Renault-Nissan indulges in badge engineering once again. But this time it’s the other way around. The result? A product better than the one it’s based on.
I have a Herculean task to manage with this review report – to emphasize that it’s a Nissan Terrano, and not just a Renault Duster in a party dress. And before you call me names and throw things around in a rage of anger and disappointment at me for being ‘yet another’ professional who gave in to the lure of gaining preference with the manufacturer in question, let me tell you that the differences, though hard to spot, are quite important.
You see, the Duster was a turning point for Renault because, before that, leaving aside the Fluence, what they essentially did was borrow products like the Micra and Sunny from Nissan and sell them as Renault-badged products after applying a bit of mascara on them. That’s cheating – but then, they’re French!
So, now it’s Nissan’s turn to borrow from Renault. But they’re Japanese, so they took the pain of making the Nissan Terrano stand out – even in a room of R&D engineers – against the Duster. When you look at the Terrano, you spot the most obvious change instantly – the characteristic Nissan SUV grille. Yes, it’s made to look like the Pathfinder, but that’s no bad thing, really. It suddenly makes the Duster look like it belongs in the past, while the Nissan Terrano is very today.
There are hidden changes everywhere. While in profile the Nissan Terrano may look exactly like the Duster, there are changes to the sheet-metal – the result of which is a subtle, yet stylish, crease that suggests real metal working at the factory, and not just a cosmetic stick-it-on job. The doors, too, have undergone a bit of a change. At the rear, the tail lamps extend into the hatch, and that changes the character and stance of the Terrano considerably. The redesigned bumper, too, is a good touch. With the changes made to the exterior, Nissan may have pulled off the best looking Duster yet. Oh God, I promised myself that I wouldn’t make such statements!
The interior has seen some design changes too. The integrated audio unit is the first thing that strikes your eye, and this one looks a far cry better than the Duster’s vintage affair. The steering wheel is different, and the aircon vent in the center is now squared off, and gets a bit of chrome around it that enhances its appeal. You do get Bluetooth connectivity, but the lack of steering mounted controls is a bummer and this is one part where, in my view, Nissan ought to have retained Renault’s eccentrically positioned column-mounted audio and phone control unit. And the mirror adjustment knob placement hasn’t been altered, so it is still quite stupidly placed – below the hand brake lever that is!
There’s been no change to the mechanical bits, so the Terrano’s space and dimensions are the same as the Duster, as is the driving character – which is a great thing! The ride is sublime, and the suspension soaks up absolutely anything you wish to drive on. It’s so clever, the suspension setup, that you don’t have to think about braking over any undulation in the road – and the ride quality improves as you gain speed. The chassis is quite compliant with your inputs through the steering wheel, and though it does exhibit a slight amount of roll, it’s nothing that will make you sweat in discomfort. It’s simply one of the better handling SUVs in the market today. The steering is fairly precise, and that adds to the overall confidence that the Nissan Terrano instils in you. While driving, you’ll appreciate the work that’s gone into reducing the NVH levels – the Terrano feels much more silent and refined compared to the Duster.
The Nissan Terrano shares the family of engines that do duty in the Duster. The 108bhp version feels the best to drive, but there’s a noticeable lack of grunt below 2,000rpm, and the clutch feels heavy – which can be an irksome companion when sitting in traffic and shifting constantly. The shift quality, however, is brilliant and the 6-speed manual is a joy to operate. The 83bhp version of the 1.5 diesel engine feels a bit overwrought and choked at higher revs, but that’s not what it’s made for anyway. It’s effortless at puttering around at city speeds. The gearshift is a bit notchy, but the light clutch makes light-work of shifting through the cogs. I had a very brief experience with the petrol motor, and it felt refined and humble, but I’ll be able to give you a better idea of its overall performance when I get to drive it over an extended duration of time.
The Nissan Terrano is a well engineered product that looks, feels, and drives extremely well. It’s the badge-engineering effort that’s better than the original. The imposing looks, phenomenal ride-and-handling combination, and better interiors makes this one the preferred choice. Or does it? Well, it all depends on the price differential now. So, let’s hope that Nissan pulls off a good one here. Amen to that!