Using a new approach to product development, which incorporates input from younger customers at even the earliest stages of the process, Nissan has addressed the enthusiast and casual buyer alike with its pair of concepts just unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo auto show.
Dubbed the IDx Freeflow and IDx Nismo, Nissan sees these two concepts as case studies that represent completely opposite ends of the automotive spectrum. The concepts are built from the same basic compact sedan, which Nissan refers to as a “flexible box.” The vehicle presents a range of simple interior and exterior structural components that can be altered without affecting the rudimentary three-box layout that separates the engine, passenger, and cargo compartments. It’s a kind of malleable tabula rasa from which designers could be free to experiment.
Nissan says that the IDx Freeflow is envisioned for the casual and lifestyle-conscious buyer, who favors a traditionally simple and comfortable design. Design director Satoru Tai puts it more directly, explaining the design process as “a trial for co-creating a car for people who are not that interested in cars.”
Nissan’s solution is a very neutral, retro design language — the Freeflow’s horizontal headlights, squared-off rear deck, and proportions of the slightly forward-canted angular hood all draw heavy inspiration from the boxy old Datsun 510. The bulging rear-wheel arches are perhaps even a slight nod to classic American muscle, a prominent feature on today’s retro-inspired Dodge Challenger. Inside, classic leather steering wheel and shifter aesthetics are paired with denim seat covers and trim areas, which create a calm and familiar atmosphere intended for the buyer who sees the car as a kind of satellite living room.
Embracing neutral aesthetics to its logical conclusion, the IDx Freeflow is dressed in what Nissan calls a “sophisticated combination of white and flax,” although this is some fairly transparent automaker-speak for what’s clearly just beige.
The IDx Freeflow would expectedly meet mass demand for economy and efficiency, and it could potentially utilize a 1.2-to-1.5-liter gasoline engine paired with a CVT.
In stark contrast to its beige brother, the IDx Nismo is a bonafide, Nismo-fied, energized boy racer. The customer feedback that most directly influenced its design production came from fans of racing simulation games, and that flashy, futuristic flavor pervades on this sporty concept.
The IDx Nismo is slightly wider than the Freeflow, which helps emphasize its proportions and hunkered-down stance. The dynamic red, white, and black Nismo color scheme melds cleanly with the concept’s various carbon panels, side mufflers, and race-inspired graphics. Furthermore, the thin eyelid headlights and reverse-slanted nose and front fascia channel futuristic design language from the Nissan BladeGlider concept. Inside, illuminated steering-wheel mounted gauges and metal surfaces continue the virtual racing theme with bold Alcantara and bright red suede trimming door panels, steering wheel, shifter, and seat covers.
Nissan engineers say that the IDx Nismo could perhaps employ an efficient high-performance 1.6-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine mated to a CVT featuring 6-speed manual shift capability.
Looking at the IDx Freeflow and IDx side by side, we’re more than a little impressed. Nissan shows with the IDx concepts its ability to innovate and execute, as well as an attentive respect for the opinions of its young consumer base, which represents the foundation of its future sales.