Nissan comes up with the Terrano, a Renault Duster-inspired SUV with a formidable ride quality. Sandeep Srikanth has the details

The Renault Duster has been doing rather well in the Indian SUV segment and now Nissan, Renault’s alliance partner, is bringing its very own version of the popular SUV.

But Nissan hasn’t just put its own badge on the Duster and called it the Terrano. The Japanese partner has substantially refreshed this SUV to give it its own distinct identity and sharply differentiate it from the Duster. In addition to new ‘soft’ parts like the grille, bumpers and lights that are usually changed in a regular cross-badging exercise, Nissan has gone a step further and changed almost all the body panels too.

The Terrano’s bonnet gets revised character lines that form a slight ‘V’ which flows into the new nose with its distinctive Nissan family grille, inspired by other Nissan SUVs like the larger Pathfinder. The all-new headlamps look quite striking and the re-sculpted single-colour front bumper also looks a lot sharper with more detailing around the fog lamps. Although in profile, the Terrano does resemble the Duster quite a bit, close scrutiny reveals more rounded door panels with a new crease running along their length and blacked out B- and C-pillars. The roof rails look more upmarket too.

At the rear, the stylish split tail lamps will differentiate the Nissan Terrano from its Renault sibling. The mid-spec petrol variant comes with steel wheels, but the fully loaded trims will sport stylish alloys. There are also a few other additions, like a gas strut to keep the bonnet in place; little details that Nissan hopes will justify the Terrano’s expected price premium over the Duster.

To give the Terrano a more premium look, Nissan has shed the Duster’s black plastic body cladding. This does take away from the rugged look and unfortunately, the carmaker has retained the flimsy flap-type door handles from the Duster.

The cabin has been redone as well with more beige plastics, (the base variant will be all-black), a new steering wheel, squared-off central air-con vents similar to those on the new Micra and a lid for the dash top storage. There is also a new entertainment unit with CD player, Aux and USB inputs and Bluetooth mobile connectivity. Unfortunately, the unwieldy ergonomics from the Duster are carried over — like the outside rear-view mirror adjusters under the handbrake lever and aircon controls which are placed low and don’t feel particularly nice to operate.

The Duster’s locally developed dashboard is also carried over and that’s not a good thing, because the plastic quality and overall finish is not to international standards.

Nissan says the decision to limit interior changes was made in order to get the Terrano to market quickly.

With no structural changes to the cabin, passenger space is identical to the Duster, with reasonable room for three passengers to be comfortable in the rear, and very generous boot space. The higher trims will also get the dedicated rear AC vent that we have seen on the Duster, which again looks like a cheap aftermarket fitment and is prone to rattle.

Like the other badge-engineered products from the Renault-Nissan alliance, the Terrano will share its powertrains with the Duster. So expect the 1.5-litre DCI diesel to be available in two states of tune — 84bhp and 109bhp — as well as a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. The more powerful diesel mated to a six-speed gearbox has a bit of turbo-lag, but pulls strongly once revs pick up. The 84bhp version of the Renault engine, like we have seen in the lesser-powered diesel Duster, is more tractable and offers a more linear power delivery.

There are no mechanical changes between the Duster and the Terrano; the underpinnings are identical. The Terrano retains the front McPherson struts and torsion beam rear suspension layout, which means you can expect the Nissan to drive much like the Duster. And that’s a good thing. The Duster has set a benchmark for ride and handling, which the Nissan Terrano inherits as well. The long travel suspension, finely tuned by Renault, works brilliantly on all surfaces, and the flat and consistent ride quality will certainly be one of Terrano’s strengths.

With the Nissan Terrano and Renault Duster essentially being the same vehicle under the skin, it all boils down to the looks and price. As per the terms of Renault and Nissan’s badge-engineering deal, the “cloned” product (in this case, the Terrano) needs to pay a royalty to the original. This is the main reason why the Terrano is priced higher. We expect the premium to be around Rs. 50,000 — Rs. 75,000 over the equal-spec Duster. Terrano bookings begin this month, and Nissan India’s management has indicated that the car will launch at a “sub-Rs 10 lakh price”.