Badge-engineering isn’t a new concept in India, especially within the Renault-Nissan alliance. Nissan’s Micra and Sunny models co-exist with Renault’s Pulse and Scala. Nissan has now gone on record to say the Terrano will be the last cross-badged product in India, at least in the near term. Meanwhile, the success of the Renault Duster, and what it did to the Indian SUV market, is unparalleled. Can Nissan reinvigorate the SUV market with the Terrano? We find out.
The latest addition to the badge-engineered product range within the Renault-Nissan alliance is the Nissan Terrano, which has been positioned by the company as a premium compact SUV. On the inside, the Terrano is actually a rebadged version of the Renault Duster, which in turn is a rebadged version of the Dacia Duster, which even further is a vehicle based on the Renault-Nissan’s B0 platform. Confusing it may sound but it works for some companies and if initial numbers are anything to go by, Nissan has a winner on hands. About 6,000 pre-launch bookings bode well for the future of any vehicle in India.
These numbers do not come as a surprise to us given the kind of growth being experienced in the compact SUV segment. Nissan seems to have arrived right in the middle of a carnival. We were invited by the company to drive the Terrano in Udaipur, where we put the vehicle through an extensive test in order to find out if it’s really different and premium as the company claims.
Unlike most badge-engineered vehicles, Nissan made the effort of redesigning a large number of body panels. Being the most extensively reworked area of the Terrano, the exterior sports a distinct visual identity compared to its French-branded sibling. Reminiscent of Nissan’s Pathfinder styling, the Terrano comes across as one of the sharpest-looking vehicles to have spawned from the B0 platform.
The front-end is largely dominated by Nissan’s V-motion design, which starting from the grille moves across the bonnet. Sharp headlamp design in tandem with a chrome-finished grille help exude an air of premium look. Sideways, the redesigned door panels with a shoulder line and wheel arches, add mildly to the rugged looks. The side profile, however, doesn’t look that attractive or distinct as the front does, and somehow doesn’t sync completely with the front either. The rear tail lamps too have been redesigned and while their sole design may not be too special, their integration and positioning helps in offering a dynamic appeal to the section. The roof rails, skid plates and the new 16-inch machined-alloy wheels too go along well with Nissan’s design theme for the Terrano.
The detailed approach of Nissan towards design, despite being a shared platform, seems to have paid dividends. A lot of work has actually gone into making the exterior appealing, and different from the Renault Duster.
The Terrano range in India will feature similar powertrain options to the ones found in the Duster. These consist of a 1.6 l petrol engine developing about 104 hp and a 1.5 l diesel engine in two states of tune, offering 84 hp and 108 hp. During the drive event, we weren’t able to sample the petrol variant. Also, quite certainly this variant would be the slowest mover off the showroom, given the popularity of diesel SUVs.
The 1.5 l K9K diesel engine from the alliance is the same as found in the Renault Duster, and Nissan chose not to make any notable changes, given the good acceptance of the unit. The key reason, leading to different power outputs is the difference in turbo geometry. While the lesser powerful unit sports a fixed geometry turbocharger, the more powerful one features a variable geometry unit. Other changes include stronger internals to handle the additional boost and power.
On the road, the 84 hp variant is more suited to city-driving. This is because the engine develops its 200 Nm of torque at 1,900 rpm, and hence requires lesser shifting. The other version develops a much higher 248 Nm of torque, but kicks in at a higher 2,250 rpm. Due to the torque surging in later, the 108 hp variant displays a noticeable lag but once in the optimum band, power delivery is quite hurried, making overtaking an easy task. Past 4,000 rpm though, the power tapers off and the motor too loses some of its smoothness.
A common issue with both the engine versions is the slightly heavy clutch, which might be bothersome during long durations in stop-go traffic. The transmission too is different in both variants as the lesser powerful version is equipped with a five-speed manual unit, while the other unit gets a six-speed manual gearbox. Both units offer acceptable smoothness and throw distances, with the six-speed unit being significantly better. The 108 hp engine really shines on the highway, making it easier to cruise at higher speeds in comparison with the 84 hp variant.
