We told you Nissan would make its own version of Alliance partner Renault’s popular Duster SUV for the Indian market over a year ago. Well, we finally get to drive it. Here’s the lowdown on this new compact SUV, which is sure to shake up this increasingly-crowded segment a little more.
Design & Engineering
Nissan is a company which has built its reputation making tough, no-nonsense, ultra-reliable utility vehicles. Of course, it also makes some very sexy and very fast sports cars as well, but let’s concentrate on the SUV heritage here. The Terrano nameplate has been used variously on Nissan’s SUVs in different markets around the world. Nissan has decided to call its Duster-based SUV by this name in India, and we quite like the ring to it, to be honest.
So, what’s different?
For starters, the new Terrano looks completely different to the Duster, which is a good thing. The only time one might mistake one for the other, is when viewed from the side, and that too in silhouette. Otherwise, Nissan’s design team has done a fabulous job in giving the Terrano its distinct, unique and good-looking identity. Let’s start with the front grille. The bold chrome parallelogram defines the nose of the Terrano; the upturned lip of the front bumper, flanked by two small, round fog lamps add aggression to its looks. The headlamps and front grille form one continuous, unbroken element at the front, which defines this SUV’s look perfectly.
The bold wheelarches are reminiscent of the Duster though, and we can understand why Nissan’s engineers chose not to mess with it too much. For starters, it looks good as it is, and secondly, it would have unnecessarily added to the tooling costs.
At the rear, Nissan has managed to make the Terrano look more cohesive, with the angular tail lamps and pressed sheet metal for the rear number plate. There are also small reflectors in the rear bumper. The sum effect of these changes is that the Terrano ends up looking a whole lot nicer from the rear, as compared to the Duster. However, it is interesting to note that the rear windshield of both cars are identical.
The same monocoque construction and suspension serves the Terrano as the Duster, and the same range of powertrains are on offer too. The car-like underpinnings belie the Terrano’s SUV claims though, with independent McPherson struts up front, and a simple torsion beam rear axle. There are anti-rolls bars at both front and rear.
Powering the Terrano are a choice of three powertrains, which include a 85 PS diesel, 110 PS diesel and a 104 PS petrol engine. While the petrol and 85 PS diesel have a 5-speed manual transmission, the 110 PS diesel makes use of a 6-speed gearbox. All three are front-wheel drive only, so if you were expecting four-wheel drive, a low-range gearbox, and lockable differentials, then you will be disappointed.
The machined 16-inch alloy wheels really add to the Terrano's looks. Our test car had steel wheels with plastic wheelcaps, which also look quite nice The same 215/65 R16 tyres are on all variants.
Nitish Tipnis, who handles marketing for Nissan, shed some light on this. According to him, the term SUV stands for a commanding driving position, good ground clearance and lots of interior room, and that the customer doesn’t really want or need four-wheel drive. He has a point, of course, and the attributes he lists are available in the Terrano (and Duster) in spades.
The new Nissan Terrano will be available in a total of seven variants (the Duster has eight). These are:
1.6 Petrol XL
1.5 Diesel (85 PS) XE
1.5 Diesel (85 PS) XL
1.5 Diesel (85 PS) XL Plus
1.5 Diesel (110 PS) XL
1.5 Diesel (110 PS) XV
1.5 Diesel (110 PS) XV Premium
Interiors & Comfort
Given the enhancements to the exterior of the Terrano, it raises expectations when you step inside. If anything, the contrast is a little disappointing, because the Terrano has the same durable and hard-wearing plastics as the Duster. We would have appreciated a little bit of flair to the Terrano’s interiors, but considering that it is built to a price, one can’t complain. To be fair to the Terrano, it is all well screwed together and so will see years of use. While the base XE has all-black interiors, the rest of the variants all get dual-tone black and beige interior plastics, which lend a more airy feel to the cabin.
The instrument cluster is the same as what you’re used to with the Duster, which itself has been carried over from the Logan (Mahindra Verito today). Nissan could have engineered some improvements to the ergonomics, we feel, but instead the Terrano carries forward the same idiosyncrasies as the Duster, like the adjustment knob for the outside mirrors, which is located under the handbrake lever, and the rotary head lamp level adjustment which is near the driver’s right knee. Not nice. One small improvement in the Terrano is the addition of a small compartment on top of the dashboard, which is useful for storing odds and ends.
Nissan equips the Terrano with its own 2DIN stereo, which supports Bluetooth and USB connections on all but the base XE trim level. The XV Premium variant gets a touch-screen system with built in navigation function as well.
Adequate leg room, but low hip point can prove tiring over longer journeys. In the seat is Manoj Ranade, in charge of Product Planning at Hover.
The Terrano offers similarly comfortable and commodious front seats as the Renault Duster. All the variants are have fabric seats, while the XV Premium gets leather upholstery. Rear AC vents are also offered with the XV and XV Premium, similar to the top-end Duster variants. Rear seat space is adequate, but given the outward bulk of the vehicle, you don’t get all that much room on the inside.
The boot however is substantial, and you can pile in a huge amount of luggage. Remove the parcel shelf and you could even transport a small fridge or washing machine quite easily!
