New concept previews an Infiniti rival for the BMW 1-series and Audi A3

Infiniti’s Etherea is an example of an increasingly rare breed - the purely conceptual concept car.

It will be 2014 “at the earliest” before Infiniti launches into the European market dominated by the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series, but the Geneva study is an exceptionally thorough and carefully considered stab at building a distinctly Japanese compact premium car.

Under the conceptual skin is today’s Renault-Nissan Megane family platform, but the real, 4.4m-long, car is expected to be based on an upmarket version of the next-generation version of this architecture. In theory, this concept is built around a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain, which uses a 2.5-litre, four cylinder engine, a CVT transmission and a lithium-ion battery pack.

Infiniti’s designers have attempted to create a package that is unlike anything else on the market. Brand design chief Giichi Endo describes the five door Etherea as a “four-door coupé” but one that tries to mimic the proportions of a long-bonneted, rear-drive car.

The driving position is an unusual mix of a higher than normal seating position (the driver’s hip-point is 30-50mm higher than in a similar car because the car’s floor has been subtly raised), but one that is also sporty and laid-back.

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