Nissan Europe’s new Qashqai C-segment crossover model has been awarded the maximum five-star rating for adult occupant protection from the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), with the highest ever recorded score for any vehicle.

The Qashqai, which replaced the Almera, Almero Tino and Primera in Nissan Europe’s line-up, was awarded 36.83 points out of a maximum 37 points by the independent crash test organisation, receiving almost full scores in Euro NCAP’s strict front and side impact tests, as well as a full score for seatbelt reminders.

The vehicle, which went on sale in Europe earlier this year, also received four stars for child protection. Currently no vehicle in the small family category has received the maximum five, Nissan noted.

In pedestrian protection, the vehicle received two stars, only 0.38 point short of three stars. Currently no vehicle in the small family category has received the maximum four.

Orders for the Qashqai are off to a strong start with total orders approaching 60,000 units. As of the end of April, sales totaled 23,551 units. The majority of Qashqai buyers are migrating from the C segment, consistent with Nissan’s forecast.

The car is available in two and four-wheel drive, as well as four engine options – two petrol and two diesel, including the all-new 2.0-diesel version.

The Qashqai is produced at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK and has been developed for markets around the world. Starting today (23 May), the model will go on sale in Japan where it will be named Dualis.

The Qashqai will also go on sale in the Middle East and other overseas markets later this year.

The new Nissan has had a mixed reception from the consumer press here in the UK, with some writers questioning whether it is a five-door hatchback or a small SUV, or too much of a compromise (eg no real off-road capability for the 4WD versions) – Nissan argues it offers the high seating visibility of a small SUV without the environment issues and bulk; the car is no longer or wider than a conventional C-segment hatchback. Nonetheless, it topped a recent four-car comparison in weekly magazine Auto Express against the VW Golf, Dodge Caliber and KIA Sportage.

Coincidentally, just-auto briefly tried the model at an industry ride and drive event yesterday and was impressed with the high specification, interior materials quality, build and high-torque two-litre diesel. The raised seat height gives a much better better view of the road and surroundings, like Ford’s European Fusion and the VW Golf Plus, but ride and handling and interior comfort is as good as a conventional C-class hatchback, without the lateral movement sometimes experienced in such high-ride cars.

Nissan Europe’s move from conventional to niche products in each segment looks like paying off if the Qashqai and the smaller Note, launched earlier, are any guide.