Nissan will launch a direct rival to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf in 2014, and will build it in Sunderland. It will be the first time the Japanese manufacturer has offered a new car in the European small family hatchback class since 2006, when the Sunderland-built Almera was withdrawn.
Since then Nissan has marketed the Qashqai crossover, after it concluded in the early 2000s that it could only compete in the family car segment by offering something different.
It subsequently applied the same formula to the supermini segment, launching the Juke in 2010 to further sales success.
Following the success of those two models, company officials have said the firm has the confidence, and European market share, to offer a more mainstream model again.
The decision to go with a mainstream C-segment hatchback was made 18 months ago, according to Nissan’s head of product planning Andy Palmer, but the model is still two years from completion.
The new hatchback is expected to look similar to the current and next-generation Qashqai, as well as the production version of the Invitation concept - shown at the Geneva show earlier this year - which replaces the Note. “The designers have created a very emotional design that draws on the Qashqai,” said Palmer. “It’s a little bit cheeky.”