A great car...for short people
A great car...for short people
You see, it's all to do with headroom. Nestled in the driver's seat of the Dualis, most tall(ish) people won't have any issues. In fact the front seat is extremely comfortable, trimmed as all the seats are in a soft, smooth leather that still manages to be very grippy.
It's when you hop into the passenger's seat that problems begin. For starters, the driver's seat has a height adjustment. The passenger's doesn't. To look at, you'd think that both the seats were at the same height, even when the driver's is lowered as far as it can go - but they're not. There's a difference of 15mm between the two - yes, we measured it; the difference is enough to feel, with your hair, that is.
For instance, when sitting in the passenger's seat, the edge of the roof lining which borders the panoramic sunroof brushes up against your hair (I'm a smidge under six-feet tall, at 180cm and balding slightly, so I'm no gargantuan, nor do I have "big hair"), whereas in the driver's seat it doesn't. Hop into the back seat and the situation is worse. Any little bumps and your head is hitting the roof lining, while on smooth roads your hair, or in my case, what little hair I have, is continuously touching the fabric.
Now if you're not as tall as me, then none of this will prove an issue. And if your family are shorter than you, and you will be driving all the time, then there won't be any hassles, either. But it's not always easy to meet those critera. Pity, because apart from its headroom, the Dualis is actually a fantastic car.
For example, its ride is superb. Even with the Ti model's large 18-inch alloys, it soaks up major imperfections with ease and is fairly softly sprung, without feeling like it's going to fall over at the first sniff of a curve. Sure, staccato-style roads will produce a bit of rumbling under-foot (or should that be tyre?) but mostly it's quiet, controlled and smooth. In short, the suspension is excellent.
As is the gearbox. We had the manual version, which has a reasonably narrow gate, however neutral sits between third and fourth making it easy to feel as you row the 'box. The changes are positive, if slightly notchy, but combined with a soft clutch and soft throttle response, it makes for very smooth changes. It's a relaxed feel as you gently push from first to second, and then second to third, all while listening to the metallic whirr of the 2.0 litre, four cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol engine.
Now, if you're thinking that a 2.0 litre petrol isn't going to be overly quick in an SUV, then you'd be right. We clocked the 0-100km/h time at 10.5 seconds, so with 102kW and 198Nm on tap, it can be a little lethargic when loaded up with (short) people. Peak torque is also fairly high up at 4400rpm, and you can feel it, too. The engine needs to be revved to get going, but once it hits that figure, it starts to pull a lot stronger. From 0-60km/h, its fairly slow, but once you're past that and into the thick of the torque, it gets its legs and hauls fairly spritely, as long as it's not full of passengers.
The Dualis's steering is also very good, with a nice feel, a linear response and plenty of weight to keep you interested. You'd never pick it as a front-wheel-drive, too. There's no torque steer (not a lot of torque helps, obviously) but even in the way it handles it doesn't want to push wide unless pushed way beyond its comfort zone. The steering does lighten off at parking speeds and with its diminuitive 10.5m turning circle, it is very simple to park, although finding its corners with the sloping bonnet and tiny rear three-quarter window is a bit of a pain.
Also a pain is the manual lock for the ignition barrel. With the proximity key in your pocket, to turn the tumbler which starts the car (situated where you'd normally slot in the key) you need to press a button behind it which unlocks the barrel, and you can turn it. To switch it off you have to turn it back as far as it will go, push the lock button and then turn the tumbler further to lock it. If you don't lock it, a message comes up on the dash, along with incessant beeping, telling you to lock the ignition.
You have to ask - why? If your key goes missing, you can't start it anyway, so why would you need to lock the ignition? While we're listing the negatives, the six-disc CD stacker will not play an MP3 CD, a technological sin in 2010. At least the sound quality is excellent.
Leg and foot room is very good, along with a reasonable-sized boot at 410 litres - certainly enough for a small pram. Also on the positive side is fuel consumption. Unlike some European compact SUVs, the Dualis is happy to take 91RON, and on our week of travelling, mainly in suburban areas, it used just 0.1 litre/100km more than its ADR sticker figure, settling on 8.2L/100km. Not bad at all, especially considering its CO2 output is also low at 192g/km.
So that's the Dualis. The styling update has worked wonders for this car - it's now quite attractive with its revised bumper, and in Ti form with its large wheels and chrome-bordered foglamps it looks excellent. It also drives really nicely, is easy to park, has nice quality materials inside and is pretty good at the bowser. But its headroom issue, lack of MP3 and lack of grunt really set it back.
At least the range topper is priced well.
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