NISSAN DUALIS REVIEW
Nissan looks to have caught onto the ‘city-size’ SUV trend early in the game with its Dualis – a car that blends SUV practicality with hatchback manoeuvrability.
To broaden the appeal further for young familes, the Dualis+2 adds the ability to carry more cargo, or, at a moment's notice, two extra journeymen in the rear.
Consider this the ‘wagon’ variant to the Dualis hatch and you come up with a very European solution to the SUV.
Over the regular Dualis, the +2 is exactly that - a five seater vehicle with emergency accommodation for two more.
Included in the upgrade are longer rear doors and rear quarter panels, plus a slightly higher, longer roof.
With the third row of seats stowed there’s also more luggage space available for daily duties.
A sliding, multi-folding centre seating row also ensures that even the most awkward of loads can be easily accommodated.
What’s The Appeal?
The Dualis+2 is the practical answer to those ‘just in case’ situations that require a compact exterior plus an interior flexible enough to hold long loads, large loads or just loads of people.
What Features Does It Have?
In upmarket Ti specification the Dualis+2 boasts dual zone climate control, leather seats in all three rows with seat heating for the front seats.
There’s also a panoramic roof (fixed glass) with an electric blind and privacy glass from the B pillar back.
A six disc CD stacker with auxiliary input and MP3 playback capability, Bluetooth connectivity and dual-zone climate control help pamper occupants, while 18-inch alloy wheels, silver roof rails and chrome door handles, lower mouldings and foglamp surrounds dress the exterior.
For convenience the Dualis+2 Ti includes Intelligent Key keyless entry and automatic headlights windscreen wipers as well.
Cruise control and a trip computer are standard
What’s Under The Bonnet?
All Dualis+2 models are powered by a 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine, which features dual overhead cams and variable valve timing.
Peak power of 102kW is available at 5200 rpm and torque measures 198 Nm at 4400 rpm. The engine seems to have that ‘just right’ feel like the rest of the car: acceleration may not be blistering, but it does the job well.
The only available gearbox is Nissan’s Xtronic CVT, with the five-speed manual of the regular Dualis not available in the +2.
For situations that may require it, the Xtronic transmission also features six pre-determined ‘manual’ ratios, which can be selected via the gear lever.
Front suspension is via MacPherson struts and the rear is suspended by a multi-link independent set up. Braking is provided by ventilated front and solid rear discs.
How Does It Drive?
For the commuter-shuffle, the Dualis is nicely tamed and a likeable companion.
Its standard CVT automatic transmission makes for smooth progress. Absolutely seamless, the electronics are programmed to keep engine revs low and set gear ratios high to conserve fuel.
As such, in most situations, the Dualis+2 can feel a little dozy, barely swinging the tacho past 2000 rpm.
With a more liberal serving of the right-foot, the revs pick up and acceleration comes with more urgency. Compared to other small hatches and SUV’s that the Dualis is pitched against, the Dualis+2 is a fair match, with adequate performance but certainly not quick.
Around town the steering is light, making the Dualis+2 a cinch to wheel in and out of car parks, driveways and between lanes.
The higher seating position certainly helps with a commanding view forward, although rear visibility is tighter, particularly through the narrow side glass at the back.
Whether empty or laden, the Dualis+2 has a smooth and quiet ride. However, some speed humps and driveways tended to upset the rear-end when empty, with a jarring 'clunk' felt into the cabin.
Up the pace though and the ride smooths out. The Dualis+2 makes good use of its longer wheelbase to absorb lumpy highway tarmac without wallowing or see-sawing.
Ride comfort is certainly agreeable, but the trade-off is that the front end will push wide early and the suspension is happy to lean its way through the bends.
Road-holding remains secure through it all however and the Vehicle Dynamic Control (stability control) keeps things in check without being harshly obtrusive.
Noise levels are peacefully low inside the cabin too. Engine noise can be a little intrusive in stop-start running, but only seems noticeable thanks to the way the transmission holds revs whilst building speed.
What Did Our Passengers Think?
For starters, you will need to drop the idea of fitting adults into the third row.
