A special version of Nissan’s Micra C+C, designed in association with leading London designer Sebastian Conran, is one of the stars on the Nissan stand at the 2006 British International Motor Show in London.

The C+C+Conran is a stylish concept car that explores imaginative new colours and trim, and is designed to ‘make the driver and passengers feel special’, according to Sebastian Conran.

‘Our aim was to design a non-gender based car – certainly not testosterone driven – that is a joy to drive,’ says Conran. ‘It’s a car that feels comfortable and stylish to be in, zippy rather than racy, a car you can build an emotional relationship with.’

The C+C+Conran features a stunning black paint scheme called Blushing Black. ‘It was inspired by the deep black seen on Japanese traditional lacquer-ware and is accented with red reflections,’ says Conran. A discreet leaf pattern, derived from that used inside, is on the bootlid.

In place of chrome, the C+C+Conran uses a new dark grey colour called titanium black. Wheels and headlamps are finished in dark grey rather than silver, with just a hint of red.

Deep, rich red is the dominant colour of the cabin. The seats are upholstered in unusual red leather upholstery and use a red shadowed leaf print. Red and black leather also swathes much of the interior, including the instrument panel and doors. The glovebox is also lined in a rich red.

‘The two front seats have hoop-shaped headrests so that the driver can see through them when parking – it’s also better for passengers in the back too, to be able to see through,’ says Conran. ‘And we have incorporated a locking i-Pod drawer which means one doesn’t have to unplug it and carry it every time you get out of the car – especially important for a cabriolet.’

Conran likens this concept car to a modern tailored suit. ‘Discreet yet classy on the outside, but with a shockingly colourful lining.’

Appropriately for the London-based British International Motor Show, the C+C+Conran is very much an all-British car. The Micra C+C on which it’s based was designed in Nissan Design Europe’s London studio. The car was engineered at Nissan Technical Centre Europe, at Cranfield in Bedfordshire. It is built at Sunderland, Europe’s most productive car plant. And now, with the C+C+Conran, it has been inspired by one of London’s leading and most sophisticated urban designers.

Sebastian Conran is a director of Conran & Partners, where he is responsible for all product and graphics work. His technical innovations and inventions are credited with more than 50 patents over the past 20 years. He has also won many design, marketing and innovation awards.

‘By collaborating with a leading non-automotive designer, you always get a new approach, a fresh angle,’ says Satoru Tai, vice president for Nissan Design Europe. ‘The colour direction was Sebastian’s. The black and reds are very Conran.

‘Yes, it is a fashion statement, and it is inspired by one of London’s leading designers,’ says Tai-san. ‘But we all wanted to produce a car that made a very strong statement, a car of extremely high quality. The superb richly lacquered paint finish helps gives this quality. It also gives the car a very Japanese flavour, which is important. It’s like a beautiful Japanese lacquered wooden bowl. It’s very much hand crafted and exclusive. Also, the contrasts in the colours and the patterns on the car’s exterior are very subtle, very Japanese.’

‘The C+C+Conran is primarily an exercise in beautiful new colours and materials,’ says Marisol Manso Cortina, manager for Colour Group, Nissan Design Europe. ‘The paint colours, the lacquered finish, the unusual leather upholstery, and the laser printed overlapping leaf shadows on the leather seats – all are innovative and different. Colours and materials are such an important element in modern design, for cars as much as furniture or architecture or fashion. We in the design world are all influenced by each other’s work. London’s rich history in fashion, art, culture and architecture is one reason why Nissan Design Europe has its studio here in Paddington in London.’

Adds Satoru Tai, ‘Fashion trends, car design trends, furniture trends, architectural trends…they are all interlocked. Design reflects the values of the people. It is an increasingly important differentiator for car buyers, and of increasing importance to consumers, no matter what they’re buying.’

Nissan’s relationship with Sebastian Conran goes back to the Cube3+Conran & Partners concept car first shown at the 2003 Tokyo Show. The Cube+Conran and Cube3+Conran production versions followed in 2004. Last month, limited edition Plus Conran versions of the Cube, March and Lafesta were unveiled for the Japanese market.

The C+C+Conran is based on the 1.6 Essenza version of Nissan’s imaginative Micra coupe cabriolet C+C. Based on reaction to the car from visitors to the show the C+C+Conran, or a car very much like it, could possibly make production.

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