Nissan today (6th September) presented for the first time its new Compact Crossover for Europe, the Qashqai, at an event hosted in Paris by Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s President and CEO. Inspired by the concept car of the same name that was presented at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show, the Qashqai is a new vehicle for Nissan in Europe, with sales starting in February 2007.
It will cater for those car-buyers who want a more dynamic design than offered by a traditional C-segment car, but are not attracted to the large, aggressive nature of a compact SUV.
The design of the car was led by Nissan Design Europe (NDE) and it represents the first new production vehicle to be designed at NDE since its move to London in 2003. The development programme was led by Nissan Technical Centre Europe based in Cranfield, England, with significant input from Nissan’s engineering base in Japan. Qashqai will be produced at Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, England.
As well as European sales, Qashqai will also be exported from the Sunderland factory to Japan – where it will be named Dualis – the Middle East and additional overseas markets.
The Qashqai is described as a crossover as it inhabits the area where passenger car attributes meet those of a 4x4. In terms of design, the top half of Qashqai is reminiscent of a dynamic passenger car, with a sleek, dynamic form that features a distinctive shoulder line which rises at the rear – a design cue similar to that of the Murano.
The lower portion of the car suggests SUV attributes of strength and solidity thanks to large, pronounced wheel arches, slightly elevated ground clearance and a purposeful stance.
The interior has been designed to give the driver a focused cockpit feeling, with a clear separation between them and their passenger. The deeply recessed instruments give a sporty feeling to the driving environment – a feeling reinforced by the raised central console. However, the front and passenger environments have been designed to feel airy, spacious and relaxing.
In terms of size, QASHQAI sits between C-segment hatchbacks and SUVs. It has a wheelbase of 2630mm, it is 1610mm tall, 1780mm wide and 4310mm long. It is about 100mm longer than a typical hatchback but 150mm shorter than a typical SUV. Similarly, it is taller than rival hatchbacks by between 100 -150mm yet up to 130mm lower than an SUV.
Four engine options will be available, two diesel and two petrol offerings. The 1.6-litre petrol offers 115PS of power and 160Nm or torque, while the 2.0-litre produces 140PS and 200Nm. The diesel engine options – 1.5- and 2.0-litre - provide 106 and 150PS, respectively and 240 and 320Nm of torque.
Several gearbox options are available, according to engine choice. These include a five- and six-speed manual, a new six-speed automatic and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) option with manual mode.
Both 2.0-litre engine options can be specified with Nissan’s advanced ALL-MODE 4x4 system which gives added security and stability in marginal conditions.
Speaking at the launch event in Paris, Mr Ghosn said: “European customers want it all: dynamic design, driving performance and attractive premium interior. Qashqai delivers it all which is why it will lead our sales growth in Europe and the growth in recognition of Nissan as a truly bold, thoughtful and innovative Japanese brand.”
“We expect Qashqai will sell more than 100,000 units a year on average across Europe – with 80% of those customers buying a Nissan for the first time. Before Qashqai, they drove a premium C-segment car, a compact 4x4 or a D-segment car,” added Mr Ghosn.
Catalyst for change
Nissan’s new QASHQAI is a catalyst for change. An alternative to traditional choices, QASHQAI mixes elegance, agility and sheer ability in one very different package.
The QASHQAI is same size as a Ford Focus yet smaller than a typical compact SUV, and promises the driving comfort and fun of the former with the ability and practicality of the latter.
Its distinctive styling is a marriage of the sleek shape of a passenger car with the strength of a 4x4 to create something fresh and different in the new car market.
Named after a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe living near the Zagros mountains in South Western Iran, QASHQAI (say it Kash-Kai) should be seen as an ‘Urban Nomad’, says Design Director at Nissan Design Europe, Stephane Schwarz.
“It is a car of contrasts for a world of contrasts,” he says. “It is tough and compact for the city but sleek and agile for journeys away from the town. It reflects our personalities, our imagination.”
Although initial design concepts started in Japan, most of QASHQAI’s design and development work has been undertaken in Europe, notably at Nissan Design Europe in London and at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) in Cranfield also in the UK. It will be built at Sunderland in Nissan’s award-winning plant in the North East of England. Full production is due to start towards the end of 2006, with sales starting early in 2007.
QASHQAI’s dynamic exterior is matched by a asymetric interior, providing a focused cockpit environment for the driver and a relaxing space for the occupants. High seating positions provide the sense of security normally found in an SUV, yet QASHQAI is a more dynamic performer with the accelerative and handling capabilities of a hatchback.
QASHQAI offers a choice of two and four-wheel drive and no fewer than four engines, two diesel and two petrol. The engine range starts with a 1.6-litre 115PS (84kW) petrol and 1.5 dCi diesel developing 106PS (78kW). A pair of petrol and diesel 2.0-litre engines develop 140PS (104kW) and 150PS (110kW) respectively.
Five and six-speed manual transmissions, six-speed automatic and an advanced CVT gearbox are available.
The carefully conceived interior is crammed with intelligent storage solutions for maximum functionality and flexibility, while – as is to be expected from a Nissan – only features that make a difference, rather than technology for technology’s sake, can be found either as standard or on the options list. These include a large panoramic glass roof, automatic headlights and wipers, satellite navigation, reversing camera and Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones.
