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Nissan Qashqai leads 'all-out assault'

Date: 12 September 2006

Qashqai is targeting hatchbacks such as VW’s Golf, rather than off-roaders, and is pronounced “cash-kai”

Nissan UK is heralding its new Qashqai off-roader as the key component in a renewed "all-out assault on fleet".

It helps that the all-new Qashqai, (pronounced cash-kai) is designed, built and developed in Europe, for Europe. In fact, it was designed in London and Cranfield, Bedfordshire, and is being built in Sunderland.

In the flesh, at the car's unveiling last week, the new Brit looked like a cross between the existing Murano 4x4 and a Honda CR-V, although, dare we say it, style-wise it will not set the segment alight.

Inside is where the real progress has been made; build and interior quality is up there with the best. Winning family fans will be the huge boot and deep 15-drinks can glovebox capacity.

Driver's benefit from a higher 4x4 driving position thanks to the raised ride height, and according to the engineers, the Qashqai's handling will be as agile as a hatchback.

Despite looking like a junior 4x4, Nissan execs on hand at the preview last week, were keen to down play its mud-plugging potential. Instead, think of the Qashqai as a tough new Ford Focus competitor with 4x4 looks, without the associated social guilt of running a mini 'Chelsea tractor'.

Despite quasi off-roader looks, 85% of all Qashqais will be two- not four-wheel drive, meaning business users will not penalised at the pumps nor hit in the pocket by any anti-4x4 taxes.

"To pick one vehicle it's closest to, it would have to be the Golf. The Qashqai isn't trying to be a compact-MPV," said David Murfitt, Nissan fleet boss, who is relishing the challenge of offering his business customers an all-new exciting product.

"Until now, we just haven't been able to compete in the segment," said Murfitt hinting at the limited appeal of the elderly, petrol-only, Almera.

Early predictions for the Qashqai are that half of the first year's allocation is destined for the business market, with the most popular model being the 78PS 1.5-litre diesel.

About 80% of Qashqai customers are expected be new to Nissan. Prices should begin at £15,000 and stretch to £23,000 for a 4WD six-speed automatic version of the 150PS 2.0-litre diesel. Other engines include 1.6 and 2.0 petrols and a 1.5 diesel.