Diesel engines are often the pick for SUV applications. The late addition of the Nissan Dualis TS diesel gives the sub-compact SUV range a much-needed performance boost and an economy reduction. It does, however, cost more.
The single-trim Nissan Dualis TS uses a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel, mated exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive layout.
At $29,990 the Dualis TS costs $4000 more than the entry-level petrol-powered Dualis ST model on which it’s based.
In addition to the diesel engine, the TS over the ST adds front fog lights, rear privacy glass and exterior chrome highlights. Standard on both models are alloy wheels, cruise control, and a six-speaker stereo with AUX/USB inputs and iPod and Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming. Impressively, satellite navigation and a leather-trimmed steering wheel are also standard, though climate control is missing.
The Renault-sourced turbo-diesel outputs 96kW of power at 4000rpm. Crucially, however, its healthy peak torque of 320Nm (delivered at a low 1750rpm) hands it a 122Nm advantage over the 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol Dualis, and at 2650rpm earlier in the rev range.
That torque figure also not only matches the Skoda Yeti’s larger 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine’s output, it betters the Mitsubishi ASX’s 1.8-litre turbo-diesel by 20Nm. Other currently available sub-compact SUV rivals like the Subaru XV don’t offer torquey diesels, and out of the upcoming Renault Captur, Ford EcoSport and Holden Trax, only the latter will.
The Dualis TS is also the range’s most efficient model, claiming a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 4.5 litres per 100km – CO2
is also top at 119 grams per kilometre. It also uniquely gets stop-start technology. Over our time with the car we saw impressive figures as low as 3.6L/100km but averaged 5.9L/100km.
Where the diesel engine starts to lose favour is with its lack of off-the-mark pickup and bottom-end torque.
The turbo-diesel’s soft initial boost means very little pulling power is available around 1200-1500rpm. Once up and going, though, and moving through the terrific – if a little long-geared – six-speed gearbox, the engine feels much happier ticking away around 2000rpm. By 2200-2500rpm it becomes quite punchy relative to its small capacity.
The engine is a bit noisy at idle, but does smooth out as revs rise.
What the Dualis TS needs – both in driveability terms and to help with its popularity in this market – is an automatic transmission. Sadly, one isn’t offered with this engine anywhere in the world.
The TS rides well on its standard 17-inch alloy wheels and tall-profile Bridgestone tyres, maintaining good compliance over small bumps, potholes and road imperfections. Larger bumps, big road joins and consistent ruts can upset it, however, resulting in some shuddering through the chassis and cabin.
Slow rear damping can also see the back end move around over mid-corner bumps but body control remains respectable; speed bumps are dispatched with ease. Roll is present when cornering but it is an inherently balanced chassis and certainly not as soggy as its larger X-Trail sibling. The brakes too have a natural and progressive feel and stop the 1407kg diesel Dualis well.
While the front-wheeler’s electro-mechanical steering is a little slow and doughy off-centre, the light weighting is at least consistent. The rack itself is direct too although lacking in feel. A good 10.6m turning circle is also a plus when negotiating tight car parks and shopping centres, as is the Dualis’ good overall vision. The SUV’s large C-pillar does limit over-the-shoulder vision when reversing, though, this is helped by the standard reversing camera.
Inside, the Dualis TS offers the same tilt- and reach-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and phone controls as the rest of the range.
Soft touch material on the dashboard and top of the doors mixes neatly with a harder, smoother plastic used for the centre stack and interior door handle, making for a simple but clean feel.
The standard five-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation is small and basic, with the system itself slow to use and navigate and slow to route maps.
No auto lights (standard on the top-spec Ti-L), no ‘welcome home’ lights when unlocking or locking the car, and no interior lights to accompany the driver and passenger sun visor vanity mirrors are also noticeable omissions.
A 410-litre boot is larger than some SUV models in the class above, though it’s only 15L larger than a Volkswagen Golf’s.
Nissan’s six-year/120,000km capped-price servicing program costs between $277.18 to $605.22 for each six-month/10,000km scheduled service, for a 72-month total of $4620.48 – $548.73 more than the Dualis ST.
Based on the diesel Dualis TS and petrol ST models’ respective combined cycle fuel consumption claims, over the 15,000km travelled on average by Australians each year (with diesel costing $1.50 per litre and petrol $1.30 per litre), the diesel will take $1599 from your wallet – $526.50 less than the petrol.
Is a $500 per year fuel saving, offset by around $100 extra servicing cost per year, enough to pick the diesel Dualis over the petrol? While it may take around a decade to recoup the initial outlay, the Nissan Dualis TS is definitely a better drive than the petrol, provided you don’t require an automatic transmission.