Nissan’s highly praised electronically controlled ALL MODE 4x4 system – as pioneered in X-TRAIL – is available on 2.0-litre versions. Despite having greater ground clearance than an ordinary hatchback, however, QASHQAI’s four-wheel drive is there to provide greater traction for safer driving and extra control in all weathers: QASHQAI has not been designed as a go-anywhere 4x4.
Safe and secure
Safety is a key strength of the vehicle, too. A rigid bodyshell providing maximum passive safety is matched by a plethora of active safety features including the latest generation ESP which includes brake torque control and engine torque control. The braking system is similarly advanced and features hydraulic fade compensation (HFC) to provide the ultimate stopping power at all times.
Who will buy QASHQAI? In the same way the car doesn’t conform to the norm, so its customers will tend to be individuals with their own agendas. They will be open-minded and progressive with a passionate appetite for life. They are not among life’s spectators.
“QASHQAI is bold, imaginative and exciting. And it is very different to every other car currently on sale. With QASHQAI, Nissan is determined to SHIFT_ convention,” said Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President, Product Planning and Corporate Strategy, Nissan Motor Co Ltd.
From certain angles it has the agility of a passenger car, from others the tough stance of an SUV. Put it all together, though, and it quickly becomes clear that QASHQAI is one of a kind: there’s nothing else quite like it on the road.
“QASHQAI is an alternative to the norm. A fusion of different themes and concepts, it blurs boundaries and twists expectations. Is it a compact SUV? Is it a passenger car? Is it at home in the city? The answer is ‘yes’.” Stephane Schwarz, Design Director, Nissan Design Europe
Creating a car that refuses to conform to the norm requires equally non-conformist thinking. Inspiration for QASHQAI came not from other cars on the road – with two notable exceptions – but from culture, food, fashion, art, technology and other everyday influences.
Stephane Schwarz, Design Director at Nissan Design Europe and father of the QASHQAI project, explains: “We, as consumers, are changing. We no longer want to be pigeonholed… and that applies to whatever it is we are buying. We are looking for more creative expression in everything around us.”
Fusion of art and technology
“We are also expecting greater duality from the things we buy: for example, we want warmth from a piece of equipment – a fusion of art and technology. These are very individual, hedonistic times and the first task we, as designers, had to understand was the mindset of the new car buyer.”
It quickly became clear to the team that the new car market was becoming more complex and that as far as many car buyers looking in the C-segment were concerned, conventional hatchbacks and sedans like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus were no longer exciting enough.
“The car has become an extension of one’s personality and fewer people are prepared to be seen as conventional any more,” says Schwarz. “To cater for them, we started to create a new type of car.”
Break with convention
Work on QASHQAI began in 2003, with the development of a show car that broke cover at the 2004 Geneva Salon. The QASHQAI concept car showed that Nissan was prepared to break with convention with its next offering in the C-segment of the market.
The production version of QASHQAI differs from the concept in a number of important areas but retains its core crossover rationale. Like the Nissan Murano – along with the concept, the only car to influence the design development of the production version – QASHQAI has been designed to appeal to buyers on more than one level.
Its clear combination of sporting attitude with the space and ability offered by a typical compact SUV makes it stand out in a segment of the market full of worthy but dull rivals.
“We have adapted some of Murano’s stance and image for QASHQAI and there are one or two design cues common to both – the upswept side window graphic for example – but QASHQAI is far from being a clone of Murano. Like brothers, they both clearly belong to the same family but have their own individual identities,” says Schwarz.
Design development began in Japan – at the time, Schwarz was Associate Product Chief Designer at Nissan Design Centre in Tokyo, where he worked with product planning, marketing and engineering for various concepts before they reached final design selection for production. QASHQAI was one of those projects.
Once it had been given the go-ahead, the project moved to the newly opened Nissan Design Europe (NDE) facility in London where Schwarz and his team took up his current post in December 2004. NDE is home to more than 60 international designers, modellers and support staff, with a mission to design the next generation of Nissan cars for Europe.
NDE’s first ground-up project
QASHQAI is the first ground-up project to have been produced at NDE and follows work undertaken at the facility to turn the Micra hatchback into the recently launched Micra C+C coupé/convertible. And rather than being a car for just Europe, QASHQAI is to be sold globally.
As the word implies, a crossover merges contradictory design and packaging influences from two or more market segments into one vehicle. The key design elements that turn QASHQAI into a crossover can be found above and below the waistline.
The sleek silhouette of the cambering roof suggests sporting agility. Dynamically angled A-pillars meet the roof at its highest point at the top of the windscreen, from where it falls away, coupé-like, towards the rear. The roofline culminates in a subtle flick up into a small spoiler integrated into the tailgate surround. To ensure a light and airy cockpit, a large panoramic glass roof has been developed
QASHQAI’s sportscar-inspired glasshouse proportion accentuates the athleticism of the overall design: Schwarz likens the shape of the front and side windows to a visor on a crash helmet, again promising sporting performance. The side profile follows the movement of the roofline and finishes with the small upswept triangular third window first seen on Murano.
In contrast, the high waistline suggests an inner strength, which is accentuated by strong shoulders and pronounced wheel arches. Typical SUV features include the bluff, almost vertical, nose and the contrasting colour of the sturdy bumpers and side protection panels. Higher ground clearance than conventional hatchbacks also hints at SUV capability.
Complex yet subtle curves over the wheel arches and on the doors allow constantly changing reflections to soften what would otherwise be a comparatively large expanse of metal.
