Nissan’s intention to build what it calls a ‘compact crossover’ – looking like a mix between an X-Trail off-roader and a Primera hatch.

‘Buyers of compact crossovers will want enough interior space for their family, the ruggedness of a 4x4, as well as the comfort and ease of driving of a traditional passenger car,’ says the promotional blurb.

It’s certainly distinctive and suggests the production Almera will be more avant-garde than its traditional Focus, Astra and Golf rivals. Although Nissan says ‘it represents an interpretation of how a future model may look’, you can safely assume a less flamboyant design on the production Almera.

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has admitted to Autocar that the current Almera hatch has flopped and sales in western Europe last year fell by 12 per cent.

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The Qashqai show car has four-wheel drive and is the first model to be designed at Nissan’s new London design studio. It has ‘suicide’ rear doors and the lack of B-pillars aids access, while flexible seating lets owners flip between people-carrying and load-carrying.

Qashqai is named after a tribe of migratory herders in Iran and is being shown alongside a Rally Raid Pickup as driven by Colin McRae, Ari Vatanen and Giniel de Villiers in the Dakar rally in January.

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