Nissan was non-committal about the model’s chance of production success when it was first revealed, but an introduction date of 2017-2018 has since been pencilled in.
The Qashqai Premium Concept, which was styled in the UK at Nissan’s European design studio in London, is intended to be a test bed to push the crossover into a new £30,000-plus price point, possibly badged Tekna+, to battle more premium compact SUVs such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.
Encouraged by sales of the £29k top-spec Tekna-trim model, which is capturing a third of UK Qashqai sales, designers are now working flat out to productionise the concept’s unique trim parts, wide-track chassis and specially finished wheels.
“The concept was designed to be feasible for production,” said Darryl Scriven, design manager for the Qashqai Premium Concept. “Now we are working and adapting the authentic materials, like carbon-fibre, nappa leather and special paint, for a production future.”
All of the key elements of the concept’s bodykit, such as the intricate lower bumper mouldings and carbonfibre wheelarch extensions, plus the burnished ‘V Motion’ grille and new headlights and tail-lights, are expected to make it onto the production model.
“We are looking at how to move from hand-laid prototype carbonfibre parts to materials that keep the same look but which are easier to make in volume,” said Scriven.
Nissan used British motorsport engineering expertise to tool and mould the carbonfibre parts, with the carbonfibre sheet laid by hand in order to create a uniform look to the weave.
British machining skills were also adopted for the special wheel finish. The cast wheels were first given a coat of gold paint, followed by a layer of black. Then the top layer was machined off in places, to an accuracy of thousandths of a millimetre, in order to expose the gold paint underneath. “The challenge is to find a way of making production parts with the same look,” added Scriven.
Another engineering task is to ensure the concept’s 20mm wider tracks — an important change that gives the Qashqai a more planted look — can be replicated in production.
The biggest challenge is expected to be keeping the concept’s matt black body colour. Nissan can paint matt black at its Sunderland plant, but the finish is vulnerable in use, particularly during cleaning, when the dull finish can be polished off. Instead, Nissan is likely to choose three body colours — dark, intermediate and light — which will work in various global markets, with each colour teamed with a contrasting shade in place of gold.
Inside, the white nappa leather is likely to morph into a slightly less vulnerable light colour, but the common premium theme of light seat trim with dark carpets and door lowers is a key part of the production idea.
Other upmarket models under consideration
Nissan Europe is looking at creating premium versions of other models to join the upmarket Qashqai. An X-Trail Premium Concept was shown alongside the similarly tweaked Qashqai at the Geneva show, and it’s possible that a more upmarket version of Nissan’s mid-size SUV will also make it into production.
Nissan isn’t yet moving in the direction of Ford’s Vignale sub-brand, which also embraces better dealer service, while new Vauxhall boss Rory Harvey ruled out a Vignale-type brand extension when asked about the idea at the Geneva show.
However, the pricing of Nissan’s Tekna+ and Ford’s Vignale is expected to be very similar, signifying a new price war between premium and volume brands at around the £30k mark.