Wraparound head and tail lamp assemblies provide a physical link between the side profile and the front and rear of QASHQAI. Aerodynamically shaped taillights follow the curve of the rear haunches where they provide a distinctive slash of colour. The lamp assemblies are split to maximise the loading width of the trunk and a high level brake light is incorporated into the rear spoiler at the top of the tailgate.
Four pocket headlamps
At the front, a large five-sided lamps assembly is split into four distinct ‘pockets’ for the sidelights, twin headlamps and blue tinted turn indicators. Front fog lights are integrated into the bumper.
QASHQAI’s nose is dominated by a large version of Nissan’s logo roundel, which is framed in a chromed U-shaped motif in the centre of the grille. Reinforcing the power and character of the front end, the ‘U’ element of the grille extends into the bonnet in the form of twin ‘power’ ridges in the centre of the panel.
A colour palette of 11 distinctive shades – four brand new – also help QASHQAI to stand out. The four new metallic colours are Urban Silver, described by Schwarz as a ‘sharp, icy’ silver; blue-grey Faded Denim; Hazy Gold and the intense Fired Iron, a bronze red. Door handles and mirrors are finished in body colour on Tekna and Acenta models and black on Visia grade.
Dimensionally, QASHQAI sits between C-segment hatchbacks and SUVs. Sitting on a wheelbase of 2631mm, it is 1606mm tall, 1783mm wide and 4315mm long. While the wheelbase and width match average figures for all both types of rival, QASHQAI is about 100mm longer than a typical hatchback but 150mm shorter than a typical SUV. Similarly, it is taller than rival hatchbacks by between 100-150mm yet up to 130mm shorter than an SUV.
Greater ground clearance
Ground clearance is 200mm and the vehicle has approach and departure angles of 19.2 deg and 30.2 deg… better than a hatchback but unable to match the figures set by purpose designed 4x4s.
“These figures put QASHQAI in a unique position in the market place, offering more space than a hatchback at the same time as being more compact and manoeuvrable than an SUV,” says Schwarz. “As the figures show, it has not been conceived as a 4x4 and should not be thought of as one. The four-wheel drive option is mainly to provide better traction and more security in all conditions on the road.”
“Throughout the design process we were looking to create contradictory impressions: a seductive car that turned heads at first glace yet was also obviously durable; a car with a fun to drive agility yet that due to its high seating position, would also provide occupant protection and inner strength.”
“And through it all we had to ensure the car remains resolutely usable. We benchmarked the most practical of its conventional rivals to ensure QASHQAI did not fall short in terms of occupant space and luggage room,” he adds.
If first impressions are anything to go by, NDE’s efforts have been successful. Given that QASHQAI takes Nissan into a new sector of the market – indeed, creates a new sector of the market – a number of customer clinics were held in key European markets.
Powerful and dynamic
In all of them QASHQAI was spontaneously well received. It was variously described as being distinctive, different, bold, modern and eye-catching… yet not too ostentatious. It was seen as powerful and dynamic yet safe, and as elegant and stylish yet robust and solid. Against a number of popular hatchback and compact SUV rivals, QASHQAI was first choice among the participants by some margin.
“Contrasts that at first sight appear to be mutually exclusive are, in fact, what gives QASHQAI its energy,” says Schwarz.
NDE’s high security home is near the Grand Union Canal in London’s Paddington is a unique building called the Rotunda. Constructed from reinforced concrete in 1966, its original role was as a maintenance depot for British Rail.
So striking was the design that it won an Architectural Design Project Award in 1966 and the Concrete Society’s Award three years later. Today it is considered one of the most important buildings of the post-war British Modern movement. As a result it carries a Grade II* listing from British Heritage.
In the same way that QASHQAI’s exterior styling represents a series of contrasts, so the interior has been created by fusing together opposing concepts.
“In any car, the driver has totally different needs to the passenger, but this is not always recognised or appreciated. In QASHQAI we have created a distinct cockpit environment for the driver which contrasts dramatically with the lounge feeling enjoyed by the passengers,” says Stephane Schwarz, Design Director, NDE.
High centre console
All QASHQAI’s major and minor controls have been wrapped around the driver, who is separated from the front seat passenger by an unusually high centre console. Incorporating a cutaway section on the driver’s side for the handbrake, the centre console also houses twin cup holders and a storage box with integrated sliding armrest.
One of QASHQAI’s most significant controls sits towards the front of the centre console just behind the short-throw gear lever – the chunky knurled switch for the ALL MODE 4x4 drive system.
Ahead of the driver, and sitting beneath a hooded cowl, is the instrument panel and trip computer. Minor controls are ergonomically sited in the centre of the dashboard above the gear lever and beneath twin chrome-ringed air vents. Remote audio controls can be found on the steering wheel.
White LED lighting illuminates the dials night and day, while a new saturated orange shade is used on all other illuminated parts, including the trip computer in the centre of the instrument panel, the power window switches and the audio and navigation controls. It is also used for diffused ambient mood lighting in the cabin. This instrument lighting method will also be used on future Nissan products.
Accentuating the different cockpit/lounge ‘zones’, the soft-feel vacuum moulded dashboard ahead of the front seat passenger is finished in a contrasting grain effect to the area in front of the driver.
In the most luxurious grade, the contrast is even more marked with the two sections being finished in different colours. Whereas entry level Visia and sporty Tekna grades have all-black dashboards, the wraparound section facing the Acenta driver is black and complemented by a chocolate shade in front of the passenger.
