Nissan is preparing to unveil its Terra SUV concept – a cross, if you like between the automaker’s Juke and Qashqai crossovers and the Leaf electric car – at the Paris auto show. It's a compact SUV, Nissan said, that “takes sustainable motoring into exciting new territory”.Image galleryThe 4x4 Terra concept is powered by a fuel-cell electric powertrain that should make it right at home in both city and off-road environments. The system powers the front wheels using an electric propulsion system currently used in the Nissan Leaf, while individual electric motors provide all-wheel power to the back wheels, when needed. SLEEKER FUEL STACKUnder the bonnet, Nissan's hydrogen fuel cell stack, the latest in a series dating back to 1996, is the main attraction. Described as “a flat, highly compact unit” it features a power density of 2.5kW/L. Francois Bancon, Nissan's division general manager of product strategy and planning, said: "Our challenge was to take Nissan's strength in SUVs and crossovers forward into the zero-emissions era, fuel cells being our new frontier in zero emission mobility."Not big and tough for the desert, the aim was a new approach to SUVs that's relevant to urban life. The unique diagonal seating layout that offers an exciting driving experience thanks to exceptional visibility that creates a sense of being in control under any conditions."Shiro Nakamura, Nissan senior vice president and chief creative officer, said: "We took our inspiration from the lifestyles of youthful customers in Northern Europe. We heard their aspiration for sustainable mobility that can take them anywhere they want to go. “Exploring our imagination of that natural space with the exterior, we have redefined the power of the SUV heritage in a much more athletic way, one that expresses our vision of the zero emissions future."You have the big tyres, high belt-line, thick pillars and thin side windows of the SUV vocabulary. But with a slender waist and a sculptured bonnet, we've created an ‘Implied Structure’ of musculature under the skin. Sharp corners, short overhangs and sculptured lamps contribute to a clean, confident stance. “An aerodynamically flat body pan in an eye-catching colour, protecting the full length of the underside, completes the image of what we call ‘Modern Toughness'," Nakamura explained. 'WELCOMING' INTERIORThe interior is said to offer a “welcoming” environment with blond wood trim and coloured acrylic door panels, wood and metal contrasts across the dashboard and a steering and instrument console that tapers toward the driver. Among all its modern cabin applications, there’s also a unique instrument cluster – a tablet that doubles as a key that the driver docks when entering the car and removes again when leaving. When docked, the default “instrument panel” view is used to display speed and other information, but the driver can also toggle between entertainment, communications and navigation menus. When used outside the car, the “key” is used as a regular tablet although it can also be used to keep in touch with the car and its functions. Another unique function is the Terra’s seating arrangement that sees the rear passengers sit diagonally behind those seated in front, looking over their shoulders, for instance. The Terra seats five and the rear bench folds forward to reveal a boot that is completely flat, the automaker said.Terra is described by Nissan as “purely a concept car” but the automaker said the concept’s 4x4 fuel cell electric powertrain could be a feature on its production vehicles. Nissan’s Terra SUV concept will be unveiled at the 2012 Paris auto show, starting September 27, 2012.