There’s been a lot of speculation about the new Nissan Z becoming more of a crossover. It was based on the teaser image of the Nissan Gripz Concept, which displayed the Z car look on a higher, more muscular platform.
The rumours were partly right – the Gripz does point to a future crossover; but it’s not so much the crossing over of the Z as the Zedification of the crossover. In particular, it’s most likely a sign of the making over of the Juke to get it in line with the present Nissan design direction (“emotional geometry”).
The Gripz Concept is a collaboration among Nissan designers in Europe and Japan (the exterior and interior, respectively) and follows the original concept for Juke of putting the “sport” back into the utility market. It was meant to be a pioneer in the compact utility market, and that’s exactly how Nissan is promoting the Gripz – “a glimpse of how a future compact crossover from the pioneer of the segment might look,” states the Nissan release.
“Nissan pioneered the idea of the compact crossover, and this is reflected in the enormous popularity of Qashqai (Rogue) and Juke and the resulting growth of the market segment as other manufacturers play catch-up,” said Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s senior vice president and chief creative officer. “While the Nissan Gripz Concept is not seen as a direct replacement for either of those two iconic vehicles, it does show the extremes to which the compact crossover can be pushed.”
Like Juke, the Gripz is designed as a vehicle with a dual personality – a vehicle that can inject a bit of fun into the day-to-day humdrum, and one that can break free of the suburban routine for weekend adventures. Nissan says the Gripz is a sort of homage to the iconic Safari Rally victor Datsun 240Z (a 240Z on a 4x4 chassis). The black and orange paint scheme is also a tribute to those cars.
Like Juke, it can pass for a sporty coupe, once you get beyond the higher ride height. Its dimensions are nearly identical to those of Juke – a little more hunkered down, marginally shorter on a slightly longer wheelbase, and marginally wider. Where it distances itself from the Juke, though, is in its powertrain.
The Gripz Concept is a Series hybrid, combining a gasoline engine with the electric motor currently used in the Leaf. That would put it in direct competition with the recently announced Toyota C-HR, which debuted as a concept the previous day in Frankfurt and is due to make its global debut as a production vehicle in March 2016 at the Geneva show.
The vehicle is built on a carbonfibre frame, over which body panels are placed much like armour plates in medieval times were fitted to body parts of the human frame beneath. Carbonfibre shows through at various locations around the body. It rides on Bridgestone 22-inch lightweight wheels made specifically for the Gripz.
The boomerang motif of the lights is straight out of the Z car but here, the front fender-top lights are parking markers like the Juke’s high mounted lamps. The headlights are housed below, in the bumper, and house cameras to scout the road ahead for obstacles and to live-feed images to social media.
The front doors swing out and up and rear ones are rear hinged to negate the need for a B-pillar and allow easy access to the cabin’s four seats. The interior is minimalist (with exposed tubes and thin panels) and matches up the exterior with matte grey and deep orange-red colours. A “Tour de France” shout-out is evidenced in the tubular frames of the A-pillars and racing-saddle like seat cushions and arm-rests. And in perhaps a sign of things to come from the OEM market, it includes built-in dash-cams (presumably for safety and security, but also to allow owners to never miss a moment of social-media content).