A good all-rounder, Nissan’s diesel SUV would have even greater appeal with automatic transmission
The turbo diesel SUV is a good all-rounder, though at a premium price and without an auto transmission
PETROL still powers most compact SUVs and cars like Nissan’s new Dualis TS turbo diesel are only ever going to make a minor dent in the numbers. It’s one of the most efficient diesels Carsguide has tested and has good standard gear but the absence of an auto transmission limits its appeal.
At first glance the $29,990 bottom line for the frontwheel-drive Dualis is fairly convincing and a reminder why the compact Nissan continues to sell in big numbers. The diesel’s $4000 premium over the base ST also brings foglights, dark-tinted rear
‘‘ privacy glass’’ and chrome bling but is a big ask.
Buyers who drive 15,000km a year will save about $800 per annum on the oil burner, so it’s not a compelling proposition. Standard kit in all variants includes cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, satnav and reversing camera.
The pursuit of fuel economy led Nissan to fit an unobtrusive stop-start system on the diesel, giving it a class-leading figure of 4.5L/100km. The 1.6-litre engine comes from the Renault arm of the alliance and is a robust and willing performer. It would be so much better mated to an auto transmission, however.
The limited range inherent in a small diesel— there’s about 2500 rpm of usable grunt — means the left hand never wants for work on the sixspeed manual gearshift. Keep it stirred and response is enthusiastic enough to make the petrol version feel sluggish.
There’s nothing wrong with the manual box but in an era when CVTs and autos— both of which Nissan does well— are the default option, it is an obvious omission.
The Dualis has been a winner for Nissan since it launched here in 2009. Smart use of limited space means the back seats are big enough for kids and the cargo area will handle most loads. The interior plastics, while not best-of-breed, feel solid and are easy to clean. Outside, the look is clean and uncluttered. The roof doesn’t curve down as much as some rivals, which helps give the Dualis that extra rear space, while the tapering glass profile still gives it a swoopy appearance side-on.
Six airbags and a five-star ANCAP rating are the numbers that count for the Dualis. Its overall score is a couple of points off the lead but impressive for a car of its age.
The basics are solid with direct, if light, steering, decent brakes and suspension to soak up the bumps at city speeds rather than keep the car planted to the road as the pace picks up.
A gruff response to the ignition switch indicates the Dualis is a diesel but the clatter tones down a touch once under way. Cabin noise is one of the few areas where the Nissan loses out and rear-seat passengers grizzled about road and engine noise under mid-throttle acceleration.
The meat of this engine lies from 1500-4000 rpm. Manipulate the manual to keep it there and the diesel is a brisk performer; shift too early and
Omission critical: Nissan has very handy CVTs and selfshifters — but not in the turbo diesel TS (red examples below)