22 March 2004

Nissan will replace today’s Almera with a range of different niche cars – including a radical segment-busting four-wheel-drive ‘crossover hatchback’ based on the Qashqai concept and a midi-MPV.

The Qashqai-derived five-door will mix design elements from Nissan’s Murano and X-Trail 4x4s in a compact hatchback-sized vehicle. ‘The concept is not far from the production vehicle,’ said Patrick Pelata, Nissan’s product planning chief.

Due to get the production go-ahead at the end of this year and go on sale in late 2006, the new model will partially replace the conventional but slow-selling Almera hatchback (right).

Nissan is considering abandoning the conventional hatchback market altogether, because it cannot guarantee enough sales to invest in such a model.

A second model will also overlap with the Almera when it is launched in Europe in mid-2006. That is a Micra-based mini-van that shares its platform with the Renault Modus, also revealed at Geneva last week.

‘The Almera will be replaced by several cars,’ said Pelata. ‘We don’t want to replace it with cars that aren’t distinctive enough. They will need to fulfill buyers’ needs in a better way.’

Nissan has explored the Almera replacement with a series of concepts including a more conventional hatchback design, but sales predictions were too low to justify putting it into production.

The 4.3m-long Qashqai combines a high ground clearance and a rugged face with a sporty, low roofline inspired by the 350Z coupé. Despite having four-wheel drive and 237mm of ground clearance, the Qashqai is only 1570mm high.

Designed in London at Nissan Design Europe’s new styling studio in Paddington, the Qashqai has a pair of centre-opening doors to make access to the cabin easier, but a production version is likely to ditch them for cost reasons.

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