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Nissan: A Leader of the Pack

By Tim Barnes-Clay | February 19, 2024

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Nissan’s genesis dates back 110 years – and it’s been sending its cars to the UK for around half that time, albeit under the Datsun brand in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Nissan: A Leader of the Pack

Over the last half-century or so, it's established itself as one of the most popular and successful mid-range brands in the UK.

Nissan isn’t a brand that screams luxury or performance, but if you want something dependable, family-friendly and possibly a little quirky, the Japanese manufacturer has you covered.

Whether you're hunting for a compact city car, an SUV, or a futuristic electric vehicle, Nissan offers a range of cars to suit most people's needs.

And, if that's not enough, plenty more will come over the next few years, too.

Nissan’s Current Line-Up

Nissan’s current UK offering consists of five main models: the Juke, Qashqai, X-Trail, Leaf and Ariya.

Each of these models has its strengths and appeal, but they all share some common traits: they're primarily reliable, efficient, practical, and affordable.

Juke

Nissan's quirky and distinctive crossover combines the best of both worlds: the agility and handling of a typical family hatchback and the space and practicality of an SUV.

The Juke is powered by a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 114PS, or a 1.6-litre mild-hybrid producing 143PS, with fuel consumption ranging from 45 to 57mpg.

The petrol has a six-speed manual, while the mild-hybrid has an automatic gearbox.

It's packed with technology, such as a digital instrument cluster, a 360-degree camera, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and a wireless smartphone charger. However, some of its best features are reserved for higher models or even optional extras, including a safety pack.

The Juke is ideal for drivers who want a car that stands out from the crowd and offers a dynamic and engaging driving experience.

Qashqai

The Juke’s bigger sibling is the Qashqai – Nissan’s flagship model and the undisputed king of the SUVs.

While owners of Audi Q8s, Range Rovers, BMW X5s and Porsche Cayennes might disagree with that statement, the facts are unarguable: the Qashqai is the best-selling SUV in the UK – and it’s not hard to see why.

It’s a spacious and comfortable five-seater which offers a generous amount of cargo space, offering even more practicality than the Juke.

The Qashqai is propelled by two mild-hybrid petrol units – a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine offering 140 or 158PS.

A self-charging hybrid version, known as the e-Power, is also available, which breaks with convention amongst hybrid cars by offering a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that doesn't drive the car's wheels.

Instead, the engine merely acts as a petrol generator that charges a battery, which powers its electric motor.

It's not unheard of elsewhere but a rare setup amongst hybrids.

The Qashqai is loaded with features, such as a 9-inch touchscreen, a 12.3-inch digital dashboard, a head-up display, a Bose sound system, and Intelligent Mobility and ProPilot systems, offering a range of safety technology, as well as assisting with steering, braking, and accelerating on higher trims.

It's the ultimate choice for drivers who want a car that can handle any situation while offering a premium and refined driving experience.

X-Trail

The Qashqai was briefly available as a seven-seater around a decade ago (known as the Qashqai+2), but if you need a couple of extra seats in the back, the X-Trail is the one to go for nowadays.

As Nissan’s largest SUV, it’s also the most capable and can tackle just about any terrain.

If you want one that can handle the rough stuff, it's worth noting that only more expensive models come with all-wheel drive, while power is provided by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol producing 160PS.

There are also two e-POWER versions producing 204PS with front-wheel drive or 213PS with Nissan's e-4ORCE all-wheel drive system.

The all-wheel drive version includes a selectable mode that can adapt to different road conditions.

The X-Trail is well-equipped, with some versions offering a panoramic sunroof, leather interior, heated steering wheel, powered tailgate, and a NissanConnect system that provides online services by connecting to your smartphone.

The X-Trail is great for drivers who want to transport a large family and offer a comfortable and adventurous driving experience.

Leaf

While not a direct replacement for the discontinued Micra, the all-electric Leaf is, for now, something of a spiritual successor to the now-departed popular hatchback.

