SUNDERLAND, England – Nissan promises an innovative new look for the second-generation Qashqai compact crossover – the automaker's top-selling model in Europe – when the replacement debuts early next year.
"There's a risk associated with changing it. We acknowledge that, but if you're a leader in a segment, I think you should innovate," Nissan global head of product planning Andy Palmer told Automotive News Europe at the automaker's plant here. "Don't expect to see the future Qashqai looking like the current car with a few extra radiuses here and there."
Nissan hinted at its future plans for the crossover segment with the Resonance concept that debuted at the Detroit auto show in January. Nissan says the Resonance "is meant to be provocative, energetic and engaging – even polarizing. Its edgy yet sophisticated design provides a clear, exciting view into the future of crossover innovation."
The risk is that a dramatic design change could turn off the buyers who have made the Qashqai Nissan's No. 1 seller in Europe and the No. 8 overall seller in the region. In 2012, six years after it was launched, European sales fell less than a percent to 207,885, according to JATO Dynamics. By comparison, all the other cars in the top 10 had double-digit declines in sales compared with 2011. Through three months of 2013 the Qashqai was Europe's No. 7 seller with a volume of 61,886 units, putting it ahead of comparable sized rivals such as the Ford Focus (61,254) and Opel/Vaxuhall Astra (51,988). "The Qashqai forms the backbone of Nissan's range in Europe, but has also been very popular across the world in various guises, including being the basis of the Rogue in North America," said IHS Automotive analyst Ian Fletcher.
The new-generation Qashqai will be revealed in November with production expected to start in December, a spokesman said. While its looks will change, the Qashqai's target market won't, said European head of sales and marketing Paul Willcox. "We have very clearly defined the Qashqai against the VW Golf," he said. "I find it very hard to believe we would change that position."
The spokesman, however, said the car would benchmark compact hatchbacks in more areas, including CO2 emissions. No engines have been confirmed but the Qashqai is expected to get a version of the 1.2-liter three-cylinder supercharged gasoline engine that has helped reduced CO2 for both the Micra and new Note subcompacts to 95 grams per kilometer from previous figures of around 110g/km to 120g/km. The Qashqai with the lowest CO2 output currently is 1.6-liter diesel that emits 119g/km.
The car will be built on Nissan's new Common Module Family (CMF) platform that will underpin the majority of compacts sold in Europe and elsewhere by the Japanese automaker as well as alliance partner, Renault. Palmer confirmed the CMF's platform has been designed to accommodate a hybrid drivetrain but he declined to say whether the new-generation Qashqai will offer a variant with the powertrain.
He did, however, say that Nissan will launch a plug-in hybrid model in Europe by 2015. "From an economics point of view, plug-in hybrids are beginning to make sense in Europe when you look at regulations," Palmer said.
A plug-in hybrid has the ability to travel on full-electric power but also includes a small fuel-powered engine to help recharge the battery or power the car to extend range. Limited range is one of the factors affecting sales of full-electric cars such as Nissan's Leaf, which has so far failed to meet volume goals in Europe and the United States.