A similar principle applies to the high quality upholstery. Visia grade has dark grey cloth-covered seats and a predominately black interior, while Tekna’s black cloth seats have a contrasting black and grey fabric insert for the centre section. Tekna’s interior, again predominately black, features a number of metallic highlights giving the appearance of an aluminium finish to the steering wheel, gear lever surround and door handles.
Acenta, in complete contrast, uses colour in the seat as well as on the dashboard and doors to create a quite different atmosphere. Taking inspiration from sportswear, the seats use a brick-coloured ‘breathing’ mesh-style fabric for the centre section through which can be seen the black base material of the rest of the seat.
In both Acenta and Tekna grades, embossed leather upholstery is an option: chocolate in Acenta and black in Tekna.
The seats themselves are sculpted in both front and rear which adds to the purposeful feel of the interior. In keeping with QASHQAI’s sporting potential, the front seats have side bolsters with a high foam density to provide extra support when cornering. The rear seats, which fold on a 60/40 split, offer optimum comfort for two, but QASHQAI is a full five seater with three point safety belts for all occupants.
Folding the rear seats to increase load space is simplicity itself. The base of the seat is fixed and all that’s required is a single-handled operation to fold each backrest section. When folded, the load floor is flat from tailgate to the back of the front seats in cars with a full size spare wheel and virtually flat when a space saver spare is specified, thanks to a slightly lower trunk floor. There is no need to remove the head restraints before folding the seat.
Thanks to QASHQAI’s overall height and its substantial ground clearance, driver and passengers sit higher than they would in a conventional vehicle, but without the sensation of sitting on top of the vehicle as is experienced in some SUVs.
Generous and relaxing interior
Sitting higher not only provides better visibility out of the vehicle but also promotes a sense of security. But the raised seating position is not so high as to compromise the driving enjoyment and comfort of the car: it really is the best of both worlds.
One of the other benefits of the higher roofline is that occupants sit comparatively upright which translates into more interior leg, shoulder and head room. The cargo space with the rear tonneau cover in place is 410 litres, a little more than is offered by cars like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Opel/Vauxhall Astra. It rises to 1513 litres with the rear seats folded.
With minimal intrusion from the rear suspension components, the maximum width in the trunk is 1188mm while the loading height is 779mm. This, in line with QASHQAI’s overall dimensions, lies between the loading heights of hatchback and SUV rivals.
The huge cooled glovebox has 14 litres of storage space – large enough to hold a remarkable 15 cans of drink – as well as an integrated sunglasses holder while the front door pockets can each take a 0.5litre bottle and an A4 map book. Mesh pockets on the backs of the front seats are large enough to hold A3 sized map books.
The centre console storage box has a 3.5 litre volume and can hold up to eight CDs in their jewel cases, and there’s also a 4.0 litre sliding storage drawer under the front passenger seat.
Panoramic glass roof
A panoramic glass roof is an option unique in this segment of the market. Measuring 1040mm by 880mm, the fixed roof covers both rows of sets to create a light and airy interior. It is fabricated from laminated privacy glass, which filters out damaging UV rays and contains heat soak into the cabin. On top of that, temperate atmosphere in the cabin is maintained thanks to an advanced low pressure ventilation system.
A one-touch electrically operated sunshade can be used to add further protection from the sun and insulation from the elements. The use of laminated glass provides extra safety in the event of a roll-over crash and added security against unlawful intrusion.
“When creating the interior we followed exactly the same principles as we did when designing the exterior, by combining contrasting themes. For example, the cockpit area has a very technical feel, yet the interior as a whole is a stress-free environment.”
“It mirrors the influences of everyday life. Not far from NDE, for example, we experience the total contrast between places like Mayfair and London’s East End. In this way, QASHQAI captures perfectly the divergence of our surroundings,” says Schwarz.
The best of both worlds
QASHQAI is the first European vehicle to be built on the Nissan/Renault Alliance ‘C’ Platform.
New C platform
For QASHQAI, a wheelbase length of 2631mm provides the best possible interior space within an overall compact body as well as ensuring strong ride and handling dynamics.
The front suspension features a sub-frame mounted strut-type system with combined coil-over-strut assemblies and a forward lower link. The sub-frame has compliant rubber mounts to isolate road noise and vibration from the platform, improving both general refinement and ride comfort. A front anti-roll bar is attached directly to the strut assembly for more effective control of body roll under cornering, while high performance Sachs shock absorbers are fitted to maintain serene road-manners.
Front suspension on cradle sub-frame
Multi-link rear suspension
Fully independent multi-link rear suspension has been used for precise handling and high-speed stability. Attached to the vehicle via a rigid rear subframe to keep unwanted noise and vibrations to a minimum, the compact assembly features an aluminium rear upper link to reduce weight: the saving is in the region of 4kg. In addition, the rear shock absorbers are tilted to ensure minimal intrusion into the trunk area as Nissan’ research has shown that intrusion into the trunk from suspension components is a common complaint from customers.
Compact rear suspension
Rebound springs reduce body roll to give a greater feeling of security behind the wheel while ride comfort is enhanced by the adoption of friction control dampers. Fine tuning of the ride and handling has been carried out by engineers from Nissan Europe’s technical centres in the UK and at Barcelona in Spain.
Rear multilink suspension
Detailed analysis of the forces passing through the suspension allowed engineers to precisely tune the platform and subframe to ensure handling precision and ride comfort are maximised.