It’s won awards for its pioneering technology and was among the first all-electric cars – believe it or not, the Leaf is nearly 15 years old.

Offering zero-emissions and low running costs, it’s powered by a 39kWh battery, which is good enough for a range of up to 168 miles, though a larger 62kWh battery is no longer offered.

While trips to the petrol station will be a thing of the past, you'll need to plug it in to keep the batteries charged up, which can be done at public charging stations or at home via a standard three-pin plug. However, it'll charge more quickly if you invest in your home's own wall box, a system typically costing a few hundred pounds.

It'll also recover energy under deceleration through its regenerative braking system, commonplace on electric cars and some hybrids.

Even the entry-level Shiro model offers a 360-degree camera, heated front and rear seats and steering wheel, ProPilot advance assistance system and a heap of safety gadgetry as standard, along with 17-inch alloys, voice control and an eight-inch touchscreen.

If you’re environmentally conscious and want a decent family hatchback that's smooth and quiet, then the Leaf is well worth considering.

It's worth noting that although it's been updated over the years, technology has moved on apace, so the Leaf will be replaced by an all-new design as Nissan focuses on newer models and an all-electric future.

Ariya

Speaking of the future, the Ariya is Nissan’s latest brand-new car – a next-generation electric crossover.

Boasting sleek, futuristic looks, a spacious and luxurious interior, a high-performance and long-range battery, and a cutting-edge technology and connectivity system, the Ariya is based on an all-new platform which allows for a flat floor.

It's powered by a 63kWh battery and a 217PS electric motor, or an 87kWh battery with 242PS, offering 223 and 310 miles of all-electric range respectively.

A dual-motor version adds all-wheel drive and boosts the power to an impressive 306PS, slashing the 0-62mph time to just 5.1 seconds.

It's packed with the latest features, including a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a ProPilot 2.0 system that enables semi-autonomous driving on motorways.

Add that to a futuristic, minimalistic interior that looks far from anything Nissan has produced before, and it's not hard to see why the Ariya is already proving very popular.

Nissan’s Future Models

Nissan isn't resting on its laurels and is already working on exciting new all-electric models that will expand and enhance its range in the future.

Here are a couple of upcoming models that Nissan has announced or hinted at:

The Leaf Replacement

The Leaf will be replaced before much longer with a compact crossover, turning the family hatchback into a small SUV.

While it is set to keep the Leaf name, it will bear little resemblance to the outgoing model.

The size increase should mean enhanced space, versatility and practicality compared to the current Leaf, while advances in battery technology should mean it exceeds its predecessor’s efficiency.

As all-electric cars become more mainstream, costs are being driven down, too, so this may mean the new Leaf is more affordable despite its larger size.

It’ll be based on the same platform as the Ariya – and there’s no doubt the technology offered will be heavily influenced by it.

So, expect to see a range of smart features, such as a digital instrument cluster, a large infotainment touchscreen, and possibly some semi-autonomous driving features, along with a plethora of safety gadgets.

The new Leaf is expected to launch in the UK in 2025.

New Electric Micra

In the absence of anything similar, we said earlier that the Leaf has become the de facto spiritual successor to the Micra, but that will all change once the Micra is reborn.

If it resembles another car that's been reborn – the Renault 5 – that's because the new Micra will be based on the French model.

It’ll have four doors and come with 40 and 52kWh battery packs, offering a range of just under 250 miles.

The new Micra is due to be officially launched in the coming months, and we could see it on the UK's roads later this year or early next.

And Much More...

As if that's not enough, just over two years ago, Nissan set itself a target of producing fifteen new electric vehicles by 2030.

There have been plenty of concept cars, but not much is currently known about what’s coming, except for the ones we’ve covered above.

Nissan took a risk when it launched the Leaf, being one of very few manufacturers to take the all-electric plunge at the time.

However, its trailblazing pluckiness has given it a head start – and by the end of the decade, we should see that bravery well and truly bear fruit.

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