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by Tim Beissmann

A set of leaked patent images has given us our best look yet at the design of the all-new third-generation Nissan X-Trail SUV.

The images – which first appeared on Chinese website AutoSohu – reveal a design almost identical to the Nissan Hi-Cross concept that debuted at last year’s Geneva motor show.

The greyscale images suggest the next-gen Nissan X-Trail – which is tipped to hit the market in 2014 – will, as expected, trade its boxy 4WD looks for a slightly softer, crossover-style design.

Like the Hi-Cross concept, the vehicle in the patent images features narrow, angular headlights integrated into a slim version of Nissan’s signature three-piece grille.

Contoured door panels and a rising window line replace the current car’s slab-sided, square lines, adding character to the profile, while the X-Trail’s traditional pillar-mounted tail-lights make way for horizontal fixtures spanning the rear-quarter panels and tailgate.

At 4660mm long, 1850mm wide and 1670mm tall, the Nissan Hi-Cross concept was 25mm longer, 60mm wider and 30mm lower than the current X-Trail, and featured seven seats rather than the standard five in the production model, hinting at a potential upgrade for the new-gen model.

The Hi-Cross hybrid concept teamed a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack, with Nissan’s latest Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) capable of sending power to the front wheels or all four.

Nissan Australia sold 16,066 X-Trails across the country in 2012, making it the second-most-popular SUV on the market behind only the Toyota Prado (17,045).

Despite its age (the current model debuted in Geneva in 2007), local sales increased 32.9 per cent as its share of the sub-$60,000 medium SUV segment rose from 14.7 per cent to 16.2 per cent.