Fo­cus on the fam­ily

If you can come to terms with the quirky CVT, this may be the car to move your peo­ple

Herald Sun - Motoring - - USED CAR - with Graham Smith

NEW

When car com­pa­nies quizzed SUV fans about the im­por­tance of four-wheel drive the re­sponse was: not im­por­tant at all. Po­ten­tial buy­ers wanted a high-rid­ing wagon with the space to carry kids and their kit.

Nissan had an each-way punt with the com­pact Dualis by re­leas­ing front and all-wheel drive ver­sions of what in re­al­ity was a small hatch with a wagon body and high driv­ing po­si­tion.

Ini­tially it was sold as a fiveseater wagon, later to be joined by a seven-seater, cutely called the +2. En­try to the Dualis club was via the ST, above which was the more highly spec­i­fied Ti. The same des­ig­na­tions car­ried over to the +2.

At launch, there was one en­gine only, a 2.0-litre four­cylin­der with 102kW/198Nm — noth­ing spe­cial, which showed on the road. Added even­tu­ally, the punchy 1.6-litre turbo diesel markedly im­proved the ap­peal of the Dualis.

There were man­ual and con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sions. Pitched as an au­to­matic, the lat­ter wasn’t in the con­ven­tional sense and drove quite dif­fer­ently. Very few bought the six-speed man­ual.

If the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was noth­ing to write home about, the Dualis ticked boxes for prac­ti­cal­ity. There was plenty of space for fam­i­lies and the rear lug­gage area was quite gen­er­ous, even more so once you laid the seats down flat.

On the road the Dualis’s per­for­mance was un­re­mark­able, some­what dulled by the CVT, but it was easy to drive and park, the cabin was roomy and out­ward vi­sion good.

NOW

Road testers had their reser­va­tions but Dualis own­ers in the main are con­tent with their choice.

Re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues are few, although one owner we talked to ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral fairly mi­nor glitches that clouded his view of the car.

Another owner sug­gested that his Dualis wasn’t tough enough to with­stand the pun­ish­ment dished out on un­sealed coun­try roads.

Per­haps the most con­cern­ing is the re­port of shud­der­ing with the CVT from one owner. Driv­ing the CVT is def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence; it’s like no other trans­mis­sion. The CVT con­cept is bril­liant and such trans­mis­sions have been around since the 1970s. How­ever, they re­quire the driver to un­der­stand how they op­er­ate and what idio­syn­cra­sies to ex­pect.

Rather than the cogs and hy­draulics in a con­ven­tional au­to­matic, a CVT has a belt and pul­leys. The align­ment changes con­tin­u­ously to main­tain a con­stant, or near con­stant, en­gine speed for the great­est fuel ef­fi­ciency.

The most com­mon prob­lem with a CVT is shud­der­ing when you’re tak­ing off or ac­cel­er­at­ing. Walk away if you ob­serve any shud­der­ing while test-driv­ing a car.

There have been a cou­ple of re­calls for the Dualis. One in 2012 was for the steer­ing wheel boss, which was prone to fail­ure and could come away from the col­umn, leav­ing the driver with­out steer­ing. Another in 2010 was for a cover screw con­nect­ing the steer­ing gear pin­ion shaft to the hous­ing — if it be­came loose, the steer­ing could be­come noisy.

OWN­ERS SAY

Ian Do­ran I couldn’t be hap­pier with my Dualis. I also looked at a Honda CR-V but the Dualis had more op­tions for less money. The Dualis is by far the most com­fort­able and safest car I have driven.

Alan Haz­ard I checked out Mazda and Hyundai but liked the Dualis and bought that, and the lo­cal dealer is very cus­tomer fo­cused. I have sac­ri­ficed speed for prac­ti­cal­ity, com­fort and con­ve­nience. I’m very happy.

Julie Stewart-Dawkins I bought my 2009 Dualis Ti in 2010 as a demo model. I chose a man­ual, which was dif­fi­cult to come by, but I’m glad I did. I am ex­tremely happy with its com­fort and per­for­mance, and like the heated leather seats, six-CD stacker, sen­sor wipers and head­lights, all fea­tures I would miss now. It was an ex­cel­lent buy for the money.

Jason An­drews: My 2012 Dualis Ti was a fan­tas­tic car but I have had many re­pairs. The an­tenna for the smart key stopped work­ing two weeks af­ter pur­chase, the cat­alytic con­verter had to be re­placed due to crack­ing, the heat pro­tec­tion on the ex­haust has had to be fixed five times and at the last ser­vice I was told that the body was slightly out of shape by a cou­ple of mil­lime­tres. I’d rec­om­mend the car for a city per­son but not to any­one in the coun­try who drives on dirt roads.

Susie Smith I am hav­ing trou­ble with my 2011 Dualis auto and Nissan seems to be dis­miss­ing the prob­lem as a “char­ac­ter­is­tic of the CVT”. At 50-70 km/h, at 1500rpm, there is a very strong and con­stant shud­der. Apart from this, I re­ally en­joy my lit­tle ve­hi­cle, which I have had since new. Nissan re­placed en­gine mounts twice but the sec­ond time it cost me be­cause my war­ranty had just ex­pired. I had some very strong words with Head Of­fice and my dealer stat­ing that as I have con­stantly com­plained about it I should not have to pay any­thing. That round I won. The ve­hi­cle is now shud­der­ing at nearly 70km/h. Nissan Cus­tomer Ser­vice told me “this is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of the ve­hi­cle”. I then said that we should have been told when look­ing at pur­chas­ing the ve­hi­cle. I was then told that “Nissan can­not guess what peo­ple’s driv­ing habits are and there­fore deal­ers do not need to give in­for­ma­tion about this.” I’m not happy.

SMITHY SAYS

Quite a good lit­tle car if you can live with the quirk­i­ness of the CVT trans­mis­sion.

And there’s more: Dualis, left, and the seven-seat Dualis +2

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