Depending on the version, QASHQAI is equipped with 16 inch steel or alloy wheels shod with 215/65R16 tyres or 17 inch broad spoke alloys with unusual ball shaped bolt surrounds. The 17 inch wheel has 215/60R 17 tyres.
Electric power steering
Handling and manoeuvrability are aided by the adoption of electric power steering (EPS). This state-of-the-art system offers greater assistance at lower speeds with more steering feel provided as speeds rise.
Electric power steering
The system checks speed inputs every 40 milliseconds and is speed sensitive to 0.01 km/h. It is tuned specifically for European tastes to give a strong self-centering action at lower engine speeds for easier town driving and greater feel at higher speeds.
The system uses a brushless DC motor resulting in lower friction losses which, in turn, means reduced wear and lower service costs. And with no traditional hydraulic pump in the system, there are fuel consumptions benefits, too. Under tests, electric power steering has been shown to improve fuel consumption by 0.11litres/100kms. Helping to provide the perfect driving position, the steering column is adjustable for rake and reach.
Top braking performance
There’s invariably a wide gap in braking performance between an SUV and a conventional car with the 4x4’s higher centre of gravity translating into less controllability in an emergency as well as longer stopping distances.
However, despite sitting higher than a rival hatchback, QASHQAI’s braking performance is competitive with a traditional hatchback thanks to the most advanced braking and traction control systems currently available.
Discs brakes all round with standard anti-lock (ABS) are boosted by Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD). Brake Assist maintains maximum deceleration during an emergency stop while EBD constantly alters the front rear balance to achieve optimum brake performance, automatically compensating for differing load conditions.
ALL MODE 4x4
QASHQAI’s four-wheel drive system incorporates some of the most sophisticated technology available anywhere on the 4x4 market. Devel oped by Nissan, the ALL MODE 4x4 system allows secure and relaxed driving with advanced electronics taking care of all traction needs.
In essence, ALL MODE 4x4 ensures QASHQAI has grip at all times no matter how severe the conditions. But unlike some other automatic four-wheel drive systems, ALL MODE 4x4 uses advanced electronics rather than dual hydraulic pumps to ensure drive is transferred between wheels and axles the instant a problem arises.
Under normal conditions, the QASHQAI operates in front-wheel drive which reduces energy losses and saves on fuel. The instant wheel slippage is detected however, a centre clutch in the rear final drive is electronically activated and drive is correctly apportioned between front and rear axles.
Three mode settings
The system has three modes, selected via a switch on the centre console. In 2WD, the system is permanently set in front-wheel drive, ideal for fine weather on-road use. When the Lock setting is pushed, however, the system switches to permanent four-wheel drive mode with drive split 50:50 front to rear.
The most often used mode, however, is ‘select-and-forget’ Auto, in which the system is left to its own devices. Sensors linking the engine’s ECU with the four-wheel drive and ABS controller constantly monitor wheel slippage and automatically send signals to the electromagnetic centre clutch mounted just ahead of the rear axle to apportion torque correctly.
Left in Auto, the system will automatically compensate for unexpected slippery conditions on-road, such as wet leaves in autumn, early morning winter ice or loose gravel at any time of the year.
Advance electronic systems
ALL MODE 4x4 is inextricably linked to Bosch’s eighth generation Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Using sensors linked to the brakes, steering, wheels and the body itself, ESP constantly monitors the way the car is being driven.
From the steering angle and wheel speeds, ESP calculates what manoeuvres the driver intends to perform and from signals from the yaw-rate and lateral acceleration sensors ESP recognises whether the vehicle might skid off course. In an emergency ESP reacts swiftly, and by selectively applying the brakes at each wheel ESP ‘steers’ the vehicle in the desired direction.
Among the other electronic control systems that QASHQAI has in its armoury are cornering brake control (CBC) and EUC, which stands for enhanced understeer control. In the latter case, the system applies the brakes to all four wheels to reduce excessive understeer. Finally, hydraulic fade compensation (HFC) prevents brake fade after a period of heavy brake usage.
Choice of four engines
Of the four engines available to power QASHQAI, the development of the two petrol units was led by Nissan, while Alliance partner Renault led the devlopment of the two common rail diesel engines.
The entry-level petrol engine was originally developed for the recently released Micra SR and Note. An all-aluminium unit displacing 1598cc, power and torque have increased slightly for its new application to 115PS (84kW) and 156Nm of torque: improvements of 5PS and 3Nm.
1.6-litre petrol engine
Exceptionally light – some 25kg lighter than Nissan’s previous 1.6-litre petrol unit – and highly thermally efficient, it has four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, multi-point port injection and vane-type continuous intake cam phasing.
Performance targets include a top speed of 175km/h (110mph), with 0-100km/h (0-62mph) taking 12 seconds. Combined fuel consumption is 6.7 l/100km while major service intervals are every 30,000kms. Drive is to the front wheels through a five-speed gearbox.
The 2.0-litre petrol unit is a new lightweight engine that currently powers models sold in Japan. Another all-aluminium 16 valve design, it displaces 1997cc and develops 140PS (104kW) and 196Nm of torque. Some 90 per cent of that torque is available from 2000rpm providing the accelerative ‘punch’ more usually expected in larger engines.
