2013 NISSAN DUALIS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Engine/trans: 96kW/320Nm 1.6 turbodiesel 4cyl / 6sp manual
Price: $29,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.5 l/100km | tested: 5.4 l/100km
It’s taken a while, but Nissan has finally added a diesel-powered variant to the Dualis range. Until now, the Dualis had been a petrol-only offering.
And it’s about time too. While we’ve long regarded the Dualis as one of the more appealing buys in the small SUV category, it has been hamstrung by a lack of powertrain choices and a lack of ‘oomph’ under the bonnet.
Performance from the standard 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine is best described as “adequate”. Put a full load of passengers and cargo aboard, and acceleration and general driveability suffers.
Now, happily, a torque-laden diesel under the bonnet of the Dualis TS rectifies this.
NOTE: This is a 'snapshot' review of the Dualis. For more detailed reviews, see our Nissan Dualis page.
The Dualis is getting on - its replacement isn’t far away - and the interior is starting to look dated. There are also some shortcomings in its layout and style.
Our main complaint lies with the positioning of the nav unit in the centre console. It’s too low, and needs to be moved closer to the driver’s eye-line.
The absence of rear face-level air outlets is also a shortcoming for what purports to be a family vehicle.
And, while it looked ok when it arrived as a fresh new model some years back, the interior now seems a little bland.
Styling fashions change quickly at this end of the market, but, that said, materials and plastics appear of a high quality and build-quality also appears good.
On the plus side, it’s loaded with equipment. Sat nav, reversing camera, cruise control, Bluetooth integration and 17-inch alloys are all standard, making it exceptional value for a smart sub-$30k SUV.
The front seats are spacious and comfortable, but there’s a shortfall of under-thigh support in the back. For a couple of adults and two young kids though, it’s perfect.
ON THE ROAD
The petrol Dualis is pretty lethargic, but the TS diesel is worlds apart. Although its 96Kw is relatively modest (6kW less than the petrol version), the 1.6 litre turbodiesel inline four boasts 320Nm of torque - 122Nm more than its petrol-drinking stablemate.
It’s the torque that gets things moving and keeps it moving; 320Nm in a car this size is a sizeable and healthy figure. And it shows.
All of that torque is accessible from just 1750rpm, so lugging around in higher gears is no problem. At the wheel, the diesel Dualis is relaxed on road and even steep hills won’t have it breaking into a sweat - unlike the petrol model.
The diesel is also remarkably smooth and free-revving. While most diesels run out of steam around 3750rpm, the Dualis diesel is happy to spin right to its 5000rpm redline.
It’s frugal too. Nissan claims an average of just 4.5 l/100km.
We didn’t quite get that number after a week of primarily urban motoring, but at 5.4 l/100km our real-world economy was still impressive. Auto stop-start is a godsend when it comes to saving fuel around town.
The manual gearshift has a light throw to it and so does the clutch pedal, but the friction point is a tad sharp for our liking.
The lack of an auto option is perhaps the biggest failing of the Dualis TS - such a transmission would vastly improve driveability and certainly appeal to buyers in this part of the market.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Diesel is the right kind of powertrain for the Dualis, but we think many will be disappointed to find that there is no automatic transmission available for that engine.
It’s a shame, because the 1.6 turbo diesel really transforms the Dualis’ on-road performance.
If we were shopping for a Dualis, the TS diesel would be our pick. But, if you simply must have an auto, you'll be looking at the petrol variants - or elsewhere.
But expect to pay a lot more than the $29,990 asking for the Dualis. Diesel autos don’t come cheap, even in small SUVs like Hyundai’s iX35, which, at $34,990 is $5k more.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Dualis 4x2 ST manual - $25,990
- Dualis 4x2 ST CVT - $28,490
- Dualis 4x2 TS diesel manual - $29,990
- Dualis 4x2 Ti-L manual - $32,190
- Dualis 4x2 Ti-L CVT - $34,690
- Dualis 4x4 Ti-L CVT - $36,440
- Dualis+2 4x2 ST CVT - $31,190
- Dualis+2 4x2 Ti-L CVT - $36,740
- Dualis+2 4x4 Ti-L CVT - $38,940