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Paris Motor Show: SHIFT_convention - the Nissan Qashqai
Nissan debuted the Ford Focus-sized Qashqai (say Kash-kai) crossover in Paris on Thursday, and our man on the spot, John Neff, was as impressed with Nissan's new softroader as he was underwhelmed with Mitsubishi's new Pajero. (Although we have to admit, you're not likely to see a Qashqai dominate the Dakar rally.)
The Qashqai was designed virtually from the ground up by Nissan Europe, and it goes into production at Nissan's U.K. facility later this year. The Qashqai is the first European vehicle built on the Nissan/Renault Alliance "C" platform. Let's hope Nissan's new "Urban Nomad" makes it North America before long.
Unique is an oft misused word, but not when mentioned in connection with the new Nissan QASHQAI. A passenger car with SUV attributes, QASHQAI really does bring unique qualities to one of the most conservative sectors of the new car market.
"There's change in the air. As consumers, we are no longer prepared to put up with the dull or the conventional. We want something new, something different. especially when it comes to cars. Well, thanks to the Nissan QASHQAI something different has arrived. You need never drive a boring car again." Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President, Product Planning and Corporate Strategy, Nissan Motor Co Ltd
At a glance
• Unique Crossover concept
• Agile yet sturdy, elegant yet practical
• Airy interior with high quality materials
• Two and four-wheel drive versions
• Choice of petrol and diesel models
• Sophisticated features
Nissan's new QASHQAI is a catalyst for change. A totally new vehicle in a totally new sector of the car market, 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 (103kW) 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.
Take the good parts of an SUV – the traction, the high seating position and the space – and mix them with the best attributes of a hatchback, including driving dynamics and comfort, and what have you got? QASHQAI.
"Traditional SUVs are often seen as too big and too difficult to drive. The engineering concept behind QASHQAI was to provide much of the sheer ability of an SUV but in a package that's as manoeuvrable, agile and comfortable as a conventional car." Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe
At a glance
• Two- and four-wheel drive versions
• Strut front suspension, multi-link rear
• Two diesel, two petrol engines
• Manual, automatic and CVT options
• Latest generation ESP
QASHQAI is the first European vehicle to be built on the Nissan/Renault Alliance 'C' Platform, and follows the successful introduction in Japan of the Nissan Lafesta.
For QASHQAI, a wheelbase length of 2630mm 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 far superior to that of a typical 4x4 thanks to its lower centre of gravity and 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.
QASHQAI's four-wheel drive system incorporates some of the most sophisticated technology available anywhere on the 4x4 market. Developed 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 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.
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 two petrol units are Nissan designs while both common rail diesels have been developed by Alliance partner Renault.
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 160Nm of torque: improvements of 5PS and 7Nm.
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.
The 2.0-litre petrol unit is a new lightweight engine that currently powers the Japanese market Lafesta. Another all-aluminium 16 valve design, it displaces 1997cc and develops 140PS (103kW) and 200Nm of torque. Some 90 per cent of that torque is available from 2000rpm providing the accelerative 'punch' more usually expected in larger engines.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What's the point of a clever extra if it never gets used? As far as Nissan is concerned if a feature or option serves a useful purpose it's in. If it will only ever be used once when the car is still a new 'toy' then there's no point in having it
"A mobile phones should never be used by a driver unless it's hands free. And that's why QASHQAI has integrated Bluetooth connectivity so drivers need never miss a call or take a risk fumbling for their phone. Thinking about safety goes far deeper than airbags and ABS." Hideto Murakami, Senior Vice President, Nissan Technical Centre Europe
At a glance
• Mild flow air conditioning
• Leather option
• Sat nav and reversing camera
• Bluetooth connectivity
• Ambient mood lighting
• Intelligent Key
• Automatic lights and wipers
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.
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.
Intuitive navigation display
The ultimate communications package incorporates 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.
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.
As well as creating an airy cabin, the full-length panoramic glass roof, available on four-wheel drive versions, is made from laminated glass to ensure it will not shatter in the event of a roll-over crash.
Principal options include the Intelligent Key, electric folding mirrors, leather upholstery, Xenon headlamps, cruise control, 6CD changer, ESP, navigation and reversing camera.
"All the standard features and options available on QASHQAI have genuine practical benefits," says Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe.