June 7, 2013
The Dualis was a compact SUV aimed at the small car buyer wanting a higher seating position and a bit more luggage space than a conventional small sedan or hatch.
It struggled when first launched in 2007, but the Series II update in 2010 realigned it closer to its target market with price shifts that brought it tantalising close to the hard-charging segment leaders.
The main models were front-wheel drive wagons that gave small car buyers the choice of a wagon with the main benefits of an SUV, ie, the high driving position and the cabin space for luggage.
Had you wanted you could have stepped up to a more highly equipped models, and for those who had a bigger tribe you could have a seven-seater.
All came with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that pumped out 102 kW and 198 Nm when working at its peak. It ran on regular unleaded and had plenty of zip when required.
The transmission options were a slick six-speed manual and a CVT auto that could be shifted manually thanks to predetermined gear settings that made it seem like a manual.
Final drive was predominantly front-wheel drive in the 4x2 models, but for those who wanted the safety and feel of all-wheel drive could have it in the 4x4 models, which were equipped with an on-demand all-wheel system that fed drive to the front wheels when needed.
All models were well equipped; even the base ST got alloy wheels, cruise, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors and a tele-tilt column. For more the Ti gave you leather, six-stack CD sound, auto headlamps and wipers, Bluetooth connectivity.
Owners are generally content with their choice of the Dualis, but there are a few complaints that are worth noting for reference when checking a car before purchase.
Some owners complain about the performance from the 2.0-litre engine, reporting that it struggles when loaded, and with 102 kW that's not surprising. If you are likely to be regularly driving with a load of kids or cargo load; pack your car when test-driving so you can get a feel for the performance and make up your own mind.
Others are wary about the CVT transmission, and rightly so. While they have been around for decades, they have never been as widely used as they are today, and that means we're seeing more problems with them than ever before as carmakers sort out the glitches that arise.
It's absolutely crucial to test-drive the car and put it through its paces under as many driving conditions as you can imagine, from parking speed to high speed, fast acceleration, low acceleration, overtaking etc. so you can get a good feel for the way the CVT operates.
Some drivers have been concerned about the way the CVT drives. The idea of the CVT is to keep the engine operating in its most efficient range, and sometimes that feels like it revs quite a bit when it seems like it should be selecting a higher gear. It's just something you have to get used to.
Brake wear is often raised as an issue and Dualis owners report that they get about 50,000 km out of a set of disc rotors and some feel that's not enough. The British build quality isn't as good as the Japanese is, and there are also reports of quality issues with a high wear rate on interior trim and plastic interior bits and pieces falling off.
The trade gives the Dualis a guarded tick of approval, saying that it's reliable and durable, but it's let down a little by build quality and the relatively high cost of parts out of England compared to Japan.
Decent all-rounder for the family that wants more than a small car can deliver.
Nissan Dualis 2010-2011
Price new: $24,990 to $36,890
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, 102 kW/198 Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, CVT; FWD, AWD
Economy: 8.6 L/100 km (CVT), 8.3 L/100 km (man)
Body: 4-door wagon
Variants: ST, Ti, +2 ST, +2 Ti
Safety: 5-star ANCAP