I’d forgotten how good the Nissan Qashqai was and more than 3.5 million of them have been built in Sunderland, making it the most popular UK car. And there’s a new one just built in the North East so it won’t be long before the four million mark is passed.

But I have a confession to make because when the Qashqai first came out 14 years ago I said: “This will never sell.” How wrong can you be.

Since the launch of the original model in 2007, the Qashqai has broken record after record. It was the fastest UK car to reach one million, two million and three million units built, and more than 3.5 million are about a third of the plant’s all time total. Those figures also mean that one in five cars built in the UK since 2007 has been a Qashqai – the highest-volume car made in Britain.

How is it that Nissan just goes from strength to strength here in the UK while Honda is closing production here in Swindon and the rest of Europe as well?

Perhaps the answer comes from Alan Johnson, Nissan Vice President in the UK.

He said: “The Sunderland Plant has been built on 35 years of manufacturing excellence, and from the skills and expertise of our world-class team.

“More than 3.5m customers chose a Qashqai made in Sunderland and the third generation model delivers the new levels of technology, design and performance which people have come to expect from the original crossover.

“We know it has been a tough year for young people, so we’re using the launch of this next-generation car to step up our efforts to inspire the next-generation of manufacturing talent. We want every child in the North East of England to have the opportunity to be inspired by the Nissan Skills Foundation.”

The Nissan Skills Foundation was founded in 2014 and is geared towards encouraging young people to take up careers in manufacturing. It has grown to include 10 bespoke activities for children aged seven to 18, as well as providing resources for regional schools to take part in international STEM competitions. To date more than 65,000 young people from across the region have taken part in a Nissan Skills Foundation event.

And that is where the rub is. Nissan have kept their connections local and persevered with them. Honda tried to keep local links but wasn’t exactly successful.

The Nissan team at Sunderland underwent thousands of hours of training for the launch of Qashqai supporting more than 7,000 jobs in the UK as well as a further 24,000 in the wider UK supply chain and about 5,000 in UK dealerships.

So why has the Qashqai been so successful? It was the first of the crossover models when people wanted something bigger than just a normal car but not anything as big as a 4×4.

The formula was a success from the moment the Qashqai hit the showrooms. Of course rival manufacturers were quick to jump on the crossover bandwagon. It is now one of the most competitive and interesting segments of the market, with various new models bringing in new design themes. But none have been able to  improve on the Qashqai which is still at the head of the game.

The name, both difficult to pronounce and spell, comes from a tribal confederation of clans of Iranian origin. Who came up with the idea remains to be a mystery. 

The Qashqai was first unveiled as a concept vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show in 2004 and two years later it was there in the flesh at the Parish Motor Show. By the end of the year so popular was it that more than 100,000 had been sold and the million mark was topped in less than seven years.

There are a variation of engines and the price starts around £21,500 while the new model will come in at C23,500. Nissan also has good financing with low monthly repayments, zero percent finance and low deposits. There is an impressive list of equipment and the top of the range is certainly top premium.

The 1.5 dCi diesel is one of the best all-rounders and the 1.3 TCe petrol engine is pretty good giving you more than 45 miles to the gallon. There is a choice of transmissions and the option of four-wheel drive. If you want a good second hand model then a five year-old model will cost you around £9,000.

The new model is certainly going to be brilliant and it is in the showrooms now. I can’t wait to drive it.

Pictured: Young Sunderland school pupils, who are part of the Nissan Skills Foundation, with the new Qashqai