2006 Nissan Qashqai, claimed crossover pioneer
2006 Nissan Qashqai, claimed crossover pioneer
Image: Nissan UK
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Nissan has upgraded its Sunderland, UK factory in the face of upcoming refresh of its Qashqai crossover. The news is not only remarkable because it’s about investing in the UK even after Brexit, but because the press release from Nissan contains this line:

The first specially commissioned panels on the press were produced today at an official ceremony, led by Nissan Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta, who said: “When the first Nissan Qashqai rolled off the line in Sunderland in 2006 it created the crossover segment.

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While it is true that the first generation Qashqai, known as the Rogue in the USA, was a crossover, it really did not create the crossover segment. It can be said that it made Nissan buyers switch to crossovers, as not a lot of people bought the UK-built Pulsar hatchback after the Qashqai became popular, but it wasn’t the first crossover.

Toyota RAV-4 EV, an actual pioneering crossover in many ways
Toyota RAV-4 EV, an actual pioneering crossover in many ways
Image: Toyota
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It’s not even close. There have been a number of crossovers made way before the Qashqai was even sketched out, starting with the 1994 Toyota RAV-4 which is even similarly sized, even if it was far cooler than the Qashqai (and available in two lengths and as an EV version).

Honda CR-V, the Comfortable Runabout Vehicle
Honda CR-V, the Comfortable Runabout Vehicle
Image: Honda

Then there are the Honda CR-V and HR-V models, the first of which effectively took the RAV-4 recipe but applied it to a Civic platform in 1995, and the 1999 HR-V was exactly the sort of “hey, let’s go to the beach with our surfboards” kind of funky urban vehicle that was bought by elderly people who found it handy. Same with the Element which hit the market in 2003, a year before Nissan showed the concept version of the Qashqai. Really, there are a number of vehicles you could describe as being the first to cross over from one segment (family hatch/wagon) to another (SUV), and not one of them is the Qashqai.

We can’t stop here, this is Golf Country
We can’t stop here, this is Golf Country
Image: Volkswagen
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And if we look at the 1980s, there are so many proto-crossovers to be seen that it’s not even funny. Take the Volkswagen Golf Country, which was certainly a lifted, 4WD hatchback done with marketing in mind. Before that, there was the Matra/Simca/Talbot Rancho, which was formed off a regular issue, FWD Simca 1100 hatch but grew a Popemobile style cargo area and gained some chunky plastics. If that isn’t crossover as hell I don’t know what is.

The Rancho, busy crossing over from the field to the road
The Rancho, busy crossing over from the field to the road
Image: Matra
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In the States, the earliest, most cross-overy vehicles were AMC products such as the Eagle, which must have given Subaru the inspiration for its Outback line of wagons. The Jeep Cherokee XJ was revolutionary in the way that it had a unibody construction, which is surely a crossover hallmark. I could even say with a straight face that the first crossover was the GAZ M-72 from the Soviet Union, the first series produced four wheel drive car with a monocoque body. They made thousands of them, too.

GAZ M-72 doing crossover stuff in the ‘50s
GAZ M-72 doing crossover stuff in the ‘50s
Image: Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod
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2003 Infiniti FX45
2003 Infiniti FX45
Image: Infiniti

Finally, by ignoring the 2003 Infiniti FX45, Nissan is perhaps doing itself the biggest disservice. Looking at all of the coupe-crossovers currently on the market, that combine somewhat daring styling with a luxurious interior, they’re all in actuality imitating the early-2000s FX45 which was a true trendsetter. Yes, the swoopy FX45 is classes above the Qashqai/Rogue in size, but it was actually something pioneering made by Nissan. That’s something Nissan should celebrate.

Automotive writer based in Finland. Never paid more than two grand for a car. Currently drives a manual turbodiesel wagon.

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