ANALYSIS: Powertrain options on the Nissan Qashqai – can Renault/Nissan make CVTs popular in Europe?
The full range of Nissan and Renault engines has been utilised in the Nissan Qashqai crossover, which also shares its underlying platform (the C Platform) with several other Renault and Nissan vehicles. There is also a Jatco produced CVT available with the 2.0-litre petrol engine and that makes the Qashqai the first Renault to get it. Is it a shrewd move, in Europe, where CVTs have had limited success, asks CSM Worldwide analyst Chris Guile?
At the Paris Motor Show Nissan is displaying its new Qashqai car/SUV crossover vehicle, which will be built in the UK at Nissan's Sunderland plant. It will be sold across Europe, as well as being exported to Japan (badged the Nissan Dualis), the Middle East and other overseas markets.
The four engines which will be offered on the Qashqai at launch - two diesel and two gasoline, are as follows:
- The Renault 1.5-litre K9K common-rail diesel engine, with a rating of 78kW (105hp). This is the engine which is produced in huge volumes at Renault's Valladolid plant in Spain. And by huge we mean in excess of 800,000 engines per year, in 2006, according to CSM Worldwide forecasts. It comes in 8 different versions, which are fitted in various Renault, Nissan, Dacia, Samsung and Suzuki vehicles around the world.
- The second option is the 2.0-litre Renault M9R common-rail diesel engine, which Nissan refers to as the M1D, with a rating of 110kW (148hp). This is a relatively new engine, but one which is expected to be fitted in increasing numbers in the coming years - CSM forecasts approximately 400,000 per year, by 2008, from the Cleon plant in France.
- The entry level gasoline engine will be the 1.6-litre Nissan HR16DE rated at 84kW (113hp), which is another recently introduced engine, currently available on the Nissan Micra, Tiida and Note. Unlike the diesel engines, this is manufactured by Nissan's affiliate Aichi Kikai in Japan, at its Atsuta plant.
- Finally, we have the 2.0-litre Nissan MR20DE gasoline engine, also known as the M4R by Renault, rated at 103kW (138hp). This is another relatively new engine, jointly developed by Renault and Nissan, which is currently available in the Nissan Lafesta, Serena and Bluebird in Japan, and more recently in Europe in the Renault Clio.
So, despite being a Nissan badged vehicle, the full range of Nissan and Renault engines has been utilised in the Qashqai, which also shares its underlying platform (the C Platform) with several other Renault and Nissan vehicles.
Like all vehicles on the 'C' platform, the powertrain configuration in the Qashqai is Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) with the engine mounted transversely. In addition, both the 2.0-litre diesel and the 2.0-litre gasoline engines will be offered with Nissan's 'ALL-MODE' 4-wheel-drive system.
As far as the transmissions are concerned, the Qashqai will be available with the following:
- A 5-speed manual from Renault, called the JR5/JRQ, which is the only option with 1.6-litre gasoline engine. It is built in several European plants, and is used in many Renault, Nissan, Samsung and Dacia applications.
- A 6-speed manual which was jointly developed by Renault and Nissan, called the TL4 (Nissan uses the name MT1), will be offered with the 1.5-litre diesel and the 2.0-litre petrol. This is built at the Seville plant in Spain and, from 2007, will also be built at the Pitesti Colibasi Plant in Romania, to meet the increasing demand. CSM expects volumes to exceed 650,000 per year, by 2010.
- A 6-speed automatic, supplied by Jatco from their Yagi plant in Japan, which Renault/Nissan calls the AJ0. This has only just been launched for use in the European Renault Scénic, and in North America for the Mitsubishi Outlander.
- And finally a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) supplied by Jatco, which Renault/Nissan calls the FK0, and Jatco calls the JF011E, as an option on the 2.0-litre gasoline only. It can be operated in a fully automatic mode, or in manual mode using the gearstick (nudge forwards and backwards) to select 6 nominal gear ratios.
Until now, CVTs have only been fitted to a limited number of Nissan cars, such as the Micra, Almera Tino and Primera, which sold in low volumes in Europe, but no Renault cars. But for now, Renault/Nissan has decided to try to push CVT transmissions much harder in Europe, despite their unpopularity, rather than going down the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) route that several of its competitors are following. At least this is the case in the short to medium term - Renault/Nissan will launch DCTs in mainstream vehicle in several years' time, but until then will limit itself to niche applications like the Japanese built Nissan GT-R, from late 2007.
To cater for the extra anticipated demand for CVTs, the Japanese manufacturer Jatco, which has a close affiliation with Nissan, is expanding the capacity of its plant in Aguascalientes in Mexico from 300,000 to 800,000 per year. As well as being supplied to Nissan in North America, these will also be supplied to Renault in Europe, from 2007 onwards. Applications will include the Renault Clio, Megane, Scénic and possibly the Modus.
Only time will tell if this is a shrewd move or not, by Renault/Nissan, in a market which has historically shunned CVTs. This is in sharp contrast to the North American and Japanese markets, where CVTs are much more popular with car buyers. However, it can be done, as proven by Mercedes-Benz, with their WFC280 'Autotronic' CVT, which is available in the A-Class and B-Class cars. By only offering a good CVT and a manual, but not an automatic, Mercedes-Benz has a CVT penetration rate of about 50% in these vehicles, in Europe - something of a record.
It is almost guaranteed that the Nissan Qashqai, or rather Nissan Dualis, will be offered with the CVT in Japan, but it's the reaction in Europe that will be really interesting to follow.
Chris Guile is a Powertrain Analyst at CSM Worldwide