2.0-litre petrol engine
Almost as compact as the 1.6 engine, among its key design features is a notable reduction in internal friction. A mirror-like finishing technique is applied to the surfaces of the crankshaft pin journal and the cam lobe journal and to a new machining method that ensures truly circular bores is used: this procedure is common practice in the machining of bores of racing engines but is seldom used in volume production engines.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is available with either two or four wheel drive and six speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with manual over-ride. Performance targets for the four-wheel drive version include a top speed of 190km/h (119mph), 0-100km/h (0-62mph) in 10.6 seconds and economy of 8.4l/100kms. Major service intervals, again, are 30,000kms.
CVT is a computer controlled ‘stepless’ transmission providing a virtually limitless number of ratios, ensuring the engine is always working as efficiently as possible, resulting in smoother acceleration as well as better fuel economy and lower emissions. In fact, on both the two- and four-wheel drive versions, the CVT option produces lower CO2 emissions and better economy in comparison with the manual transmission.
Continuous Variable Transmission
It’s more comfortable, too: a long uphill drive in a conventional automatic will invariably be accompanied by regular down shifts as the engine hunts for power. With CVT, the engine revs stay constant as the transmission itself adjusts seamlessly to ensure momentum is maintained. CVT also ensures less power loss, resulting in better efficiency and acceleration.
For a more sporty drive, the CVT system has a manual override. Operated via the central gear stick, six set ratios can be accessed manually by nudging the lever forward or back, motorcycle style.
Diesel is accounting for a growing proportion of sales in the C-segment, so QASHQAI has two strong diesel offerings. Both dCi units have second-generation common rail direct injection for improved performance, refinement and emissions.
The entry-level diesel uses the most powerful version of Renault’s acclaimed 16 valve 1.5 dCi (K9K) engine developing 106PS (78kW) and 240Nm of torque. Praised for its fuel efficiency and low noise, it features a flexible flywheel to filter out the effects of acyclic movements. Specifically developed to comply with Euro 4 legislation the engine has a lowered compression ratio (16:1) and a variable geometry, multi-blade turbocharger.
The 2.0 dCi is a brand new engine fitted with a Bosch piezoelectric-controlled injection system to develop 150PS (110kW) and 320Nm of torque. Piezoelectric technology gives fast, very precise control allowing a ‘five squirt’ injection cycle: two pre-squirts, one main squirt and two post-squirts.
2.0-litre diesel engine
The pre-squirts improve engine acoustics by minimizing the characteristic diesel clatter. The post-squirts sustain the main injection combustion, to burn off soot and thus bring down pollutant emissions before the exhaust gases have even left the combustion chamber.
Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) produces a controlled temperature rise in the combustion chamber to reduce pollutant emission levels (NOx) and thus enhance the engine’s overall environment performance, ensuring it complies with Euro 4 legislation.
The 2.0 dCi is equipped as standard with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) with a periodic regeneration system. When the particulates that have been collected from the engine emissions reach a specified level, the engine runs a process called thermal regeneration performing a second post-injection to overheat the exhaust gas. Above a certain temperature, the soot in the filter oxidizes off, and the filter can continue trapping particulates.
Acoustics was one of the engineering priorities for the new engine. The bottom of the engine, with its aluminium bedplate, is designed for higher efficiency and improved vibration absorption. Twin counter rotating balancer shafts cancel crankshaft rotary vibration, making a major contribution to refinement.
Performance targets for the 1.5 dCi are a 174km/h (108mph) maximum with 0-100km/h (0-62mph) in 12.2 seconds and 5.4 l/100kms. Equivalent target figures for the 2.0 dCi 4WD are 190 km/h (119mph); 10.9 seconds and 6.9 l/100kms. Both engines have 20,000kms major service intervals.
The 1.5 dCi drives the front wheels through a new six-speed manual transmission. Two-wheel drive versions of the 2.0dCi also use the six-speed manual, while the four-wheel drive version offers a choice between the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions.
In common with other recent new Nissan models, QASHQAI bristles with innovative and advanced features… but each has a good reason for being there. To be chosen as standard or optional equipment for QASHQAI, a feature needs to have a serious purpose or perform a useful function: looking good in the brochure doesn’t count.
Take the heating and ventilation system as an example. When air conditioning is fitted – either a manual system or a full dual zone automatic system depending on the model – it has an added refinement. At the top of the dashboard is an independently controlled mild flow vent which wafts a light breeze of cooled air around the cabin.
Quiet and comfortable
As well as cooling the cabin more quickly than conventional air conditioning, it does it more quietly and more comfortably. Instead of having to turn the ventilation fan to a high setting – and having cold air blown directly at your face as a result – the mild flow vent gets on with the job of lowering the temperature as efficiently, as quietly and as gently as possible.
It’s the sort of thoughtful feature that you’ll be lucky to find in a car costing a great deal more money.
Hands-free with Bluetooth
Another is the Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones. Every QASHQAI with a factory fitted audio system has standard Bluetooth integration for hands-free use of a mobile. A high quality microphone is installed near the interior rear view mirror to improve voice quality while incoming calls are automatically heard over the car’s sound system, which mutes the audio source for the duration of the call.
Better still, total integration means incoming caller ID is displayed on the audio read-out and the system has an internal phone book which can store up to 40 numbers. Once set up, a mobile phone can stay in a pocket or handbag and its presence will be automatically discovered once the car’s ignition is turned on, boosting convenience and safety.
Audio systems differ according to the model, but include a single disc CD/radio and a CD/radio with in an in-dash six disc CD changer. Audio controls are integrated into the steering wheel.
