Nissan introduced three new vehicles at the 2006 Detroit show - the redesigned production 2007 Sentra sedan and new Versa hatchback/sedan plus a sports car concept called the Urge.

The sixth generation Sentra - to be built like its predecessor in Mexico - goes on sale in North America next autumn. The new entry-level Versa will be offered in two versions - the five-door hatchback, which will be available in early summer this year, and the four-door sedan, which follows a few months later.

The Urge concept, styled at Nissan Design America in California, is targeted at young, first-time car buyers with a gamer's sense of adventure, according to the car maker, which also described it as "a minimalist sports car".

"The Nissan URGE concept, with its motorcycle-inspired body, caged interior, integrated gaming system and quick, agile performance, is a spirited, high excitement sports car for a new generation of youthful Nissan drivers," said Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, as he unveiled the new models on Nissan's stand.

He noted that Nissan and Infiniti combined sales passed the one million mark in calendar year 2005, with total sales of 1,076,670 units up 9.6% year on year.

Since 1999, Nissan has increased US market share by over two points - from 4.0% to 6.3% - while increasing total vehicle sales by 58%.

Ghosn reiterated his company's commitment to the application of fuel-efficient, smooth-performance continuously variable transmissions (CVTs). These first appeared in Europe in some UK-made Nissan models, and all of Nissan's front engine/front-wheel drive vehicles except for Quest and some Versa models will be offered with CVTs in the near future - including all Sentras, Altimas, Maximas and Muranos sold with automatic transmissions.

"Clearly a shift has been made, but our job is only just beginning," noted Ghosn. "Shift means Nissan does things differently, but only for the sake of better performance."

The redesigned 2007 Sentra is built on Nissan's new C platform which will underpin other Nissan and Renault models (the current Nissan Micra/March, Renault Modus and newly redesigned Clio share the smaller B platform), and has a new, standard two-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, standard six-speed manual transmission or more fuel-efficient 'Xtronic' CVT auto in place of the previous model's 1.8- and 2.5-litre engines, five-speed manual and conventional four-speed auto.

New interior features include optional integrated overhead compact disc holder, leather seats and keyless entry system.

Entry level models priced from US$15,000 will have power door locks and windows, side-impact curtain air bags and air conditioning.

The Versa is the US-specification version of the Japanese domestic market Tiida hatchback and Latio sedan, but different from the similar looking but slightly larger Tone hatchback (based on the Japanese market Note) that Nissan UK will soon start building for European markets.

Built on the B-platform (the aforementioned Micra/March/Clio/Modus underpinnings), the Versa will have a standard 120-horsepower 1.8-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine and a choice of three transmissions, including Xtronic CVT.

Both sedan and hatch variants of the front-drive Versa will have a long list of standard and available equipment, including optional intelligent key, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, satellite radio and Rockford Fosgate-powered subwoofer. Prices will start around $12,000.

The Urge concept has so-called 'two + alpha' seating - with a unique third seat tucked behind the driver and passenger.

The exterior is highlighted by an extensive aluminium 'cage' structure, which includes an aluminium centre structure that runs from the engine bay to the interior centre console.

The body itself features aluminium/composite construction, a glass bonnet (hood) for a view of the quick, small-displacement high-revving engine, four-bar hinge scissor doors, see-through door panel cut-outs, and a collapsible canvas top.

The Urge interior features lightweight mesh bucket seats, compact F1-style steering wheel, a driver information monitor with five customisable screens (rather like a modern 'glass cockpit' airliner) and a built-in Xbox 360gaming system with fold-down display and steering wheel/pedal controls.

Other features include lightweight nine-spoke spun aluminium-alloy wheels, 350Z-style Brembo brakes and 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels and tyres.

Bring it on, we say.

Graeme Roberts