In an age of global car manufacturing where Japanese cars are made in Thailand and the British MG is made in China, why would anyone be surprised to find out that the Nissan Dualis is made in Sunderland, U.K?
Nor, for that matter, would anyone be surprised to know that the Dualis is actually a sedan – a hatchback version of Nissan's X-Trail. Both share the same platform, similar running gear, and same ground clearance, and turning circle. In short, the Dualis is a sleeker, more car-like version of the X-Trail and, being shorter than the X-Trail, will sneak in and out of the congested shopping centre car parks a tad easier.
The Dualis is an SUV, a soft roader for people that don't want an obvious 4WD sitting outside the house or in the drive way but like the idea of four wheels working together along with adequate ground clearance to get off the road from time to time. In a sense we could probably say that the Dualis/E-Trail relationship is similar to that of Nissan's Murano/Pathfinder.
The Dualis' styling is easy on the eye; no quirks or odd bits, the stance is business-like yet somehow sporty. And at first side glance, you can sees its Murano heritage.
Fit and finish of the Dualis was very good all round and if any question marks might arise from the British build as opposed to that of the Japanese made X-Trail, I did not find them.
A look under the Dualis reveals a clean-as-a-whistle floor pan with no bits likely to be dragged off when heading along a fire trail or onto a rutted beach approach.
Its total ground clearance is 200 mm, and the 16” wheels on the ST version are shod with Bridgestone Dueler HP Sport rubber. These boots are good on and off the road, and quite far off road at that.
The test ST Dualis was a manual version with a six-speed gearbox, same as on the X-Trail. The four cylinder 2L fuel injected engine is an all alloy job generating 102kW of power along with 198Nm of torque.
Some drive reports have indicated that the 2L motor might be lacking in performance, but I did not find this the case at all. On a mix of country and city driving saw the car on the open highway, crossing ranges, heading along bush tracks and back to the big smoke where I punted it in and out of peak hour traffic during consecutive days.
In perspective, I had driven the new 2.5L X-Trail only a few weeks previously and did not find a great deal of difference in the performance of the pair.
One thing that is noticeable is the very smooth, precise, shift action of the six-speed gearbox of the manual vehicle.
Inside the Dualis is a very roomy front seat layout with ample headroom, plenty of legroom plus surprisingly wide driver's and passenger's seats for this class of vehicle. The seats have excellent side support but are not specifically designed for 70kg people by the look of things. Rear seating is designed for three but they might need to be pretty good friends as room is somewhat limited.
The rear cargo area is easily supplemented by folding the rear seat down and forward. The flat floor area then offered will swallow up a fair amount of gear. We easily packed camping and fishing gear for a weekend on Glenlyon Dam.
The all electric operation of important features, such as rear view mirrors and windows, is standard as well as air conditioning, remote central locking and power steering. A radio/ CD player is also standard fare.
Wheel slip sensors govern off road traction and there are a couple of options available to keep on keeping on.The Dualis has front wheel drive as standard, with a console activated switch offering 'Auto' or 'Lock' depending upon the drivers preference. On a rutted bush track I engaged 'Lock' and noted the Dualis found its way quite nicely along in second gear with a heavy load.
However, we don't all want to go off road so it's probably timely to discuss the on road attributes of this neat cross over vehicle that Nissan are advertising as ‘two cars in one’.
As mentioned, the driving position is great. It’s nice and high, and offers good all round visibility. The ride is very car-like, courtesy of Macpherson struts at the front and a multi link set up at the rear. The speed sensitive power assisted steering is light but direct, which means that sections of winding road come and go with minimal driver input.
Main instruments are set into a neat binnacle directly ahead of the driver so it's easy to keep an eye on things at a quick glance. Cruise control is standard and easily operated via on-wheel switches.
The big air-conditioned glove box will be very handy in summer when the temperature sits over the 30C mark. Wide view mirrors on both sides make city traffic driving very easy indeed, as does the compact and precise feel of the vehicle.
Night driving is a treat; this car has strong headlights that work very well. Fuel consumption was around the 9L per 100km mark, the 65L tank offering a range of around 700km depending upon load and driver input.
Other noteworthy attributes of the Dualis include a full sized spare tyre, a 1400kg/740kg (un-braked trailer) tow capacity plus Nissan's three-year 100,000km warranty with 24 hour roadside assist. And most importantly, the top of range Dualis scored a five star (36.83 out of 37 points) Euro NCAP rating, which amounts to the highest rating afforded any vehicle to date.
The Dualis ST retails for around $28,990 plus on road costs.Reads: 5294