Performance & Handling
Nissan’s engineers were keen to point out that they’ve made “over 200” changes to the Terrano. Without going into specifics, we understand these changes included improvements and enhancements to the Duster’s interiors, exteriors and technical details under the skin. Hence, we were most keen to see if we could make out the difference.
The first and most immediately apparent change is to the sound deadening, with the Terrano’s cabin feeling a touch quieter compared to the Duster. Of course, we’d need a decibel meter to accurately measure the difference, but it doubtless feels more hushed inside.
Given that the engines and the gearing is the same, we expect the same level of performance, and we experienced no surprises. The Terrano goes about its business in a friendly, predictable and confident manner. The ‘wheel feels just a little bit lighter to turn, but then that is perhaps because the rim is slightly thinner, affording a better grip. Don’t expect to scorch the roads with the Terrano, no matter which engine is under the bonnet.
Of the three, I like the 85 PS diesel the most, for its easy-going nature and minimal turbo lag. True, the 110 PS does have decidedly more grunt, but you have to row the gearbox more, which is not a prospect to relish because it’s not the type of gearbox which goes snick-snick-snick. Instead, the throws are slightly long and the clutch is quite heavy. Added to that the 110 PS engine has huge turbo-lag, which means you have to keep the engine above 2,000 rpm at all times. Despite the six-speed gearbox, there is a noticeable gap between second and third gear, and fully laden while tackling an incline, you will be frustrated by the constant changes up and down the ’box.
No biblical characters were involved in the taking of this photograph.
The petrol version of the Terrano is the surprise package here. I know very few customers will opt for this engine, but despite a slightly rough note to it, it motors very competently. It builds power and torque in a smooth and linear fashion, and the lighter clutch action actually makes it easier to live with if you have to deal with traffic. Of course, you really need to rev it beyond 3,500 rpm for brisk highway driving. However, if you’re mostly going to drive within the city, with only the odd excursion out of town, you may want to try this version.
However, like I said before, it is the 85 PS Terrano, in my opinion, which makes the most sense. This engine suits the character of this SUV perfectly, with easy drivability and adequate performance for highway use.
The Terrano does not have four-wheel drive (yet), but the high ground clearance and big wheels afford it enough capability to deal with most terrain. Rutted and pot-holed roads rarely both the Terrano, and it swamps most roads and dirt tracks with ease. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even use the short first gear to crawl around on some loose surfaces as well. Keep in mind however, that you do not have 4-wheel drive as a security blanket, but with a bit of planning, the Terrano is game for some fun, as you can see from these pictures.
Given the near-identical specifications of the Terrano with the Duster, the ARAI-certified fuel efficiency figures as identical as well. Here they are at a glance:
1.5 Diesel (105 PS) – 19 km/l
1.5 Diesel (85 PS) – 20.4 km/l
1.6 Petrol – 13.2 km/l
85 PS diesel (left) is most frugal choice. Petrol (right) has decent drivability.
The usual rider about these being test figures under ideal conditions holds true here as well, but if our experience with the Duster has taught us anything, it is that the diesel can be quite frugal when driven sensibly. Between 12 and 13 km/l is achievable in city driving, even with the AC, if yu have the 85 PS diesel, while the highway figure will nudge the 20 km/l mark too.
Safety hasn’t been ignored on the new Terrano, and all the variants are available with a driver’s side airbag as standard equipment. All but the base XE variant have ABS with EBD and Brake Assist too. The XL Plus, XV and XV Premium variants have a front passenger airbag included as well. Other features like the rear defogger and front fog lamps are available on all but the base XE version. Nissan had taken the lead in offering safety features as standard, with the base versions of the Sunny and Evalia also offering ABS, and we’re glad to see that the company has stuck to form.
Is the Nissan Terrano a credible alternative in the compact SUV segment? Is it substantially different from the Renault Duster? Will it justify the inevitable price premium over the Duster? These are all valid questions, and questions that Nissan and Hover Automotive India (which handles sales and marketing for Nissan) will have to answer. The bombast launch price of the Ford EcoSport has surely given Renault sleepless nights already, and the company has seen Duster sales tumble to about half from their peak figures a few months ago. The generally despondent market sentiment isn’t helping matters either, and Nissan and Hover already have more than enough to contend with. But the fact remains that Nissan has indeed managed to give the Terrano its own individuality. The enhanced looks, especially at the rear, will give it greater appeal as well. The subtler refinements may be evident to discerning customers too. However, I can’t shake the feeling that Nissan will have to ride on its brand equity as a maker of some of the world’s most iconic SUVs to shift and move (apologies!) the Terrano out of showrooms. That isn’t a bad thing. A lot of the Terrano’s success will have to do with how it is marketed.
The price announcement is expected just in time for the festive season, with some speculation that it will be in the second week of October. Our sources within Nissan have strongly hinted that the Terrano range will start below Rs 10 lakh. We expect the base diesel XE to start at Rs 9.4 lakh, ex-showroom, going up to Rs 13.5 lakh for the top of the line XV Premium.
Renault Duster, Ford EcoSport, Mahindra XUV 500