If you are one who wants to have something not many others have, especially when it comes to cars, then Naza World may have something right up your street. Naza World is one of the leading importers, if not already the leading importer, of exotic cars into Malaysia. It fills the gaps left by automotive franchise holders by importing cars not normally brought in – in doing so, it offers additional models, some of which may never have seen the light of day here in Malaysia otherwise. By doing so, Naza World actually gives the Malaysian car buyers more choice in what they want to buy.
One such model would be the Nissan Dualis, launched recently in Japan. Being fully imported, the Dualis retails at RM229, 888 (price on-the-road without insurance), what I would consider a hefty price, but then, there would be some buyers who are willing to pay the price for what will definitely be quite exclusive, unless Edaran Tan Chong Motors, the official distributors of the Nissan brand in Malaysia decides to do their own importation, or perhaps even assemble the model. The Dualis is what one might call a ‘cross-over’ vehicle, ideal for people who like riding high, but do not want to buy an out and out SUV with 4WD.
The Nissan Dualis is based on the Nissan Xtrail SUV platform, but comes without the 4WD component. Elsewhere in the world, there are 4WD versions, but for the moment, only the FWD version is available here. The engine is a DOHC, 2.0 litre 4 cylinder fuel injected petrol unit giving an output of 103 kW. It is mounted transversely in the engine bay; power is transmitted to the front wheels only. With less transmission loss, the Dualis feels quite good to drive, although I must qualify this statement by saying that we only had a very short stint, driving within the confines of the Tropicana housing area, and at speeds not more than 80 km/h. The ride is good, and interior noise is minimal.
What is impressive is a 6-speed CVT gearbox with a manual shift option; this is a step in the right direction, as this improves the flexibility of the drive train. Gaps between gear ratios are narrower, and the available power is maximised; the overall result will be better fuel economy, improved acceleration, and a lower engine speed at any given speed. The CVT programming appears to be different, with the gear ratios ‘locked’ in each gear mode, so that one still gets the sensation of acceleration, and this I like.
Externally, the Nissan Dualis looks similar to the Xtrail in silhouette, with some work done to the front and rear to make it look different; the front mask makes it a little more subdued, perhaps to appeal more to the family types, because this is where the Dualis’ niche really is. Inside, the seats are comfortable, and the Dualis will seat four adults comfortably, and five at a squeeze. The seat materials are ‘softer’ than that in the Xtrail, as the Dualis is designed to appeal more to the city-slicker and the gentler sex rather than the more masculine types who would buy the Xtrail. As usual, the rear seats split and fold to provide additional storage space for bulky items. a tonneau cover is provided to shield your luggage from prying eyes. A most interesting feature is the large electrically-operated sky-roof that gives you a panoramic view of the surroundings above you. This would be good for touring the city; with the skyroof open, you can get a very good view of the beautiful buildings around you, that is, if you like concrete structures. Otherwise, in the countryside, it has its good points as well.
Instrumentation is simple; I like the analogue type meters. The interior quality is average; the seats are comfortable, though. The dashboard panels are lined with soft plastic, which feel good to the touch; some compromise is made at the rear passenger compartment, where the side panels are clad with hard plastic.
Looking under the skirt, the Dualis features Macpherson strut suspension at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, with disc brakes all round, just like the Xtrail. Suspension settings are somewhat softer, giving the Dualis a more comfortable ride. Ingress and egress is good, and the doors open wide. Wheels are 17-inch alloys fitted with 60-Series Bridgestones.
In the final analysis, there is no doubting that the Nissan Dualis is a fine vehicle. The question is whether it is acceptable to the motoring public to pay the asking price (noting of course that a huge proportion of it is the import duty), when the Hyundai Tuscon, also of a similar capacity and price, is available at half the price. Given the fact that one is of Japanese origin and the other is Korean, and that the two are similar, but not the same, it basically implies that only those who can afford to splurge a little would go for the Dualis.