GENEVA: This year's Geneva Motor Show from March 3-13 will be notable for the number of production and concept cars aiming to compete with Nissan's trend-setting crossover.
Response to the Qashqai has been phenomenal. According to JATO Dynamics figures, Nissan sold 232,176 examples in Europe during 2015, making it the continent's seventh most popular car. What's more it helped crossovers and SUVs to overtake the hatchback as the European car of choice. SUVs of all shapes and sizes now account for 22.5% of the market.
"In 2015, this segment drove most of the growth," said Felipe Munoz, Global Automotive Analyst at JATO Dynamics. "More consumers moved away from the traditional segments and MPVs, towards SUVs and crossovers."
It's a trend that's expected to continue up until decade's end in the US as well as in Europe and will be one car companies will be lining up to join on March 1 when Geneva opens its doors to the motoring press.
In terms of direct challengers, Seat will be unveiling its first crossover, the Ateca, which aims to compete in terms of performance, style and the amount of equipment that will come as standard.
"We have put together an amazing package of technologies and innovations for the Ateca - delivering more safety and utility but, above all, the most dynamic driving experience possible," said Seat VP Dr Matthias Rabe.
SsangYong will be aiming for affordability and greener motoring with its crossover concept, the SIV-2. Though just a show car, it will be heading to showrooms within the next two years with the same cabin space as a Qashqai and a hybrid engine for fuel conservation.
In the sub-compact crossover category, competition is fiercer and is now focusing on the premium to stand out. Audi is using this year's event to take the wraps of the Q2, its baby SUV which will be a luxury challenger to the likes of the Nissan Juke, Mini All4 and Opel Mokka.
Not to be outdone, Opel is bringing the Mokka up to date with an ‘X' model at this year's show. Since going on sale in Europe in 2013, the car has clocked up 500,000 sales, and, to maintain this momentum, the new model is getting an injection of premium styling and interior equipment.
However, the biggest single SUV reveal is one that is in the highest echelons of the market. After years of stalling, Maserati is finally ready to unveil the Levante. A model that promises to match the Porsche Cayenne in terms of performance and raise the bar in terms of style and luxury, it is potentially the most important car to come from the company in almost two decades.