Frankfurt Motor Show is due to begin on Sept. 17 and Nissan promises to reveal a shift of direction at the German exhibition.

The available images suggest that inspiration for the design came from the car that won the East African Safari Rally in 1971, the Datsun 240Z. The crossover is rumored to reinvent the Z badge and be available for purchase in 2017. By then, the current 370Z will be outdated. The car producers had two main options: investing in the development of a ferocious sports car or in a more affordable and tame, four-cylinder model - the kind that was showcased by the iDx compact coupe concept in 2013.

The answer is surprising: the next Z model from Nissan will be a small sports car crossover.

The Japanese brand is keeping an eye on the U.S. market, where Z badge has a solid fan base and the interest for crossovers is far larger than for small sport cars. With the bold move, Nissan hopes to appeal to younger buyers as well.

"I feel Z needs more revolution than evolution. I think GT-R has to stay the most high-performance symbol of Nissan technology and Z is a more affordable sports car or a sporty car to get the younger people," says Shiro Nakamura, Nissan's chief creative officer.

"I don't think the next one [Z car] is going to be the 390Z. You know, 350 started with 240, 300,350 and then came 370. I don't think we should go higher."

The small crossover niche is of great potential for the new Z type and would attract drivers that find Qashqai too large and cumbersome and Juke too serious and lacking an edge.

GT-R model showed that Nissan is able to mix strong performance with a rear-four-wheel drive system and there is promise that the hybrid crossover will inherit these merits, while also being extremely eco-friendly on short distances. The French-Japanese platform accommodates hybrid powertrains, so there may be a chance to see the crossover being powered by an electric motor.

"The market is not like it used to be, so I think that if you do something, you'll need to do something quite special, to attract the segment," suggested executive vice-president Trevor Mann.

That seems to hint at the price tag: it is plausible that the Z's crossover price will drop under the $30,000 threshold, making it a direct competitor with the more basic Qashqai models.

Unlike the Juke edition, the new variant will rely on the Renault-Nissan Alliance's latest CMF B platform, meaning that the engine offer will feature the all the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines. There is no info if the Z from 2017 will sport a coupé three-door version or not, but the general shape suggests that the roofline will minimize passenger for grownups, making rear seating almost optional.

It is expected to see even more radical approaches from Nissan, with a surprise two-seater at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

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