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Car confidential: Record year for Nissan?

New metal is every car company’s lifeblood. From January to May, Nissan registrations were down 23% because models like the Tino have been phased out and Almera/Primera ranges rationalized.

But the Note MPV is leading the charge of reinforcements.

Next up is a crossover SUV that is launched in September. Codenamed P32L, it’s a baby Murano, shrunk to the size of a Toyota Rav4. The crossover has a monocoque chassis, which will also be shared with Renault’s forthcoming mid-size SUV. Most P32Ls will be front-wheel drive only, although part-time 4wd will be optional. In the nose are 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol and 2.0- dCi diesel engines.

The crossover arrives in dealers in January, followed in the summer by a five-door hatch to replace the Almera. The car is known Stateside as Versa, although it’s likely to use its Japanese name – Tiida – in Europe.

Under the skin lurks the Renault-Nissan alliance’s B platform, which underpins the Note. Prototypes are running out of Nissan’s Cranfield R&D centre, as the suspension is modified for European tastes. Expect a 1.5-litre diesel to join the 1.8-litre petrol engine.

The stream of new metal keeps on coming. The X-Trail will be replaced in autumn 2007. This remains a more rugged vehicle than P32L, with decent off-road drive capability and a funkier look than today’s 4x4.

In 2008, Nissan will gatecrash one of the few segments showing growth – the city car arena – with a car co-developed with Suzuki. A two-seater inspired by the Urge concept will also arrive to give younger buyers an affordable answer to the 350Z. With a 2.0-litre petrol four in the nose and driving the rear wheels, the Urge will target the MX-5.

Nissan’s ‘slump’ is likely to be short-lived, so don’t feel too sorry for its dealers. Company sources vow they’re heading for another record year...

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