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Car reviews - Nissan - Dualis - 2WD 5dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Driving, comfort, looks, practicality, value for money, safety, equipment levels, Ti features
Room for improvement
Terrible reverse parking vision, no auxiliary port for MP3 players, no diesel version yet

6 Aug 2009

CARS don’t come much more underrated than Nissan’s dinky Dualis crossover.

High pricing, a nonsense advertising campaign and insufficient marketing push has seen this British-built alternative to the VW Golf languish as an oddity in Australia, when – as the Qashqai in Europe – sales have soared.

Since the Dualis debuted in late 2007, there have been many changes at Nissan Australia, and one of them has been the implementation of better pricing and positioning. And it has been this focus that has led to the cheaper and more affordable Dualis.

Except for an 80-90kg weight loss with the move to front-wheel drive, the new Dualis 4x2 is pretty much the same, impressive small car that the continuing AWD all-wheel-drive version is, with excellent front seats, a nicely arranged and presented interior, and quality fittings.

The six-speed manual is light and easy to use, and is the better of the two gearboxes since the driver can more thoroughly explore the limits of the revvy 2.0-litre engine with it, but the CVT auto is not bad at all – returning a seamless tide of performance. Only when you need to overtake does the CVT’s inherent momentary lethargy catch you off guard.

The steering is surprisingly ‘meaty’ in its weight and response, and there is plenty of suspension compliance and control, allowing for cornering with confidence and conviction. Dynamically, the Dualis is far better than many of the compact SUVs that a lot of folk think it is pitched against.

So the Nissan crossover drives more like a car than a 4WD. But it also has an absorbing ride quality too, and a bit more ground clearance than most rivals, so it feels better equipped to tackle the urban jungle of bad roads and speed humps.

We wish rear vision was better, and the lack of an auxiliary port for MP3 players is disappointing.

But the limited rear-seat legroom and tight cargo area – with its high floor and relatively small aperture – are what stop the Dualis from being a true family-car alternative.

But here’s the deal: When it was pitched as a sort of sub-X-Trail $30,000-plus compact SUV rival, these ‘drawbacks’ cost Nissan many sales for good reason, because – in reality – the Dualis was designed to be competitor to the Toyota Corolla, where rear seat space and room for luggage are not the absolute priorities.

Now that it is priced from $25,000, however, there is no reason why Australians shouldn’t flock to Nissan dealerships, because the good looking, sweet handling, fine riding, impressively comfortable, quite lively and undoubtedly characterful Dualis makes for a refreshing difference against many of the mainstream hatchbacks out there.

Almost half a million Qashqai buyers in Europe prove that the small-car pricing concept is the one that works best for this soft of crossover, meaning that – from here-on in – there is no reason why the Dualis should remain Australia’s most underrated models.

It is one of the most convincing mainstream Nissan passenger cars in years.

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