Nissan has had a massive scarcity of new vehicles over the last few years. With the Datsun brand being pulled out and the older models being discontinued or not getting a refresh, Nissan has been relying on the Magnite for bringing in the numbers. The Made in India Magnite has had a much better ride in export markets than in the domestic market. Currently, Nissan India pretty much offers only the Kicks and the Magnite for buyers here, and the import that you can order is the GT-R, at the other extreme of the price segment. But that lack of choice is set to change. Nissan is finally set to get on a trot from its current saunter. Last week, the company showed off three SUVs that will make it to our shores within the next 2-3 years. It is still early days, but the excitement has already started building up.

Nissan was one of the pioneers of the SUV, and even its current global portfolio is loaded in favour of this bodystyle. It is just the right vehicle type for the Indian market, with the SUV being the fastest growing category across price and size segments. Given the status and nature of the Indian market, Nissan has chosen to introduce three new SUVs, starting with the X-Trail, a model with which the Japanese brand started its Indian innings. The Juke and the Qashqai are the other two models that will join the India portfolio later. 

X-Trail

Of the three, the X-Trail premium compact SUV will be launched first sometime next year. Nissan officials are unwilling to disclose any more details about whether the vehicle will be assembled in India via CKD (completely knocked down) or if it’ll be a CBU import (completely built unit). But I guess the decision will depend on multiple factors, including achieving a certain level of competitive volumes to justify CKD assembly. The official statement at the time of unveiling the three new SUVs said, “Over the coming weeks, Nissan will be identifying the feasibility of models from its global portfolio for the future potential vehicle line-up in India. Once testing is complete, the X-Trail will be introduced for sale first, followed by other models. These vehicle assessments are part of a holistic study that Nissan is undertaking to prepare for its future in India. The wide-ranging review also includes securing future localised production for the long-term viability of domestic and export manufacturing, as well as exploring the potential for electrification in the longer term.”

The X-Trail was the model that introduced Nissan to Indian buyers. But, what we remember to be a boxy upright SUV during its first- and second-generation versions, has since transformed into a sleek crossover for the fourth generation. Also called the Rogue in the US market, the X-Trail shares its platform with its smaller sibling, the Qashqai. The X-Trail is currently at an advanced stage of road testing for Indian conditions and could make it here as early as mid-2023. This is a SUV that shares all of Nissan’s design signatures and is aimed at urban buyers with an eye for premium details. It is offered in both 2-row and 3-row seating configurations in different markets abroad. But company officials haven’t confirmed which one may be brought here. 

What is sure, though, is that it will not be getting a diesel engine, though interestingly it will also be offered with a hybrid powertrain-Nissan’s own e-Power system on board. Hybrids are already capturing the minds of buyers here with their potential for stretching the petrol-rupee. But unlike the parallel and series hybrids that which we have seen in vehicles like the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara and the Honda City eHEV, the X-Trail’s hybrid powertrain involves an IC engine that behaves like a generator for the battery electric system. So, it is essentially an EV but doesn’t need to be charged via a wall-socket or a charging station because the petrol engine feeds the battery with power. The system also allows regenerative braking to keep the battery topped up. Since it can be driven without the need for charging, there will be no range anxiety too. Nissan’s presentation at the time of the unveil also talks about the X-Trail potentially being offered with all-wheel drive in addition to the e-Power tech, which is the range-topping variant delivering 213PS and 495Nm of power and torque. There could also be a turbocharged mild-hybrid variant that delivers a lower power of 163PS and 300Nm of torque. 

Qashqai & Juke
The Qashqai is built on the same basic platform as the X-Trail and shares a lot of underpinnings with it

The Qashqai is built on the same basic platform as the X-Trail and shares a lot of underpinnings with it

The most polarising, and honestly weird-looking, but inexplicably appealing vehicles in Nissan’s SUV portfolio used to be the Qashqai and the Juke. Both their designs used to be quirky, and both were positioned as smaller alternatives for urban buyers looking for SUVs with a more compact footprint compared to the X-Trail. The Qashqai is built on the same basic platform as the X-Trail and shares a lot of underpinnings with it. Both the Juke and the Qashqai are popular in European markets where their smaller (under 4.5-metre) size makes them practical and versatile.

The Qashqai is built on the CMF-C platform and features a lightweight, high-rigidity structure. The Qashqai can also be offered in various configurations, including 4WD and conventional two-wheel drive, and featuring either a mild hybrid or e-power tech-loaded powertrain. The Qashqai could bring more depth and choice into Nissan India’s portfolio.

The Juke is currently not being tested on Indian roads

The Juke is currently not being tested on Indian roads

The Juke is currently not being tested on Indian roads. But is instead being showcased to gauge interest in a vehicle of its size and positioning. While the X-Trail and Qashqai are at advanced levels of testing, the Juke will probably go through a roadshow for customer feedback. Focusing specifically on their adaptability to Indian roads and differing terrains, the tests will assess each vehicle’s ability to meet customers’ needs, says Nissan. Starting this month, the vehicles are being tested by Nissan’s top engineers on the roads that surround the company’s manufacturing plant in Chennai.

If Nissan was to choose the import route for bringing the X-Trail and the Qashqai first into India, it would help the company get a quick entry into segments in which the brand is entirely absent currently. And this would also be a less expensive, though low volume and less profitable, expansion of its portfolio. But in the end, bringing these SUVs and getting the buzz going for Nissan reaffirms the company’s commitment to the Indian market, and that is the first step towards urging customers to get back into the showrooms. 

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