When Nissan's adventurous QASHQAI crossover goes on sale next March it will give buyers shopping for a compact family car a totally different alternative. QASHQAI (say it 'Cash-Kai') blends the image of a coupé with the interior space of a hatchback and the strength of a 4x4.  Nissan hopes it will steal buyers from the Volkswagen Golf - prices will therefore start at £13,499 for the 1.6 Visia rising to £21,899 for the 2.0dCi Tekna with automatic transmission and ALL-MODE 4x4.

Borrowing its name from a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe living near the Zagros Mountains in South Western Iran, but created in multi-cultural London, QASHQAI is described by Stephane Schwarz, Design Director at Nissan Design Europe as an 'Urban Nomad'. "It's tough and compact for the city but sleek and agile for journeys away from the town," he says.

Although taller than a typical hatch, it takes up no more road space than a Ford Focus. And although four-wheel drive versions will be offered, QASHQAI "doesn't shout at you the way SUVs do. It isn't as aggressive, but it is assertive in the way it sits on the road," says Schwarz.

QASHQAI's arrival will mark the introduction of a new badging system which, in time, will be rolled out across the entire Nissan passenger car range. Except that the badges themselves won't exist.

Already in use in mainland Europe, the new grading system means forgetting S, SE, SX and so on and learning three new names: Visia, Acenta and Tekna. Visia is the entry-level model with Tekna at the top and Acenta the meat in the sandwich... though those badges appear nowhere on the actual cars. How to remember the pecking order? Think VAT.

Following established Nissan practice, QASHQAI's pricing follows a simple 'walk-up'. Starting from a base £13,499 for the entry-level Visia 1.6 model, an extra £1,500 moves you to Acenta grade. And a further £1,500 (or £3,000 on top of Visia) gets you a Tekna.

Another walk-up price of £1,100 will move you from the 1.6 petrol to a 1.5dCi turbodiesel while £1,400 will take you from the 1.6 to a 2.0-litre petrol. If you want the 2.0dCi turbodiesel, that'll be £2,700 over the price of the entry-level model.

QASHQAI Visia 1.6 (115ps/160Nm) £13,499
QASHQAI Visia 1.5dCi (106ps/240Nm) £14,599 ( i.e. 1.6 plus £1,100)
QASHQAI Visia 2.0 (140ps/200Nm) £14,899 ( i.e. 1.6 plus £1,400)
QASHQAI Visia 2.0dCi (150ps/320Nm) £16,199 ( i.e. 1.6 plus £2,700)
continues... | Part Two

Published : 06/12/06 Author : Melanie Carter

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