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Nissan's passenger car revival: Wants Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla rival "yesterday"

Nissan is plotting a passenger car comeback in Australia.

Nissan is plotting a passenger car comeback in Australia, with company executives saying they want an expanded lineup "yesterday".

That's the word from Nissan boss Stephen Lester, who told CarsGuide that passengers cars are back on the brand's wish list, and that he was "working away at it" with his global colleagues.  

While Nissan's passenger car family has been shrinking globally (and in Australia consists of only the new Leaf EV, the GT-R and the 370Z) there are a handful of international models to choose from.

The most likely candidate is the Nissan Note e-Power, which is one of Japan's best-selling cars. And Nissan has said that by 2022, a third of its local sales volume will be electrified - adding fuel to the Note e-Power fire.

Described as a "compact hatchback" - it's smaller than a Corolla or Mazda 3 - the Note pairs a combustion engine with an electric motor like a conventional hybrid, but is unique in that the wheels are always driven by electric power, and the engine is simply used to charge the on-board batteries.

In Japan, the Note hatchback gets a 40kW electric motor powered by a 1.5kWh battery pack, and paired with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Nissan says the Note e-Power returns an impressive combined fuel consumption figure of 2.7L/100km.

While the brand is so far keeping its cards close to its chest there's a real chance an updated version of - or even a replacement for - that vehicle could be unveiled at this year's Tokyo Motor Show.

"The short answer is we’re still working away at it with the global team," Mr Lester says. "There are some challenges bringing vehicles into the market from an ANCAP five-star standpoint that we all face.

"And it's about making sure we have the opportunity and the right vehicle to fit it, and that vehicle is going to be supported for a while. You don’t want to bring a car in that has an extraordinary short lifespan, and then you have to start all over again.

"In our long-range plan, passenger cars do exist and those products are coming. But I'm maybe a bit impetuous when it comes to this, and I would have liked to have had them yesterday."

The Nissan Micra, currently sold in Europe, is another option, as is the Toyota Camry-sized Altima currently on sale in the USA, or even the bigger Maxima also sold Stateside.

But for Nissan, the ongoing strength of Australia's small-car market, currently dominated by vehicles like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30, is proving the lure to return to the passenger-car space.

"Some of those segments are still going well - the small-car segment is still 20 or 30 per cent of the entire market," Mr Lester says. 

Can Nissan shake-up the passenger car segement? Tell us in the comments below.