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Japanese manufacturer Nissan is looking to introduce a flagship Qashqai variant that would take on the likes of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, according to a new report out of the UK.

Previewed by the Qashqai Premium concept at the Geneva motor show in March, the premium variant of Nissan’s popular SUV could be on European roads by around 2017 or 2018.

Speaking with Autocar, Darryl Scriven, design manager for the Qashqai Premium concept car, said: “The concept was designed to be feasible for production”.

“Now we are working and adapting the authentic materials like carbon-fibre, nappa leather and special paint, for a production future.”

“We are [also] looking at how to move from hand-laid prototype carbon-fibre parts to materials that keep the same look but are easier to make in volume,” he added.

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The matte-black show car featured new headlights and tail lights, body kit with carbon-fibre wheel arch extensions, large alloy wheels, and a cabin with premium materials such as lashings of white nappa leather and carbon-fibre trim.

British motorsport engineering know-how was used to tool and mould the carbon-fibre elements, Nissan says, while machining skills were also adopted for the special wheel finish.

The large wheels were first given a coat of gold paint, followed by a layer of black on top. The top layer was then machined off in order to expose the gold paint underneath – in some places to an accuracy of thousandths of a millimetre.

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Scriven said that replicating the look of these elements from the concept car for a production model is also a challenge.

Inside, the concept featured a new steering wheel that isn’t dissimilar to the sporty wheels in the new Audi TT, and Mazda MX-5 – possibly a design we could see in a forthcoming Qashqai update reported to hit showrooms in 2017.

The show car’s quilted white nappa leather upholstery is also likely to be adapted into a production version.

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Above: Nissan Qashqai Premium Concept and Nissan X-Trail Premium Concept

Nissan’s idea to create an upmarket Qashqai comes off the back of the top-spec Qashqai Tekna’s strong sale success in the UK, prompting the company to focus on the upper-end of the small SUV market.

Autocar reports that a top-of-the-line Qashqai would likely start at around 30,000 pounds ($60,000+) in the UK, which pitches the little Nissan against the top dogs of the premium small SUV market; the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

While not a specific attempt to establish a semi-premium sub-brand, a la Ford’s Vignale badge, the sales success that is the Nissan Qashqai could be a solid player in the upper-end of the small SUV segment.

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Above: 2016 Nissan X-Trail Premium Concept

Timing of this new Qashqai flagship hasn’t been officially confirmed, however reports point to a 2017-2018 European release, which could mean this new variant would form part of an updated range that is also expected to debut around the same time.

Qashqai to pioneer driverless technology

Nissan has also confirmed that the Qashqai – the fifth highest selling vehicle in the UK – will be the first model in its European lineup to be offered with its new ‘ProPilot’ autonomous driving technologies when it gets refreshed sometime next year, so a top-spec variant would be likely to include these features to take on established German rivals.

Part of the company’s rollout of its stage-one autonomous driving systems, the new ProPilot driverless suite enables the car to drive autonomously and safely in a single lane in heavy traffic conditions on highways.

The first ProPilot Nissan will be released in Japan by the end of the year.

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Above: Nissan will have its first autonomous-capable model by the end of this year

The Qashqai isn’t the only model in the brand’s line-up that is being considered for the luxury treatment either, the larger but mechanically similar X-Trail SUV also appeared at Geneva as a matte-white ‘Premium’ concept, meaning it could also spawn a luxe-focused flagship variant.

Stay tuned for more Nissan Qashqai updates as they come to hand.

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