Renault is pushing ahead with plans to develop a new small crossover, after deciding to bring development of its next-generation lifestyle vehicle to its European heartland.
This test mule may be wearing a Qashqai bodyshell on top, but its underpinnings are being used to set up a new compact model, codenamed X87, that will give Renault a potential rival for everything from the Nissan Juke and forthcoming Ford B-Max up to the Qashqai.
Renault’s test drivers went to extreme lengths to keep spy photographers from capturing what could have been revealing close-up images.
Sources say the X87 is based on a Juke chassis but engineers have been working to incorporate more parts from the larger Qashqai. The new car will sit between Nissan’s two models in size. Renault hopes this will allow it to compete on space in the Juke’s segment and price in the Qashqai’s.
Speculation that the crossover will be a spiritual successor to the Renault 4L is said to be wide of the mark because that idea was rejected on the grounds of cost and profitability. It would also have potentially crossed into the market of Renault’s budget brand Dacia, a clash that the X87 will avoid.
The decision to develop a crossover in Europe is believed to have been prompted by Renault’s difficulty in selling the Koleos. Developed with partner Renault Samsung Motors, that car is built in Korea and sold in that region as the Samsung QM5. But it has struggled in Europe, and was withdrawn from Renault’s UK price lists in the summer.
Renault boss Patrick Pelata said recently: “We would like a compact crossover designed entirely by us. In Korea the QM5 was a success, but in Europe it doesn’t work.”
The X87 could be seen in concept form as early as next spring, as part of new Renault chief designer Laurens van den Acker’s roll-out of his new ‘language’ for the brand. That will ensure it has strong ‘family’ looks, an element that has been lacking from the Koleos.
The car is expected to go on sale in late 2012 or early 2013, and it could be built at Renault’s plant in Valladolid, Spain. That facility is already being overhauled to produce the Twizy electric city car.
Renault is persevering with some elements of its Korean project. The Koleos is said to be selling well in China, while the Latitude — a version of the Samsung SM5 executive saloon — was shown at the recent Paris show. But there’s said to be intense internal debate among the firm’s regional distributors about which markets will sell the SM5, and no decision has yet been made on whether it will make it to the UK.