2012 NISSAN DUALIS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $34,040 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.2 l/100km | tested: 8.7 l/100km
And, with 188mm of ground clearance, unpainted plastic body cladding and an upright stance, it’s got more in common with a typical SUV than a typical hatch.
But we can see where Nissan is coming from. Available in 2WD and AWD, the Dualis has the easy driveability and compact footprint of a hatch.
Perhaps its appeal is in its split personality - that it’s half-hatch, half-SUV, and neither all of one nor the other.
We tested the range-topping Dualis Ti-L 2WD to assess just how hatch-like a small SUV can be.
Quality: The Dualis’ clean, uncluttered dash design is both well put-together and easy on the eyes. All joins are snug and there are no rough edges nor loose-fitting trims.
The dash-pad and tops of the door trims are soft-touch plastic, and although the hard centre console has less tactile appeal, it’s finely grained and has a premium look.
Comfort: Big leather-upholstered front seats are a plus, and give excellent comfort for driver and front passenger. They’re heated too, and the driver gets a height-adjustable squab.
The steering column adjusts for both reach and rake, and a high hip-point ensures a good view of the road ahead.
Rearward vision is not so great though, particularly when doing over-the-shoulder head checks.
Thankfully the large wing mirrors reduce the size of the Dualis’ blind spot, and a reversing camera is standard on the Ti-L tested here.
Back seat accommodation is good, although lacking in under-thigh support, and headroom is not as generous as you might expect for an SUV (thanks to the panoramic glass sunroof).
We’ve also got a couple of ergonomic complaints. For one, the ventilation controls are located too low in the centre stack (you can’t adjust the temperature without taking your eyes right away from the road).
Also, when the gear selector is in Park, it can be difficult to remove wallets and phones from the slim storage tray at the bottom of the centre stack.
Equipment: For $34,040, the Dualis packs a long feature list. Key standard features on the top-of-the-line Ti-L include a huge panoramic glass sunroof with retractable blind, Nissan’s ‘Around View Monitor’ that uses multiple cameras to give a top-down view of the car’s surroundings, sat-nav, five-inch touchscreen LCD display, reversing camera and 18-inch alloys.
Added to that are cruise control, Bluetooth with audio streaming, USB input, power windows, power mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and auto-on wipers and headlights.
Storage: Rear seats up, there’s a useful 410 litres of cargo room in the Dualis’ rump. Fold the 40/20/40 split rear seats forward, and up to 1500 litres of space is liberated.
That’s a handy amount of space for the average couple or small family, but some small hatchbacks are its match.
ON THE ROAD
With three or more passengers aboard (and particularly if carrying some cargo at the same time), the Dualis can feel breathless when trying to accelerate up hills.
It also needs to be rowed along when merging onto freeways or overtaking at highway speed.
The optional CVT transmission helps keep the engine at its strongest, but often it’s not enough.
The Dualis is crying out for a diesel, or at least a more muscular petrol engine. Unfortunately for this market, strong demand in Europe (where a diesel is available) means an oil-burning option has yet to reach our shores.
Refinement: The cabin is quiet at speed, with only slight wind-rustle around the large wing mirrors. And, despite rolling on 18-inch alloys, tyre roar is also well-suppressed.
When under hard acceleration, the engine note can become a bit drony as the CVT pegs it at one constant rpm. However, the engine is very quiet at a cruise and the CVT itself is near-silent.
Suspension: Ride comfort is superb, with good compliance over rough ground. It’s not too shabby in a corner either, with substantial grip from the 215-section Continental rubber.
With less mass than the AWD model, the 2WD Dualis handles better on sealed roads. It’s not as adept on gravel, naturally, although the stability control does help keep the car out of the weeds.
Braking: Pedal feel is progressive and not too firm, and the Dualis stops reassuringly when it needs to. Braking hardware comprises discs at each corner, with sliding calipers.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are standard on all Dualis models. Occupants are protected by three-point seatbelts on every seat, anti-whiplash front headrests and front, front side and curtain airbags.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years, or 100,000km.
Service costs: Scheduled service costs are capped for the first six years or 120,000km of ownership, with a typical service ranging between $216 and $287.
Intermediate services are due every two years/40,000km and can cost up to $523. A major service is due at 5 years/100,000km, and costs just under $700.
Service intervals are every six months or 10,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Honda CR-V VTi Navi 2WD ($31,790) - Honda’s freshly-renewed CR-V boasts a roomier interior than the Dualis, as well as moderately more power.
It’s cheaper too, but in VTi grade it can’t equal the Dualis’ lengthy standard equipment list. (see CR-V reviews)
Hyundai ix35 Elite 2WD ($32,590) - Cheaper and with 20kW more power than the Nissan, the ix35 will appeal to buyers on a budget.
However, interior quality is below that of the Japanese competition. The ix35’s ride is also uncomfortably stiff. (see ix35 reviews)
Toyota Rukus Build 3 ($32,990) - Yes, we know it ain’t an SUV, but if you’re looking at a 2WD SUV then why not a 2WD two-box wagon?
The Rukus has a powerful and torquey 123kW/224Nm 2.4 litre petrol engine that puts the Dualis’ 2.0 litre to shame. However, it’s short on equipment and can’t match the value of the slightly more expensive Dualis. (see Rukus reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Dualis remains one of our faves in the small SUV segment, and rightly so.
It’s about to enter its twilight years, but age hasn’t diminished its appeal. In fact, the Dualis has just gotten more enticing as the years have rolled by, courtesy of a comprehensive mid-cycle update.
In 2WD configuration, it’s definitely hatch-like in the way it drives, but with the tall seating position of an SUV to help you see over traffic.
And while the interior is a bit tight, it’s marginally larger than a lot of small hatchbacks on the market.
So, if you’re looking for the extra versatility of an SUV, the on-road comfort of a small wagon and the compactness of a hatch, Nissan has an answer in the Dualis.
In 2WD form, it is whatever you want it to be. City-hatch or compact SUV? You choose...