Another area, which showcased Nissan’s focus on offering a premium product, were the impressively low NVH levels. Nissan seems to have put in a good effort in this area, owing to which the cabin stays largely insulated from the audible effects of the engine and nature’s forces at work. This would be greatly appreciated by consumers, when being justified the additional cost over the Duster at showrooms.
Interior is another area, where Nissan has made an attempt to convince the buyer of its premium badging. Despite some prominent bits such as the meter console and the steering wheel being the same as in the Duster, the Terrano’s cabin does look different. The top variant of the 108 hp version comes with beige leather upholstery, while the rest offer beige fabric upholstery. The base XE version features black upholstery and that too looks quite impressive.
The piano black centre console, along with the chrome surrounded air vents, adds an elegant touch to the cabin. The material used on the door handle along with its texture left us wanting for more in the 84 hp variant, but was significantly better in the 108 hp one. The more powerful variant also gives consumers the comfort of a rear AC vent, which is more than just a blower as seen on the Sunny. Overall fit and finish levels are better than some of the larger SUVs in the same price bracket. Ingress and egress is a breeze at the front but not that great at the rear. The seats at the front are supportive and offer good lateral and side support. At the rear, legroom is acceptable by segment standards and the seats are good for usage over long durations. The boot, with its ability to expand from 475 l to 1065 l, offers generous space and flexibility.
The placement of a few components in the compartment, nonetheless, demands a relook. The power window button console, for instance, is oddly placed way forward than normal. The rear buttons in contrast have been placed way backwards. As a result, the front occupants will have to stretch their arms while the rear occupants will end up hitting the button accidentally with their elbows. The ORVM button is again oddly placed somewhat beneath the handbrake lever and again doesn’t offer a seamless operation. There are some more small bits, which lower the overall ergonomic efficiency further. Consumers would adapt to these over time, but the company would do well by correcting these inconveniences.
The Terrano drives almost like a car and that is primarily down to its monocoque construction. The front suspension is an independent McPherson strut and the rear is a torsion beam axle, both, with coil springs and anti-roll bars. Ride quality despite being on the firmer side isn’t unsettling, and the suspension stays pliant over most surfaces.
We drove the Terrano at a fairly brisk pace through some narrow and twisting roads in the Aravali range of hills and were thoroughly impressed. Body-roll, although evident, is easily manageable and nose-dive during hard braking too is well within acceptable limits. The steering is pretty direct, allowing one to turn confidently. Despite a high polar moment of inertia (partly due to the FWD layout), the Terrano is well composed over bends and doesn’t wallow over minor undulations at high speeds on the highways. The electro-hydraulic steering offers good feedback and weighs up decently as speeds build up. The stock MRF Wanderer tyres too offer good levels of grip and during a high-speed sharp turn, ensured the vehicle doesn’t leave its line.
The overall dynamics of the Terrano are quite impressive and consumers will appreciate the right mix of balanced dynamics with an adequately comfortable ride.
It would be too early to declare the Terrano a long-term winner since its initial numbers could’ve been buoyed by multiple factors apart from the product itself. A key one among those is the long-waiting period of the Ford EcoSport, and since the Duster has been around for a while, a new product is usually seen with greater initial excitement.
That said, the Terrano is a good attempt by Nissan to offer a rebadged vehicle with better offerings for the extra money. It is visible that Nissan has taken time to understand the requirements of the consumers and made changes accordingly. The idea behind launching rebadged vehicles is that development costs are significantly reduced. What effect the effort of redesigning the panels and other elements has had on the cost-effectiveness is unknown to us. What is known though is that Nissan’s strategy has paid off, at least initially, looking at the pre-booking numbers.
The Terrano on its own comes across as a product, which lives up to most of the claims made by its manufacturer. Of course, there are some bits such as the ergonomics, which could’ve been better but the existing good bits eclipse the shortcomings. Priced in a range of ` 9.6 lakh and ` 12.46 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the Terrano offers good value for money for those looking for a smart compact SUV without giving up on the comforts and driving pleasure of a car.
Text & PHOTO: Arpit Mahendra, Deepangshu Dev Sarmah