Nissan has stretched its top selling Qashqai (Dualis) compact crossover to seat seven rather than five. The five-seater remains on sale.

The automaker noted, however, that the new third row is designed only for children or as occasional seats for small adults up to about 1.6m tall. The fold-flat third row seats two and there is storage beneath the enlarged load area.

The new version is called the Qashqai+2. Wheelbase is up 115mm to 2,765mm and overall length is 4,526mm, up 211mm. The new model is 38mm taller, too, at 1,643mm. Headroom in the front and middle row of seats has increased by 16mm and 10mm respectively, while knee room in the middle row has improved by 23mm.

The seven-seater is, in fact, new from the A-pillars back. Both front and rear doors have been restyled: the window frames of the front door are squarer in line with the re-profiled roofline, while the rear pair are completely new - longer and also with squarer window frames.

Other styling changes include larger side windows at the rear to provide more light for occupants of the third row of seats. Further distinction between five and seven-seat versions is provided by a new tailgate with a deeper rear window, a revised rear bumper profile and a new grille.

The range matches the current five-seat Qashqai line-up with two petrol and two diesel engines, manual and automatic transmission, two- or four-wheel drive and three trim and equipment levels.

The UK-built five-seat 'original' has notched up "over 170,000" European sales since launch. Production has since been expanded to Japan and China to serve those markets while UK-made versions make it (as the Dualis) as far as Australia.

Sales of the Qashqai+2 begin here in Europe in October. Along with the current Qashqai and the second generation Murano (due here soon), Nissan Europe will now offer three distinct crossovers.

The automaker said its new seven-seater would lure customers not attracted to the current crop of 'people carriers' (minivans) with three rows.

"At the same time, our research shows that an increasing number of customers in this area of the market are not interested in 'family' SUVs, with a third row of seats. They are perceived as too big and too boxy for their needs."

A huge panoramic glass roof is standard on the seven-seater. The fixed roof is 140mm longer than the equivalent optional sunroof on the five-seat Qashqai and has a one-touch electric operated sunshade.

The Qashqai+2 also has roof rails as standard and darkened privacy glass for all windows behind the front doors.

The new pair of third row seats is supplemented by revisions to the middle bench which has a folding, reclining backrest and now slides fore and aft to provide walk-in access to the back row.

As well as moving through a total of 100mm, the middle bench seat now has three way folding and 40/20/40 split. The five-seat version splits 60/40.

The centre '20' portion also doubles as a seat or a wide, multi-function armrest with two cup holders and a lidded storage box large enough to hold personal music players, games consoles and CDs plus an integrated power outlet. When upright, the box becomes a storage recess for those in the third row.

Unlike many seven-seat vehicles, the Qashqai+2 also has a full depth roller-blind style load area cover. With the rearmost seats folded it can be used conventionally but, if the third row is occupied, it can be removed and stowed under the boot floor. Like the extra pair of seats, the cover can always remain in the vehicle.

The lid of the under floor stowage area also doubles as a cargo divider so fragile shopping can be loaded where it won't be damaged by heavier items. A stainless steel kick plate protects the leading edge of the boot floor when loading heavy items.