These are kids seats – much like those in the rear of a Porsche 911. With that sorted, the shorter-legged travellers managed to fit in surprisingly well.
Space in the third row isn’t quite up to the standards of a proper seven-seat SUV, but, thanks to a sliding centre row, the ability to tailor space between passengers and cargo (or additional passengers) came in handy.
The general consensus was that the Dualis+2 interior was a pleasant place to be, with fairly flat, but still comfortable seats and the pleasure of a fixed glass roof to keep rear occupants mesmerised during longer drives.
Interior Quality and Feel?
While the quality of the British-built Dualis+2 seems to be of a high standard, hard plastics throughout the interior and a sea of unflattering matte-black on the centre console drag things down.
The interior takes its cues from the previous generation of Nissan offerings and lags behind some of its competitors.
With the rear-most and second row 40/20/40 stowed, rear cargo capacity is a huge 1520 litres, while folding just the third row offers a considerable 550 litres - 140 more than the regular Dualis.
To access that space the Dualis+2 also offers a larger tailgate, measuring 1185mm instead of 962mm on the Dualis.
To aid functionality, the rear features shopping hooks on both sides of the cargo bay and cargo bin for the roller-blind with a lid that can be used to divide the cargo bay.
How Safe Is It?
In 2007, the ANCAP test gave the Dualis ST a 4-Star rating. By comparison the European Qashqai Visia - as the Dualis is known in Europe - equipped with side and curtain airbags, similar in spec to the Dualis+2 Ti) scored five stars.
No testing has yet been carried out on the +2, nor the right-hand-drive version with the full suite of airbags, fitted standard to all current versions of the Dualis in Australia.
Fuel Consumption and Green Rating
In a rare feat, the Dualis+2 returned a better final fuel consumption figure on test than its official consumption suggested.
The official figure stands at 8.5 l/100km, however, in our hands – with driving divided equally between heavy stop start and open highway work - the Dualis+2 used just 8.2 l/100km.
Rated at 3.5 stars out of five in the government Green Vehicle Guide, the Dualis+2 produces 199g/km of CO2.
How Does It Compare?
Thanks to where the Dualis is pitched it’s a little hard to know if it should line up against conventional hatchbacks or go against your typical SUV.
The Dualis+2 makes that comparison even harder with the nearest competitor to offer seven seats lookng more like Peugeot’s 308 Touring.
While the Peugeot may offer diesel-only engine options, it still occupies a similar footprint, offers seating for seven and is priced between $31,990 and $37,990 (plus On Road Costs) putting it squarely in the same category as the Dualis+2.
The higher ride height and two or all-wheel-drive variants mimic the Dualis, however the ASX lacks a seven seat option, leaving that to the larger Outlander. It also offers a turbo-diesel engine option that the Dualis lacks.
Just about every other SUV is either larger, heavier, with a bigger engine or a higher pricetag, coming closer to Nissan’s X-trail instead.
Nissan offers three-year, 100,000 km warranty standard. Additional warranty packages to cover an additional three years or 50,000 km are also available at extra cost.
The Dualis+2 is available in Artic White, Magnetic Red, Cayman Blue, Mineral Grey, Blade (silver), Pearl Black and Nightshade (brown metallic) paired with black leather interior.
The Dualis+2 range starts from $29,990 (plus On Road Costs) for the ST, stepping up to the Ti costs $34,690 (plus ORC) while the all-wheel-drive Ti is priced from $36,890.
The individual elements that make up the Dualis+2 have all been seen before.
However the combination of SUV visibility, small car manoeuvrability and cargo flexibility that makes way for emergency seating for seven, is rather unique and somewhat compelling.
For town duties, the Dualis+2 provides the versatility and packaging benefits of an SUV, without being excessive.
While the engine is a little overcome by the vehicle's weight and the handling is tuned more for comfort, the Dualis+2 addresses a great many needs of the average modern family.
For daring to be different (without straying too far from the realms of convention), Nissan deserves kudos, and the flexible Dualis+2 is worth a close look if shopping for a small family SUV with room to grow.
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