LONDON, UK – To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nissan Design Europe (NDE) being located in London, Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s President and Chief Executive Officer, visited NDE to unveil an all-new sporty urban electric concept car called Nissan Concept 20-23.
The unveil of the new Concept 20-23 took place on a floating barge moored directly outside NDE on the Paddington Basin stretch of the Grand Union canal, which is a key part of the unique landscape around NDE which makes it such a distinctive and inspiring location.
Nissan Concept 20-23
The Nissan Concept 20-23 was designed by a team including some the younger members of NDE, with the simple brief to design a car - with no constraints - which they would like to drive on the streets of the city where they work.
The Concept 20-23 name reflects 20 years of NDE’s position in the heart of London, as well as the company’s traditional number 2 (ni) 3 (san) and the current year. It also continues a long Nissan tradition of bringing eye-catching playfulness to the world of hatchbacks and city cars. With the heritage of Nissan’s so-called Pike cars, such as the Be-1, Pao, Figaro and S-Cargo, Concept 20-23 brings a 21st century twist to this small-car tradition.
Speaking about the Concept 20-23 at its unveil in London, Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s Senior Vice President for global design, said: “The young team here at NDE was given a simple brief: design a fun electric city car that you’d like to drive every day in London. The 20-23 Concept that they designed is a compact hatchback which is strongly influenced by the online racing world. I love the story it tells about how the worlds of modern city living, online gaming and zero emissions mobility intersect.”
The modern twist on this small car playfulness reflects both the world of online racing and Nissan’s participation in Formula E. The Concept 20-23’s basic 3-door hatchback body-style features extreme aerodynamic addenda front and rear, with deep skirts which direct the airflow away from the front of the car, through apertures to cool the brakes and out through vents just behind the front wheels.
The nose of the car consists of a flat plane from which angles up to the top of the hood, giving the front an unexpectedly clean surface. This is where the front headlights are positioned, with their distinctive appearance consisting of a thin upper and lower semi-circle and enhanced by a sharp beam thanks to LED technology. The turn signal is part of the same semi-circle LED unit.
They give the front of the Concept 20-23 a friendly appearance, in among the complex shapes which govern the airflow.
From the side, the car’s muscularity comes from extended wheel arches which shroud large wheels with low profile tyres. The top side of the wheel arches front and rear feature vented louvres to reduce the pressure that can create air resistance in the wheel bay.
The curvature of the wheel arches finish abruptly at the level of the lower door where angular intersections frame the air outlet behind the front wheel. And the same angular slits on the rear wheel arches allow the airflow to cool the rear brakes. The extended skirts hug the body side on the lower portion of the car.
At the rear, a large single-piece spoiler emerges harmoniously from the roof rail, with endplates which curve from the near vertical close to the c-pillar over to the angled horizontal element which generates the downforce. Rear visibility isn’t compromised by the rear spoiler, avoiding a common problem that sports cars with rear spoilers face.
Like the front, each of the rear lights consist of a thin upper and lower semi-circle LED which contrast with the squared off forms of the lower portion which is defined by fiercely functional shapes to manage the airflow and to maximise the creation of downforce as the air escapes from under the car. The full width of the car is emphasised by a horizontal bar below what looks like a soft smile that defines the outline of rear hatchback.
A thin air intake is integrated into the car’s roof where it meets the windscreen header, giving ventilation to the occupants as they enjoy Concept 20-23’s performance.
The exterior grey paint has a textured finish, giving the impression of being hewn from a single piece of metal, reflecting the gritty environment it was designed to inhabit. The company number – 23 – features on the car’s rear three-quarters.
While the Concept 20-23 car model is an exterior model only, the team of interior designers created an interior that reflects the extremely sporty nature of the exterior. First of all, entry is by two scissor doors which hinge upwards from the base of the A-pillar.
A brace bar runs across the door openings covered in foam padding to protect elbows, requiring the driver and passenger to step over it in order to reach their seats. The two deep bucket seats offer tight support, but not at the expense of comfort. They are trimmed in a near-white finish, with a large head-support reminiscent of racing cars.
Once in position, the driver is greeted by a long extended steering column which culminates in a rectangular sports steering wheel festooned with multiple controls and adjustments. Paddles to adjust the electric powertrain performance and additional switches are within fingertip reach behind the wheel.
The steering column is supported by a carbon-fibre mount which is itself bolted into position from the base of the large, open aperture which makes up the centre console.
Between the two occupants, two metal beams hold the centre console in position and are bolted to the “spine” of the car that appears from the floor. Beneath the two brace bars, a fire extinguisher is mounted.
