11 August 2004

The new-look Nissan Patrol, unveiled this week, is the model that signals the start of a Nissan SUV onslaught. The Japanese company will soon be offering the widest range of 4x4 vehicles on the market – with a choice of seven separate off-roaders. Here’s the lowdown from the biggest to the smallest.

The Patrol (above) is the revised version of the rugged full-size off-roader, due to be unveiled at the Val d’Isère 4x4 show later this week as part of the celebrations of its 50th birthday. It goes on sale in October. The interior is totally revamped; the diesel engine gets more power; the styling is updated with a new rear end, 17-inch wheels and a redesigned nose borrowed from the butch Dunehawk concept.

The European version of the US Pathfinder (right), a £25k seven-seat Discovery rival, will arrive in British showrooms in spring. It is based on the same platform as the huge Titan pick-up sold in America. It will be built in Spain at Nissan’s Zona Franca plant and sold with a choice of 4.0-litre V6 petrol and 2.5 diesel engines. The V6 is developed on the 350Z’s 3.5-litre unit and tuned for more low-down torque. The oil-burner is derived from the existing diesel in the Navarro. The five rear seats are all said to fold flat, and Nissan is looking at around 4000 sales per year.

Also due next spring, the Murano SUV will be a road-biased rival for the Lexus RX300. Already on offer in America, the Murano will get modifications including suspension tweaks and extra cooling to cope with the higher speeds possible on European but not US roads.

The bedrock of Nissan’s 4x4 range will continue to be the workhorse Terrano, the Navarro pick-up and the X-Trail SUV. All three will carry on unchanged.

The final installment of Nissan’s SUV roll-out will be the production version of the Qashqai concept car that was shown at Geneva earlier this year. The Qashqai is an SUV/hatchback crossover with a high seating position and emphasis on versatility. It will be one of two vehicles to replace the Almera, the other being a smaller mini-MPV. The Qashqai should reach showrooms within three years if Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn gives the project the green light.

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Nissan has been dismayed by the Almera’s failure to tempt European buyers away from its established hatchback rivals, and it has decided to desert the traditional C-sector hatch arena.

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