Now, this is getting interesting. July 2012: Renault launches the Duster. The small SUV creates a new segment in the Indian market and eats into Mahindra Scorpio sales. Ford gets proactive. June 2013: the American carmaker launches the EcoSport. The even smaller SUV (actually, a tall hatchback) eats into Duster sales. Renault-Nissan alliance takes the badge-engineering route and comes up with the Terrano—a reworked Duster. And not just mild tweaks but major styling changes that actually make this SUV look like a proper Nissan.
Because it gets the traditional Nissan grille, because it gets reworked bumpers, and because it gets new front and rear lamp assembly, at first glance, the Terrano doesn’t one bit look like the Duster. In fact, from the front it appears to be a small X-Trail. The headlamps are neatly blended into the grille and the bonnet has sharp lines that go all the way from the grille to the windshield. It is only when you check out its side profile that you are reminded of the Duster. Which is a good thing. The buyers who would want to upgrade to the more-premium Terrano would welcome this. The two major differences on the side profile are that the B and C pillars of the Terrano are blacked out unlike its French cousin, and the high-end variant of the Terrano rides on jazzy 10-spoke alloy wheels, unlike the bland ones seen on the Duster. The rear gets a twin-piece tail light cluster that looks good. There is also a large chrome bar that sits on top of the rear number-plate. But like the Duster, the Terrano continues with the lift-type door handles, although we would have appreciated the more upmarket grab-type door handles.
Because it is quite tall and because it has got wide doors, the ingress and egress from the Terrano is easy. And once you are inside the cabin, the light colours provide a good sense of space. Although Nissan has worked upon the Duster’s cabin and has upscaled it—there is a new lidded storage area on top of the restyled centre console, the AC vents have gone rectangular and also get chrome outlining, there is a new multimedia system—you might still have minor reasons to complain. For instance, the outside rearview mirror adjustment control is placed inconveniently under the handbrake lever, there is no dead pedal to rest your foot on long drives, and there aren’t any steering-mounted controls. On the positive side, because of the sheer interior space, you might tend to forget these niggling problems as the Terrano gets ample storage slots, the door pockets are deep enough to accommodate large bottles, and there is generous headroom, legroom and shoulder room all around. Then, the seats are wide and come with decent thigh-support. What else, you even get 475-litre boot space, which is quite practical—the loading height is not very high and one can place heavy luggage in the boot without much of an effort. The rear passengers on the high-end versions even get rear AC vents.
The Terrano gets all the three hearts of the Duster—the 1.6-litre petrol engine and two variants of the 1.5-litre diesel engine. The petrol motor churns out 104 PS of power and the two diesel variants produce 85 PS and 110 PS, respectively. While there is a 5-speed manual transmission for the petrol and 85 PS diesel, the 110 PS diesel gets a 6-speed manual transmission. The ARAI-certified mileage is 13.24 kmpl (petrol), 20.46 kmpl (85 PS diesel) and 19.01 kmpl (110 PS diesel).
During the media drive from Udaipur to Kumbhalgarh in Rajasthan we drove all three models extensively, but here we will talk about only the diesel ones for the obvious reason that they will be more in demand. Driving within Udaipur, we found that there was no noticeable difference between the 85 PS and 110 PS. But a few miles out of town, just as we entered the hills, the difference in power was apparent. While the 110 PS easily climbed steep, elevated roads, helped by a huge 248 Nm of torque, the 85 PS demanded a downshift most times (it produces a maximum torque of 200 Nm). On straight roads, though, we could feel the difference only when we went higher than 100 kmph. As we re-entered the town, we again couldn’t tell which one is 85 PS and which one is not.
Drive verdict: Both the diesel motors are sufficient. If you generally drive within city limits, we suggest you check out the 85 PS one; it will also be cheaper to buy. But if you want a bit more fun from your SUV, we suggest you take the 110 PS route—it is really amazing to drive.
A welcome news is that the Terrano gets driver airbag as standard across all variants. Then you have features such as ABS, EBD, fog lamps, dual front airbags in high-end models, double-din audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, etc. While Nissan has added parking sensors, there is no rear-park assist camera. To be launched in early October, we expect the Terrano will be priced some R50,000 above the Duster. And the kind of freshness that it brings with itself, we believe the premium is well worth it.