The interior is a futuristic interpretation of a racing car’s bare functionality. with just a couple of screens displaying vital information with minimal distractions – a reflection of where real racing cars – such as Nissan’s Formula E entrant - inspire online racing simulator set-ups.
To summarise Concept 20-23, Alfonso Albaisa said: “It’s a fitting celebration of 20 years of NDE where bold ideas have taken shape and come to life!”
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|Notes to editors|
|Twenty years of NDE in London
Nissan Design Europe is home to over 60 exterior and interior designers, clay modellers, digital artists, as well as a specialised colour and trim team. The studio is equipped with a 5 axis full-size milling machine, as well as numerous rapid prototyping machines, virtual reality tools which allow simultaneous design reviews between colleagues in different countries, the latest visualisation equipment and three full-size “plates” where clay models can be painstakingly honed.
The studio opened its doors in the so-called Grade II listed building on the banks of the Grand Union Canal at Paddington Basin in 2003. It had previously been an engineering workshop for British Rail as part of the nearby Paddington Station. Before being chosen to be the site for NDE, it had fallen into disrepair and was the location for illicit “raves” during the 90s. Its graffiti-lined walls have been preserved, but are hidden behind the walls that were installed as part of the Nissan re-fit.
The first project the team tackled together upon NDE’s opening in 2003 was the genesis of a car based on the same footprint and body style of a traditional C-segment hatchback, but with a higher seating position and more robust design cues which echoed those of an SUV. The resulting concept car was presented at 2004’s Geneva Motor Show. Its name: Qashqai Concept.
Fast-forward to autumn 2006 and the production version was unveiled in Paris, with the same design themes at the heart of its styling. Its engineering development was led by the team at Nissan Technical Centre Europe [NTCE] at its sites in the UK, Germany and Spain, to ensure it was well adapted for the specific demands of European customers and roads.
It went on sale early in 2007 and the reaction far exceeded Nissan’s best estimates, with the Sunderland plant in the north-east of the UK soon switching to three shifts a day to meet demand. A new type of vehicle was born – the crossover. And the number one reason for customer purchase then, as now? Design.
In 2009, at the Geneva Motor Show, Nissan presented a compact vehicle, with exaggerated muscular volumes, which looked like a futuristic beach-buggy. Its face was distinctive, with split headlights and an unconventional grille. Its interior had details inspired by a motorcycle – and its polarising looks stole the show. Less than a year later, the production version – now named Juke - was unveiled in a former wind tunnel in the suburbs of Paris – and the resulting reaction fell in to two camps: love or hate.
It was designed to polarise by generating a strong emotional reaction – a rare thing in a vehicle designed for the mainstream. Within a year, the Sunderland factory was again working at maximum capacity to fulfil demand. And, for the second time, through a forensic understanding of the unmet needs of compact car buyers in Europe and meticulous engineering and development by NTCE, the Juke created waves – and created a new segment of the market.
Those two European automotive icons positively changed Nissan’s brand perception and brought thousands of first-time buyers through the doors of its dealers. In an ultra competitive environment, to have two segment-busting cars which re-write the rules in the automotive market is unprecedented. And a large part of the credit for that sits within the teams, past and present, within Nissan Design Europe’s hub which hides in plain sight in central London.
Other notable concept cars in include the NV200 Concept, which spawned Nissan’s successful NV200 light commercial vehicle. Such was its versatility that it was adapted to become one of the world’s first compact electric vans.
The Nissan Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo answered the call from the makers of the iconic Gran Turismo racing game where they set Nissan the challenge to celebrate 15 years of the PlayStation game. Its extreme futuristic looks created a global buzz from the moment it was unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2014.
And in 2015, the Gripz concept car paid homage to the 240Z which won the gruelling 1971 Safari Rally. Its design also referenced the world of cycling. It was clear wink to the forthcoming second-generation Juke, which was unveiled in 2019 and which has continued the success its predecessor enjoyed – now with over a dozen rivals.
More recently, the team at NDE designed the Ariya Single Seater Concept, a high-performance exploration, development and demonstration project of how the all-electric Nissan Ariya road car powertrain could be used in a bespoke single seater racing car chassis.
“We’re a relatively small team at Nissan Design Europe, but I look back with pride at the consistently bold, refreshing and innovative work the team produces here – and has done since the doors first opened here 20 years ago. At the heart of NDE’s culture is a warm, collaborative environment where we all strive to bring outstanding design and creativity to the experience of discovering, buying and driving for our customers. It’s our job to make them fall in love with a Nissan,” said Matthew Weaver, Vice President, NDE.
With the new Concept 20:23 celebrating two decades of bold, pioneering automotive design leadership in London, across Europe and beyond, it will be exciting to see what the next 20 years hold as the team at Nissan Design Europe embraces the move to electrification and autonomous drive technology.