Derek Black: In with the new ...out with the Almera
THE eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted this smart new machine around Belfast's Boucher Road last week. You may have wondered if it was a compact people carrier or a soft-roading 4x4.
In fact, it is a bit of both, a so-called cross-over car that blends bits of each genre into a neat package.
The QASHQAI is the new face of Nissan and was on show at a special Hurst preview well ahead of its sales launch.
Pronounced "cash - kai", it was first seen as a concept car at a continental motor show a few years ago. Reaction from the public was positive enough for it to go into production and sales will begin next February.
They say it has been designed for buyers who want a dynamic design but who are not attracted to the large, aggressive nature of a SUV.
Nissan is to build its new compact-crossover car at Sunderland. Part people carrier, part hatchback, it will also be available with all-wheel drive.
The new arrival marks a move away from traditional hatchbacks and saloons to quality niche vehicles ranging from the compact NOTE to the sporting 350Z and luxurious Murano.
By coincidence, the last traditional Nissan, an Almera hatchback, rolled off the production line at Sunderland the other day after a run of six years and 639,000 units.
The company has decided to give up the futile challenge of competing head-on with the Golf and Focus clan.
The Almera never quite hit the dizzy sales heights enjoyed by the previous Sunny.
Perhaps lacking a little in style lustre, the Almera was a solid, well-built and roomy hatchback with an excellent reliability record.
It still makes an excellent second-hand buy at pretty keen prices.
However, Nissan has decided to fight on other fronts and has also stopped making the larger Primera.
The new strategy is to exploit the quality standards achieved by the Sunderland plant to offer more unique and individual models that are not limited by the traditional market segments. You can certainly say that about the QASHQAI.