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First drive: Nissan Terra no firmer for Australia

Emissions, safety regulations hold up Nissan Australia’s Terra large SUV plans

Nissan logo22 Nov 2018

By JUSTIN HILLIARD in MOROCCO

NISSAN Australia is no closer to confirming the off-road-focused Terra large SUV for launch, with local emissions and safety regulations holding up the Navara-based model that is seen as the spiritual successor to the previous-generation Pathfinder.
 
Speaking to Australian journalists at an international light-commercial vehicle drive event in Morocco, Nissan Motor Company frame-based SUVs and pick-ups chief product specialist Pedro de Anda said it was still yet to be decided if Australia would join China, Thailand and the Philippines in offering the Terra.
 
“I can’t give you a confirmation of which markets it will go to … (but) there’s going to be more south-east Asian markets joining the first wave,” he said.
 
“We’re looking into opportunities for all the markets. At the moment, Australia’s not part of the first wave, but it could be potentially.”
 
When asked by GoAuto if there was a particular reason why Australia was not yet part of the Terra’s first wave, Mr de Anda said the market’s unique requirements meant changes to the model were required.
 
“One particular reason is, for Australia, right-hand drive doesn’t make it easy,” he said.
 
“We have other right-hand-drive markets, but the customer demands in Australia are, I would say, more similar to what a customer would expect in the US, in terms of equipment and performance.
 
“By performance, I mean acceleration and quietness. There’s a lot of things here that really need to be enhanced for the Australian market, like we’ve done with Navara.
 
“It’s a very interesting mix of US customer demands and the European regulations … so it’s a very specific combination.”
 
As reported, the non-Chinese-market Terra is motivated by a 140kW/450Nm 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that meets Euro 4 emissions standards.
 
Despite producing the same power and torque as the 2.3-litre twin-turbo unit used in the mechanically related Australian-market Navara, the Terra can only be sold Down Under with at least Euro 5 certification due to government regulations.
 
Mr de Anda said while the 2.3-litre powertrain could make its way into the Terra’s engine bay, the 2.5-litre unit better serves first-wave markets that have lower emissions standards than Australia.
 
“In some markets, like Thailand, we need to offer the 2.5, because of fuel quality,” he said. 
 
“The truck is capable, just like Navara, of using one or the other. Technically, (the 2.3) could be there, (but) it’s not as easy as plug and play.”
 
Mr de Anda said another regulatory challenge related to the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), which this year aligned its safety standards with Euro NCAP. 
 
This means that some advanced driver-assist systems, such as autonomous emergency braking, are now required as standard to achieve a five-star rating.
 
As reported, the Thai-built Australian-market Navara is currently not available with AEB, even though Spanish-built European-market versions are.
 
Mr de Anda said the Thai factory, which recently became the second plant to produce the Terra, would need to retool if AEB were to become available with the SUV and its light-commercial sibling. The former does, however, come with lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.
 
He also said that if the Terra comes to Australia, it would be sold as a seven-seater, forgoing the five-seat version that is exclusively sold in China – the first country to build the model.
 
Assuming the Terra does head Down Under, it will go toe to toe with other ute-based models in the sub-$70,000 large-SUV segment, including the best-selling Isuzu MU-X (7230 units), plus the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (5343), Ford Everest (4473) Toyota Fortuner (2963) and Holden Trailblazer (2192).
 
After sampling the Philippine-market Terra in Morocco, we can safely say that it is a strong offering against its competitors, combining off-road capability with seven-seat versatility.
 
However, the latter – one of the Terra’s main selling points – is compromised, with the third row only suitable for small children. Teenagers and adults beware: these two seats are not for you.
 
Nonetheless, ingress and egress are aided by two centre-console switches that tumble the 60/40 split-fold second row forward so that third-row passengers can easily enter and exit.
 
The second row can then be manually folded back into position. Manual tumble operation is also possible via outboard latches, while the middle three seats can be slid forward to increase third-row legroom – but not enough for larger occupants.
 
Other differences between the Navara and Terra’s interiors are minor, with the latter adding pop-out cupholders in the dashboard and air vents on the roofliner.
 
The Terra also features an internal rearview camera that can be switched on when the traditional mirror’s view is compromised by the heads of rear passengers.
 
Given that the Philippines-market Terra rides on the Series II Navara’s five-link, coil-sprung live rear axle, it misses out the Australian-market Series III model’s dual-rate springs, which improve ride comfort.
 
However, this is not a deal-breaker, as the Terra’s extra heft at the back helps to negate most of the Series II Navara’s bumpy unladen ride on uneven tarmac, making for a relatively comfortable experience.
 
The Terra unsurprisingly mimics the Navara’s power steering, becoming progressively heavier as lock increases. It feels numb, though, particularly when driving across mud and sand.
 
We were not able to truly assess the Terra’s handling as the Moroccan roads were mainly straight with gentle curves, but bodyroll did not impact performance.
 
While the 2.5-litre unit will not be heading Down Under in the Terra, it provides plenty of pulling power down low but not much power at higher engine speeds – something the 2.3-litre powertrain’s wider spread improves upon.
 
What will be relevant, however, is the Terra’s seven-speed automatic transmission and on-demand four-wheel-drive system. The former utilises peak torque and is geared for efficiency, while the latter matches any condition with the right amount of grip.
 
Having survived in punishing landscapes including gravel, rocks and water, the Terra exhibits a level of off-road robustness that is matched by its tough exterior design.
 
As such, it is clear that Nissan Australia rightfully has another solid model on its radar. The only challenge now is to actually make it happen. The 2.3-litre engine and AEB cannot be added soon enough.

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