Car reviews - Nissan - Tiida - Range
Interior room, build quality, sliding rear seat, rear-seat leg and headroom, revvy and smooth 1.8-litre.
Room for improvement
Lack of rear centre lap-sash seatbelt, no temperature gauge, no driver’s footrest or cruise control, non-communicative steering, no ABS on base model.
27 Jan 2006
By CHRIS HARRIS
LET’S get one thing out of the way. Nissan’s new Tiida is a vast improvement over the Pulsar.
And unlike the premium-priced Pulsar hatch, the more accessibly priced Tiida hatch at a base entry price of $19,990, should turn more people to the Japanese brand who are looking for something roomy and under the psychological $20,000 barrier.
But that price-point is also in the middle of one of the toughest segments and the Tiida has some strong competition on either side of $20,000.
Once you get use to the name and the quirky styling of the hatch there are a lot of good things about the car – and some not so good things.
Firstly, the styling. Visually the best view is the front three-quarter.
The big clear-lens headlights and pronounced bonnet flows nicely into the A-pillar and lower window line.
However, the Tiida Q hatch tested has a slightly MPV look to the glasshouse, which favours interior headroom but from some angles makes the car a little dumpy. This is not helped by the small tyres.
Although only a wee bit longer than the Pulsar, the Tiida offers a 65mm longer wheelbase, as well as a slightly wider track.
This translates into a very spacious cabin and on the Q, a for/aft sliding – and reclining - rear seat offers even more luggage space, or legroom.
The rear seatback is split 60/40 but only folds on to the rear seat cushion, which means that with both seatbacks folded, there is plenty of room but the luggage floor is not flat.
Nissan claims that to offer a folding rear seat cushion would have compromised rear seat cushion comfort. Maybe they should talk to Renault, which manages to offer flip/fold rear seats without sacrificing comfort.
Minor luggage woes aside, the overall cabin ambience is a step up, actually two steps up, over the Pulsar.
It is bright and airy and the quality of trim materials is high and there are vastly improved levels of refinement. The switchgear and materials also have a robust quality about them.
Passenger comfort is aided by the seats, which are large and comfy.
On the Q the leather/cloth seats add a sporty touch but the front pews could do with more cushion shape and back support.
Who can remember those incredibly good Australian-designed seats of the N13 Pulsar from the late 1980s?
As it shares the platform architecture with other Nissan/Renault “B” class cars the Tiida has cannot help but have a few Euro touches around the cabin.
The front seat adjustment is on the inside of the seats, with levers for rake and cushion, the front flip-up armrest could have come from a Renault and the six-speed manual gearbox is something not expected from a Japanese brand in this segment.
Unfortunately too, the absence of a temperature gauge is a Euro trend we’d prefer not to experience.
Another glaring omission is the lack of a centre lap-sash seatbelt and the child-seat anchorages that are actually at the base of the hatch lid rather than integrated on the seatbacks. This makes carrying children as well as luggage redundant.
The height-only adjustable steering, disc/drum brakes and undersized 185/65R15 tyres also shows Nissan has cut costs in these areas.
Fortunately the suspension and engine redress the balance.
The Tiida features a strut MacPherson-style front suspension and very compact H-shaped torsion beam at the rear, again very Euro-friendly.
Powering all models – ST, ST-L, Q and Ti – is a jointly developed Renault/Nissan 1.8-litre four cylinder with some trick valve timing for better efficiency and economy without sacrificing power delivery.
The 1.8 is a smooth, capable unit with a surprising amount of mid-range urge.
It will not win any traffic light grand prix but at cruising speeds the Q acquits itself well.
The 1.8 develops 93kW at 5200rpm and 174Nm at 4800rpm so it is ballpark with many of its competitors. Two transmissions are offered, as we said, a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic for an extra $2000.
Cost constraints mean Australia won’t see the super smooth CVT offered in other countries.
The six-speed manual is light and precise but an audible “clicking” when changing gears and clunky shift quality took the shine of an otherwise easy to use unit. The clutch was light, yet precise.
Such is the spread of torque that the Q will quite happily doddle around town in sixth.
Out on the open road there is an excellent balance of ride comfort and handling with some European suppleness thrown in. The Q is well sprung for a Japanese car without losing its composure when pushed.
At freeway speeds the Q remains quiet and well insulated from road noise. There is some tyre-generated road noise over our coarse bitumen roads but the on the whole noise suppression is good.
Only under hard acceleration does the 1.8 make its presence felt, but the engine remains delightfully free-revving and smooth beyond 5000rpm.
We found, however, that the car’s high seating position, non-communicative electric power steering and susceptibility to crosswinds created some nervousness.
That’s not the fault of the suspension though, which remained firmly planted.
At a point beyond 80km/h where some other brands offer some crisp dynamic feedback, the Tiida Q fails to excite. It’s just not what you would expect from a sporty model.
Although Nissan will not confirm it, we suspect that the Q leaves room for a more sports-oriented SSS model further down the track.
Despite our own misgivings, when pushed grip levels on the Q remained high and the hatch can be hunted along with a degree of safety. It will err to a gentle and safe understeer when pushed to its limits.
Not withstanding the absence of cruise control, even as an option, the Q is a well-specified vehicle.
For $24,490 it gets the leather/cloth trim, foglights, rear spoiler, air conditioning, power mirrors and windows, in-dash six-speaker CD player, leather steering wheel, driver’s seat height adjustment, front and rear armrests, dual front and curtain airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist.
Although not yet crash tested, Nissan is confident of a high score in the EuroNCAP tests and its body and the way the doors shut felt reassuringly solid.
The packaging and price means the Q is in the range of the Astra CDX, Mazda3 Maxx and Ford Focus LX – three very tough competitors.
There is certainly value for money there and a tad more kit in the Q but the dynamics of the other three will sway more sports-oriented drivers.
Ultimately, the Tiida Q does not quite deliver the goods necessary to move it into the up-market stable of the dynamic duo, which is a pity as this Nissan deserves better.
It nevertheless acquits itself honestly but remains, dare we say, average in many areas – and just being average is not enough in this segment of sporty pretensions.
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