Intuitive navigation display
The ultimate communications package incorporates DVD-based satellite navigation. The system, first seen in Pathfinder, is highly intuitive to use and provides map coverage of 26 countries across Europe, including Poland, Slovenia, the Canary Islands, Croatia and Hungary.
The fixed seven-inch display benefits from improved graphics, with split guidance displays showing both maps and overhead views of junctions. The system also has voice recognition in a total of seven languages.
When sat nav is specified, the package comes complete with a colour rear parking camera. The display includes static guidelines allowing millimetre perfect parking every time. The final bonus is that the six disc CD player will also play MP3 discs.
Standard audio preparation includes four speakers mounted in the door panels, with twin dashboard mounted tweeters optionally available.
Back lit instruments
Making sure that information from the instruments can be quickly assimilated at any time of day, they are permanently backlit. The trip computer, which sits between the speedometer and tachometer, is permanently lit in a saturated orange colour, which contrasts with the white LED illumination of the other dials.
Providing real-time journey information, including fuel economy, distance travelled, time and date, the computer also monitors under bonnet performance and service requirements. The same saturated orange hue can be found on illuminated switches and dials as well as in mood lighting which bathes the interior in a diffused amber light at night.
Safety is one of QASHQAI’s key attributes. Active safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist (BAS) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) while electronic stability programme (ESP) and ALL MODE 4x4 provide the ultimate traction no matter how tricky the conditions are.
Passive safety equipment starts with six airbags standard on all models. As well as dual stage driver and front passenger airbags, there are thorax side airbags mounted in the front seats and full-length curtain airbags on both sides giving extra protection for all occupants in a side impact.
Active headrests are also included on the front seats, minimising the likelihood of neck injury in the case of rear impact and the full-length panoramic glass roof is made from laminated glass to ensure it will not shatter in the event of a roll-over crash.
The front passenger airbag can be deactivated to enable a rear facing child seat to be used. The cut-off switch is located on passenger side of the dashboard and is accessible when the door is opened. It is activated using the vehicle key, so the bag cannot be switched on or off inadvertently. An audible driver’s seatbelt reminder on all models is a further safety measure.
Pre-tensioned seat belts
Front seat belts are equipped with pre-tensioners to take up any slack in the seat belt at the moment of impact. Using sensors to determine the speed of deceleration – and therefore the severity of the crash – the system triggers a pyrotechnic gas generator to rewind the retractor thus tensioning the belt. All three rear seats have full three point harnesses.
Providing plenty of interior storage is an area in which Nissan excels and QASHQAI doesn’t disappoint. The vast cooled glove box ahead of the passenger has a volume of 14 litres, and it’s all usable space. It will carry up to 15 standard cans of drink… beating the previous 13 can record set by Note.
Large door bins, under seat storage, seat back pockets and a centre console box capable of holding no fewer than eight CDs are all part of the package. The box lid doubles as an arm rest which, for maximum comfort and convenience, slides fore and aft. Cup holders can be found moulded into the centre console and in the rear centre armrest, where fitted.
Features for an easy life
Among the other intelligent features are perennial Nissan favourites such as automatic headlamps, auto dimming rearview mirrors and rain sensing wipers at the front and the rear. At the front, flat blade wipers are used to reduce wind noise and improve wiping efficiency. The rear wipers switch on automatically when the fronts wipers are operating and reverse gear is selected.
Nissan’s Intelligent Key makes a welcome appearance. Offering much more than just keyless entry, the Intelligent Key allows the car to locked and unlocked and the engine to be started and stopped without the key ever having to leave a pocket, briefcase or handbag. Nor can it inadvertently be locked inside the car: sensors detect its presence within the cabinand set off a warning alarm at the same time as preventing the door being locked.
Security features include a standard immobiliser and automatic locking of the doors once the car has reached 12km/h (7mph), while parking sensors are fitted on cars without a reversing camera.
The QASHQAI can also be equipped with electric folding door mirrors, cruise control and turn lights which automatically flash three times when the indicator stalk is pushed gently – perfect for maximum visibility when lane changing on a motorway, for example.
Standard features on entry level Visia grade include ABS with EBD and BAS, six airbags, electric door mirrors, power windows all round, trip computer, front armrest, height adjustable driver’s seat and 16 inch steel wheels with alloy-look covers.
Tekna and Acenta add radio/CD with Bluetooth, remote audio controls, manual air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, rear armrest, body coloured door mirrors and handles and adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat.
Subject to individual market requirements, a special option pack will add dual zone climate control, alloy wheels, panoramic glass roof, parking sensor, front fog lamps and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
Principal options include the Intelligent Key, electric folding mirrors, leather upholstery, Xenon headlamps, cruise control, 6CD changer, ESP, navigation and reversing camera.
In addition a series of accessories are being developed for QASHQAI, allowing owners to personalise their cars to suit their own tastes. Among the features are roof rails, an extended roof spoiler, corner protectors, rear bumper guard, side steps and bars, chrome door mirror caps, illuminated sill kick plates, sun blinds and a storage box that doubles as a rear centre armrest.
“All the standard features and options available on QASHQAI have genuine practical benefits,” says Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe.
A time for change
Creating a new type of car aimed at an historically conservative sector of the market might, at first glance, appear to akin to commercial suicide. Nissan thinks otherwise.
The C-segment is Europe’s biggest market sector and although the forecast is for sales to remain static in the years ahead, the very size of the segment means there’s all to play for.
