NISSAN'S DESIGN RENAISSANCE: Clothes from Topshop: Car by Nissan ; Stylish, Affordable and of High Quality " Nargess Shahmanesh-Banks Reports on a New Automotive Design Philosophy

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High-street fashion trends have moved towards the low-cost yet stylish, and you could say the same for cars " with Nissan at the forefront. 'It's a chic and cheap mindset,' says Stphane Schwarz, the design director at Nissan Design Europe (NDE), the car-maker's studio in London.

This is when you can afford things that have a premium look without the price tag. 'We want to steer the image of the brand to deliver more than you actually pay for,' Schwarz says. 'This value is very contemporary and you can see it reflected in fashion, food and even holidays.'

We're looking at the new Micra C+C, a stylish coup/ convertible with a clever glass roof, designed and built here, which goes on sale on 14 November. The designer says this is a car that 'fits into your lifestyle, right down to the fashion you would like to wear'.

The C+C is pure fun, pure H&M, about indulging yourself without spending a fortune. In fact, you get a lot for your money. It's the first car in its class to have a music system that uses Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to maintain optimum sound quality from its six speakers with the roof up or down.

The six-speaker system, fitted as standard, changes its equalisation settings to suit the different cabin environments. 'We realised there was an opportunity in the market to approach the product in a different way,' says the Swiss designer, who has been with Nissan since 1994.

Volkswagen apparently hijacked the term 'democratisation of luxury' to define its brand. Nissan set out to put this into practice. A couple of years ago, it took over an old railway station in Paddington to transform into its European design centre.

Schwarz sees the London studio adding value to the overall company. 'It's there to capture [the solutions to] European needs and then inject them into our global products. Europe has historically been a trend-setter in terms of style and in defining luxury.' Schwarz works with Nissan's other two design centres in California and Japan.

So far, the only production cars to come out of the London studio have been the revised Micra and the C+C. Schwarz hopes that the compact crossover car, codenamed P32L, destined for launch next year and based on the Qashqai concept shown at Geneva last year, will demonstrate London's impact on the brand.

Nissan was the first Japanese car-maker to delve into its heritage and find a unique design identity that reflects modern Japan. …