For years, Nissan’s reputation for building some of the most exciting concept cars on the auto show circuit was unquestioned. With the 2013 IDx and 2014 Sport Sedan Concepts, the Nissan showcased an exciting direction for future production cars and kept people wondering what the company would come up with next. But in recent months, it looked like Nissan was leaving its auto show glory days behind when it announced it was choosing to focus on building more fuel efficient, mass market cars and fewer dream machines. Luckily, Nissan’s latest entry at the Geneva Motor Show proves that the two issues aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. The Sway is an exciting design exercise that proves Nissan’s future small cars will be anything but dull.
While its size and versatility give it real-world appeal rarely seen in concepts, Nissan says Sway is purely a design exercise – for now. The European press sees the Sway as a preview of the next-generation Nissan Micra, due in late 2016, and Nissan’s coy statement that the Sway is “a glimpse at how a future generation of compact Nissan models might look if the company’s striking new design language was applied to a European hatchback” all but confirms their suspicions. While the car’s aggressive flowing lines and premium look ensure the car will fit nicely in Nissan’s overall lineup, it isn’t likely Americans will see a production-ready model. The Micra isn’t available in the U.S., and Nissan has no plans to the model stateside anytime soon.
While Nissan’s days of building pure dream machines for auto shows may be over for now, the Sway follows a precedent set last year by the Sport Sedan Concept, which went into production with its exterior largely unchanged as the next-generation Nissan Maxima. Like the Sport Sedan, the Sway’s interior is where its dream car status really comes through. Made from materials that won’t be found in an entry-level hatchback anytime soon, the car is upholstered in contrasting blue Alcantara-like fabrics offset with orange and white soft-touch plastics and brushed aluminum accents. The sparse dashboard is dominated by a large speedometer and tach in front of the driver, with a slim trapezoidal touch screen above the center console to handle all other functions. To further separate the Sway from an eventual production model, the car has slim B-pillars and a glass “x-braced” roof for show-goers to get a better view of the concept’s interior.
Nissan calls the Sway “emotional, edgy, and exciting” – three adjectives that don’t usually come up when describing a subcompact. But things are quickly changing in the segment, and models like the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST have shown European buyers that the smallest cars on the road don’t have to be the most boring anymore. As the market continues to grow for small, stylish cars, Nissan could have a hit on its hands if the next-generation Micra hits showrooms looking like the Sway.
As for performance, Nissan hasn’t given any word on what the Sway can do. The car is more design exercise than production-ready car, and with the next-generation Micra not expected for another 18 months, Nissan has plenty of time to work out the details. The current Micra is powered by a 1.6 liter inline-four that produces 109 horsepower, so a similar powerplant will probably be offered, but the Sway’s aggressive stance suggests that a performance version along the lines of the Juke’s Nismo RS variant could also be in the works. Despite their new-found focus on building practical volume-sellers, it’s a relief to see that Nissan still has its flair for building exciting concepts. The Sway shows that Nissan hasn’t lost its way, it’s just making its best cars more attainable.
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