But underneath that serene exterior lies a bubbling cauldron. The traditional top sellers in the segment – cars like the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Renault Megane – are under threat not just from outside, but also from within.
The segment is fragmenting with the ‘safe’ option of a five-door hatchback no longer having the appeal it once did. Customers are demanding something different, and when it’s not offered they are looking elsewhere.
A direct consequence has been the rise in sales of the compact SUV, while the compact MPV – led by the Renault Scenic, Vauxhall/Opel Zafira, Volkswagen Touran and Ford Focus C-Max – has also made an appearance.
But still there’s dissatisfaction. The compact MPV has trouble appealing to the heart while many QASHQAI buyers will be customers whose needs are not by compact SUVs.
The time is ripe, therefore, for something completely new: something like QASHQAI. Appealing to both the head and the heart, QASHQAI offers the best of all worlds, providing the dynamic driving experience of a hatchback, as well as the safety and security that goes hand in hand with a compact SUV.
To succeed, QASHQAI has to introduce the Nissan brand to a largely new audience. It is expected that 80 per cent of sales in the car’s first two years will be conquests from other manufacturers and that the car will claim 2.5 per cent of the C-segment.
Nissan is targeting two different types of buyer for QASHQAI: those pre-family and those post-family, who together make up 67 per cent of segment buyers. These people are car enthusiasts who are always on the look out for something different.
Research has shown Nissan that price, design and size are the three main influences on purchase decisions across the C-segment. A high driving position is appreciated by buyers of compact SUVs but a feeling of security is the most important attribute of any type of car in this segment. Styling, versatility and a car with a personality are also held in high esteem.
This maturity is reflected in QASHQAI’s likely model mix, which should favour models at the top end of the range. The ALL MODE 4x4 version expected to account, as a European average, for as much as 40 per cent of sales with both the 2.0-litre diesel and 2.0-litre petrol expected to outsell the smaller engined versions, despite the latter’s price advantage.
“QASHQAI offers a genuinely unique proposition that is expected to take sales from no fewer than four market sectors: as well as attacking the traditional C-segment, the compact MPV and compact SUV sectors, it will also encroach into the lower end of the D-segment.”
“QASHQAI is a charismatic crossover that’s ready to SHIFT_ the C-segment market,” says Brian Carolin, Senior Vice President and Marketing Sales, Nissan Europe.
When QASHQAI begins rolling off the line in December, it will represent Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK’s (NMUK) 10th new model launch since production began in Sunderland over 20 years ago.
“As well as being one of Nissan’s most productive plants and the UK’s biggest exporter of motor vehicles, our Sunderland plant is a leader in terms of production flexibility. We are looking forward to building another world beater.” Colin Dodge, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, Purchasing and SCM, Nissan Europe.
QASHQAI will be built in Europe at Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK), the company’s highly productive plant in Sunderland in England’s North East. When production starts in December, QASHQAI will become the third new model in 16 months to be manufactured at NMUK.
The Sunderland plant is an incredible success story. From a muddy field to a record-breaking facility took little more than 15 years. Nissan and the UK Government signed an agreement to build the plant in 1984 (NMUK celebrated its 21st birthday in 2005) and by 1999 it was acknowledged as Britain’s biggest car plant – a position it has held every year since.
It took just two years from that historic 1984 agreement before the first car for commercial sale – a Nissan Bluebird – rolled off the production line. By the end of that year, 1986, the plant employed 470 people and made a grand total of 5,139 Bluebirds all for home consumption. At that point it represented an investment of €70 million.
From small beginnings the Sunderland facility quickly got into its stride. Exports began in 1988 with around one in every four cars produced destined for overseas. But just two years later, in 1990, exports accounted for 85 per cent of total production. Today around 250,000 of the 315,000 cars built annually – nearly eight out of every ten – are exported.
Half million milestone
In 1990, the Bluebird was replaced by the original Primera and in 1992 the milestone half-millionth car was built. At the same time the plant in Sunderland opened a second production line, for the then current Micra.
Over the next decade NMUK really hit its stride, producing record numbers of cars and winning award after award for export achievements. By 1995, it had built one million cars and one million engines while five years later a third model, Almera, was added.
Most productive plant
In 2003, the year in which Sunderland built a record 331,924 vehicles, NMUK was identified as the most productive plant in Europe… for the seventh successive year. Last year, 2005, a total of 315,297 vehicles were built by a force of approximately 4,400 workers. During the year, the four millionth car rolled off the lines and, perhaps more significantly, the three millionth for export.
UK’s biggest car exporter
Representing a total investment to date of more than €3 billion, NMUK has been the UK’s biggest car exporter for six years and accounts for 20 per cent of the country’s total car production. It is estimated that Nissan’s decision to locate in Sunderland has been responsible for more than 20,000 jobs being created in the UK’s North East regions in the vehicle manufacturing, component supply and service industries.
This achievement was recognised earlier this year when British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the plant to celebrate its export achievement.
“The global car market is extremely challenging and I applaud everyone here for proving that the UK manufacturing sector has the ability to compete at the highest level,” he told workers.
400,000 unit potential
QASHQAI’s introduction will complete one of the busiest periods in the plant’s history, being the third new product launch in 16 months. The new models give Sunderland the potential to produce 400,000 cars in 2007, markets willing.
“I am very proud of the achievements of the Sunderland workforce which time and again has demonstrated its commitment to hard work, quality and productivity,” said Carlos Ghosn, Nissan President and CEO.