Nissan’s Dualis a reliable and practical preloved prospect
NISSAN'S Dualis was a small SUV trailblazer, being one of the first to market as a compact hatch-4WD crossover. The little SUV enjoyed a successful sales run in Australia from its early 2008 introduction through to 2014, when it was replaced by the Qashqai.
Owners seem to be a happy bunch, smitten with its spaciousness, ease of driving, comfort, economy and general reliability.
The Dualis has not been bulletproof. There have been a few recalls for steering issues, some owners complain about quality of certain components and the continuously variable transmission comes in for some criticism.
You also shouldn't expect much in the way of performance from Dualis engines, either. Positively though, despite the advancing years, major expensive failures appear infrequent.
Overall, buying a used one looks a decent bet, not least as you can pick up tidy early examples from about $7000.
Shoppers should target post-April 2010 cars, as these Series II models brought fresher body styling and improved features.
Overwhelmingly used as town and city cars, most are front-wheel drive rather than 4WD; CVTs are twice as popular as manuals, and nearly all are petrol powered. A diesel manual late in its life cycle proved not too popular.
Longer wheelbase +2 versions can also be a desirable seven-seat option for family buyers.
At launch the British-built Dualis came in ST or Ti grade, each with a rather tepid 102kW four-cylinder, and the choice of manual or CVT, front-drive or on-demand 4WD.
The CVT was an oddity in 2008, then as now an acquired taste. Some love them, others loathe them, but most users get used to these buzzy but fuel-efficient transmissions.
Entry-level ST buyers didn't enjoy many goodies beyond a CD player, power windows and cruise control. A $2000 "VDC" option added side and curtain airbags to match the standard dual front airbags, plus 16-inch alloys.
The Ti had plenty of fruit, including leather trim, heated electric front seats, Bluetooth, the VDC option, and auto headlights and wipers.
The 211mm longer Dualis +2 (CVT only) with three rows of seats arrived at the same time, while VDC was standard across the range to ensure all models were five-star safety rated.
From 2010, the ST added 16-inch alloys, wheel mounted audio controls and Bluetooth; the Ti gained 18-inchers, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and dual-zone climate control.
In May 2012, the Ti-L added a 360-degree view to aid parking, and in April 2013 an ST-based TS diesel joined the range, bringing superb fuel economy and excellent torque.
Praised for its cabin and boot space and practicality, plus the AWD option, the Dualis may not have been a thrilling drive but was certainly a desirable all-rounder and, for a time, Australia's best-selling small SUV.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The AWD variants have smart on-the-fly switchable drive but these Nissans are true soft roaders. If you suspect a used one has had a hard life off bitumen, look for a city slicker instead: there are plenty out there.
Evidence of a hard life includes underbody or sump damage, knocks to the base of bumpers and wheel arches or numerous light scratches along the bodywork.
Family cars may not be unscathed and you may encounter the signs of a kiddie typhoon such as food and drink spills or other infant emissions. Target one that's been well cared for by diligent parents.
Steering issues led to recalls in November 2009, November 2011 and September 2012, so ensure these were carried out where necessary.
The most common gripe with owners has been the CVT shuddering. Make sure a potential purchase operates smoothly from a standstill and at speed. If you're not happy, consider a manual - the six-speeder is a neat little job.
Cabin plastics and door handles have been flagged as problem spots by some owners.
Holding up well for its age, the Dualis remains a reliable and practical family SUV that most owners praise. Pick one that has had an easy city life and target post April 2010 models for better equipment and style.
Brian Coogan: My manual turbo diesel, bought in 2014, has 60,000km on the clock. I've just replaced the first set of tyres. It easily does over 1000km on a tank. The seats are comfortable, there is plenty of headroom, controls are simple to understand, vision is probably normal (I can do without the ridiculous external rear-view mirrors) and, most importantly, my wife loves the power of the turbo. Stepping up to an SUV has taken some adjustments. As soon as the warranty expired, I stopped the dealer services as they were too expensive.
Matthew S: I bought my Ti petrol manual new in 2011 and did 130,000km - mainly commuting to work then weekend family trips. For a five-seater SUV, it was easy to park and the kids loved riding in it. I thought the dealer servicing cost was reasonable and I only replaced brakes and tyres. I really liked the Bluetooth so I could make business calls on the go. The Dualis was a five-star job for me.
Melanie Rose: I love my 2012 Ti-L AWD - it handles well, it's compact while roomy and very comfortable. I have one big gripe: the built-in GPS is out of date. Evidently there is no upgrade available here so it's useless. I have to use my phone or street directory. I refuse to put in an external GPS unit as I have a perfectly good one that only requires an upgrade.
Come on Nissan, lift your game.
THE EXPERTS SAY
For the three years the Series II Dualis was available in Australia, Nissan sold more than 48,000 examples, with peak sales exceeding 13,000 in 2012.
Front-drivers account for nearly nine out of 10 used listings and 70 per cent are automatics. ST trim is the most common and hardest to find is the diesel TS.
The most affordable Dualis, the manual ST ($24,990 new) is asking $11,000 for a 2010 model in good condition, having done about 105,000km. For the top-spec +2 Ti with CVT from the same year ($36,890 new), the current value is $16,250. Vehicles with CVTs have roughly the same retained value as the manuals.
Retained values for 2013 models are $15,150 for the ST manual ($25,990 new) and $23,050 for the +2 Ti-L with CVT ($39,390 new).
The 2010 Dualis holds its value slightly better than the Hyundai ix35 and the Mitsubishi ASX rivals. For 2013 examples, the ASX (model year 14) holds its value better than the Dualis but the ix35 trails the Nissan. - Red Book
NISSAN DUALIS 2010-13
PRICE NEW $24,990-$39,390
SAFETY 5 stars (pre-2010 ST 4 stars)
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 102kW/198Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 96kW/320Nm
TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed man, CVT; FWD/AWD