Nissan unveiled its new Hi-Cross Concept at the Geneva Motor Show this week. It's unclear if the concept will become an actual model - or if Nissan even really has room for another crossover - but the car does show a potential design direction for future models. It also shows how seven people and a hybrid powertrain can fit neatly into a relatively small crossover.
Concept cars are an extremely diverse lot. You have the fantastical imaginings of pencil-crazy madmen - say the Bertone Nuccio. Then under the same "concept car" umbrella, you have very lightly dressed cars that could roll into the streets and not get a second glance.
The Hi-Cross Concept is definitely the latter. Look quickly at its profile, and you might just think that you're staring at one of Nissan's current production crossovers. But Nissan calls this one a "dramatic new concept car that heralds a possible new design direction for the company."
So what's so dramatic and new? Well the outside looks a lot like an updated Murano, complete with roof spoiler, so we have to look beyond the doors. Nissan manages to stuff three benches and seven seats into the four-wheel drive crossover without turning it into a hulking, full-sized SUV. In fact, the concept's 183.5 x 72.8 x 65.7 in (L x W x H) (4,660 x 1,850 x 1670 mm) is actually well smaller than the Murano and closer in size to the Rogue.
Another point of divergence is in the powertrain. Instead of your typical V-6, Nissan equips the Hi-Cross with a 2.0-liter direct injection gas engine and electric motor. The Hi-Cross relies on the gas engine as its main power source, and the electric motor to cut emissions and up fuel economy. Nissan says the powertrain gives the driver the power of a 2.5-liter engine with much better fuel economy and emission numbers.
The lithium-ion battery that powers the electric motor is derived from the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Nissan mentions that it is "fast charging," but doesn't say if it envisions the Hi-Cross with a plug-in system or reliant solely upon brake regeneration.
Nissan says that it used the strong belt line, V-shaped grille, and redesigned headlights and taillights to distinguish the Hi-Cross visually. The front-end is definitely distinct, with its narrow headlights and curvy hood. The lines down the hood are reminiscent of the first-generation Murano. The roofline appears straighter than what we're used to seeing in Nissan crossovers, providing headroom for the seven passengers inside. The Hi-Cross stands on 21-inch wheels.
Rumors prior to Geneva suggested the Hi-Cross was a preview of the next X-Trail, a Nissan crossover sold in Europe and other markets. However, Nissan describes it with ambiguous language in its press release. It calls it both "how one member of Nissan's next generation crossovers could look," suggesting it's a single model, and a "possible new design direction," indicating the concept could influence Nissan's entire crossover range. Nissan also says that the concept shows a "possible expansion of the current Juke-Qashqai-Murano portfolio," pointing to a new model entirely.
It could be an X-Trail, Rogue or Murano replacement; it could be a brand new model that joins those other crossovers in Nissan's global line-up; or it could be a seminal model that influences some or all of those production cars. It seems too polished not to show up in some form, so we'll just have to stay tuned to find out where.