WITH THE ARRIVAL of the 2WD Dualis Hatch in August 2009, sales of Nissan’s segment-straddling quasi-SUV jumped in a big way.
Previously only available in AWD guise, sales rose from between 100 – 150 a month to over 400 with the introduction of the 2WD variant (2WD sales accounting for just under 80 percent of total volume).
Now, with the arrival of the updated Dualis Series II range, Nissan has even higher hopes for its high-riding hatchback.
Retail pricing still starts at $24,990 for the base Dualis 2WD ST manual, with the higher-grade 2WD Ti manual retailing for $1700 more than the MY2009 model at $29,690.
The ST AWD has been dumped from the line-up due to low uptake, meaning buyers wanting an all-wheel drive Dualis will need to spend $31,890 for the AWD Ti manual. All models are available with a CVT automatic transmission, which adds $2500 to the manual’s RRP.
Front-end styling is fresher thanks to an all-new front bumper, bonnet, headlamps and front fenders, with LED tail lamps now fitted to the rear of all Dualis II models.
The up-spec Ti model also gets chrome door handles,chrome accent strips on the lower doors and chrome bezels around the front foglights.
Alloy wheel designs have been changed for both the ST and Ti grades, with the entry-level ST sporting 16-inch alloys and the Ti riding on 18-inch wheels. The Ti’s wheels look particularly pleasing, with their two-tone finish
The new design is more muscular and more distinctive than that seen on the previous Dualis, and as a result the model is no longer bland, but even somewhat attractive.
Thanks to the new front end and a few additional aerodynamic undertrays it’s a slipperier shape too, benefiting fuel economy.
Exterior styling isn’t the only thing that’s changed, for standard equipment levels have been improved for the Dualis II.
Bluetooth phone integration is standard on both the Dualis ST and Ti, and a new trip computer display is now housed between the rev counter and speedometer. Steering wheel audio controls are now standard on the base Dualis ST.
The Ti gains dual-zone climate control, a huge panoramic moonroof, privacy glass and keyless entry and ignition.
Additional sound deadening has been applied to all models, too. Extra insulation mats have been fitted to the firewall while an ‘acoustic’ windscreen and revised door seals help cut wind noise.
But despite the myriad changes to the Dualis II, Nissan has elected to make no changes to the car’s powertrain package. Under the bonnet is the same 102kW 2.0 litre petrol engine used by last year’s model, hooked up to either a six-speed manual or CVT automatic.
The Dualis has been criticized in the past for not having the 'urge' to match its 1400kg-odd mass (The AWD Ti is well over 1500kg), but Nissan says the addition of more powerful engines are not yet on the horizon.
The European-market Dualis (known there as the Qashqai) is available with 1.5 litre and 2.0 litre diesel engines but neither have been locked in for Australia-bound models, and a potential local-market introduction for a diesel Dualis would be at least a year away.
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It’s a pity, then, as the lack of power and torque is the only major black mark against the Dualis II.
The engine needs plenty of revs to get moving and steep gradients require a couple of downshifts to avoid losing momentum. Acceleration, whether from a standstill or while moving, is never brisk.
A torquier diesel engine would reduce the need for high revs and give the Dualis enhanced tractability.
Aside from the engine, though, there are plenty of things to like about the Dualis II
The ride is pleasant and nicely damped on urban roads (if a bit roll-happy around corners), the high seating position affords good forward visibility, the seats are comfortable and the cabin spacious enough for the average young family – the primary target market for the Dualis II.
The extra sound deadening measures make the Dualis II’s cabin an extremely quiet one, and at idle the engine note is barely heard. Cabin quality is higher than most (particularly compared to the Hyundai ix35), and broadly speaking it’s a nice interior in which to spend some time.
As a value proposition, it’s got a lot to offer. With features like cruise control, Bluetooth, an auxillary audio input and alloy wheels standard on the base Dualis ST, it represents good value for money.
Nissan’s drive program for the Dualis II launch was a short one, but a full road test will reveal whether the new improved Dualis still makes the grade as a small hatchback runabout.
Stay tuned to TMR for a complete review of the 2010 Nissan Dualis Series II.