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First Oz drive: Dualis puts X in the city

Split personality: Dualis is a sharper (on-road) drive than most compact SUVs.

Nissan launches Dualis - a compact SUV priced $3000 lower than its own X-Trail

25 Jan 2008

NISSAN Australia has launched a new city-slicker wagon with a dual personality that straddles the compact SUV and small-car segments.

The Dualis wagon might share many components with the Nissan X-Trail, which has considerable bush-bashing ability, but it is not designed to go off-road.

It does have an all-wheel-drive system and can manage dirt, gravel and snow, but is aimed fair and square at urban drivers.

On sale now with a starting price of $28,990, the base Dualis comes in $3000 cheaper than its X-Trail brother.

Part of the price difference no doubt relates to the fact that electronic stability control, which is standard in the X-Trail, is not included in the base Dualis.

Running against the industry trend, Nissan has bundled ESC and side and curtain airbags with alloy wheels as a $2000 option for the base model. ESC and side airbags are standard in the Ti luxury model.

The Dualis has been a big hit in Europe, where it is called Qashqai, and Australian supply has subsequently been limited to 350 cars a month.

Nissan Australia said it would easily be able to sell far more than its allocation of cars and is hoping it can source more Dualis stock from the production plant in Sunderland, England, in time.

The Dualis was developed as an alternative to both small hatchbacks and compact SUVs.

Nissan’s aim was to offer the benefits of an SUV, including the elevated seating position, adventurous look and sure-footedness of AWD, with the agility of a small car.

It uses the same platform as the X-Trail, but is 315mm shorter, 70mm lower and 95kg lighter (at 1430kg) than its off-road sibling.

The Dualis uses a similar AWD system to the just-released X-Trail, although it misses out on some of its features.

12 center image Just like the X-Trail, the Dualis operates as a front-wheel-drive. The driver can flick the Auto switch and the Dualis will deliver up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels when it detects a loss of traction or predicts it, given a sudden throttle application.

There is also an AWD lock function that locks the drivetrain in 50/50 split mode, which is primarily designed for taking off in tricky conditions as the system will unlock itself once the car passes 40km/h and will not revert to 50/50 split automatically.

Due to its urban focus, the Dualis misses out on the X-Trail’s additional sensors that aid tough off-road work and are also used for the hill descent control system that is not included in the Dualis package.

While the X-Trail runs a 125kW 2.5-litre engine, the Dualis sold in Australia is only available with a 102kW/198Nm 2.0-litre four.

Nissan Australia is hoping it can add a more potent 2.0-litre diesel to the Dualis line-up, but European demand for the oil-burner could delay its arrival.

There is apparently no potential for a larger petrol engine as Nissan says the Dualis engine bay is not big enough for the X-Trail’s 2.5.

The petrol Dualis sold in Australia runs a six-speed manual as the standard gearbox, while a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) costs $2000 extra.

Its fuel economy is quite good for a compact SUV but a bit higher than most small hatches, with an ADR 81/01 combined figure of 8.4L/100km for the manual and 8.5 for the automatic.

The Dualis uses the same suspension architecture as the X-Trail, including a MacPherson strut front-end and a multi-link independent rear.

Nissan engineers gave the Dualis a sportier feel by equipping it with stronger anti-roll bars and firmer spring and damper rates to reduce the bodyroll that distinguishes compact SUVs from small hatchbacks.

Nissan engineers also tweaked the electric power steering to give the driver more resistance and to suit the sportier suspension setting.

While the X-Trail uses an all-weather tyre that can cope with off-road duty, the Dualis comes with smoother street tyres. It is a five-seater with a split/folding rear seat and lap/sash belts for all on board.

Bootspace is compromised by the SUV packaging and its capacity stands at 352 litres, which is 112 litres less than the Tiida hatch. The chilled glovebox in the Dualis is a relatively big 14 litres, and can hold 15 drink cans.

Unlike many new cars, the Dualis does come with a full-size spare in the boot.

The $28,990 entry-level Dualis comes standard with cruise control, air-conditioining, electric windows and mirrors, a single-CD sound system, ABS brakes, dual front airbags and 16-inch steel wheels.

As mentioned, the $2000 ST option pack adds ESC, side and curtain airbags and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Stepping up to the Ti, the $33,990 Dualis flagship adds leather trim, heated front seats, front foglights, Bluetooth compatibility, steering wheel controls, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a rear centre armrest with cup-holders, metal-look interior accents and an under-seat front passenger storage drawer.

Nissan says there are few, if any, rivals for the Dualis but admits vehicles like Subaru’s Impreza hatch and Forester would be its most likely competitors.

Nissan Australia sales and marketing manager Ross Booth admitted some potential X-Trail owners might also switch to Dualis.

2008 Nissan Dualis range pricing:
Dualis ST $28,990
Dualis ST (CVT) $30,990
Dualis Ti $33,990
Dualis Ti $33,990
Dualis Ti (CVT) $35,990

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