Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. will unveil the production version of its Qashqai concept cross/utility vehicle at this month’s Paris auto show.

The Qashqai (pronounced “kash-kai”), which effectively replaces the slow-selling Nissan Primera, will be available in both 2- and 4-wheel-drive configurations and offer a choice of four engines: a 1.5L or 2.0L diesel engine and a 1.6L or 2.0L gasoline engine.

Horsepower ranges from 105 with the base diesel engine to 148 for the 2L diesel. The 2.0L diesel uses Robert Bosch GmbH’s piezoelectric-controlled injection technology, which has a 5-squirt injection cycle to reduce engine clatter and improve emissions, Nissan says.

Four transmissions, 5-speed and 6-speed manuals, a 6-speed automatic and a continuously variable transmission, will be offered.

Nissan’s All-Mode 4WD technology, first used on the X-Trail small SUV, will be available on 2.0L models.

The majority of the vehicle’s design and development occurred in the U.K., at the Nissan Design Europe studio in London and Nissan Technical Centre Europe in Cranfield.

Nissan’s Sunderland, U.K., plant will build the Qashqai beginning in December, with sales beginning in early 2007. Nissan invested E300 million ($382 million) to ready the plant for the vehicle, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn tells reporters in Paris.

“It is a car of contrasts for a world of contrasts,” says Stephane Schwarz, design director-Nissan Design Europe. “It is tough and compact for the city but sleek and agile for journeys away from the town. It reflects our personalities, our imagination.”

Notable features of the Qashqai include a panoramic glass roof, automatic headlights and wipers, satellite navigation with map coverage of 26 European countries, back-up camera, cooled glovebox and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free cell-phone control.

While certain elements of the Qashqai recall Nissan’s other CUV, the Murano, Schwarz says they are not identical.

“We have adapted some of Murano’s stance and image for Qashqai, and there are one or two design cues common to both – the upswept side window graphic, for example – but Qashqai is far from being a clone of Murano,” he says. “Like brothers, they both clearly belong to the same family but have their own individual identities.”

The Qashqai, the first Nissan European model to be built on the Renault-Nissan Alliance global C-platform, straddles the line between C-segment hatchbacks and SUVs, Nissan says.

It has a wheelbase of 104 ins. (263 cm) and a length of 170 ins. (431 cm). It is 70 ins. (178 cm) wide and 63 ins. (161 cm) tall. Ground clearance is 8 ins. (20 cm).

“These figures put the Qashqai in a unique position in the marketplace, offering more space than a hatchback (and designed to be) more compact and maneuverable than an SUV,” Schwarz says.

“It has not been conceived as a 4x4 and should not be thought of as one. The 4WD option is mainly to provide better traction and more security in all conditions on the road.”

The Qashqai’s interior includes a driver-centric cockpit with a high center console to separate driver from passenger and stadium-type seating.

White light-emitting diodes illuminate the dials, while orange LEDs are used for all other interior accent lighting, including power window switches and as interior ambient lighting, the latter of which will be carried over to other future Nissans.

Three trims levels will be offered: The Visia (entry), Tekna (sporty) and Acenta. Each features different interior trims and upholstery.

The Qashqai has a strut-type front suspension and an independent multilink rear suspension, the latter featuring an aluminum rear upper link that results in about a 9-lb. (4-kg) weight savings, Nissan says.

Electric power steering, antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution also are offered. Brakes are power-assisted front and rear discs. Six airbags, including thorax side-mounted front-seat airbags, are standard.

Nissan plans to sell 100,000 of the vehicles annually in Europe, at an average price of about €23,000 ($29,400).

Ghosn says 80% of sales are expected to be non-Nissan conquests, with buyers coming from the premium C-segment, SUV segment and D-segment.

In Europe, Nissan expects 30% of buyers will choose the 2.0L diesel, and 20% the 1.5L diesel. Some 85% of cars are expected to be equipped with manual transmissions.

Ten percent of buyers will choose a 6-speed automatic new to Nissan in Europe, and 5% will choose Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT), available only with the 2.0L gasoline engine, Nissan says.

Nissan is pushing its CVT as a fuel-efficient alternative to the traditional choices, but so far the public has not responded overwhelmingly.

Nissan has retuned the transmission so that engineers can give it an “automatic-like” feel – with noticeable step changes that are familiar to drivers, says product planner Yosuka Isawa, who works in Japan.

In addition to Europe, where it goes on sale next February, the Qashqai will be exported to the Middle East and Japan, where it will be called the Dualis.

– With William Diem in Paris

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com