31 May 1996

Will facelift boost Nissans 4×4 sales?

By Andrew Faulkner

WHAT is the best selling 4×4 in Europe? Surely, it must be Land Rovers ubiquitous Discovery. And if not the Disco, then Shogun, Frontera, or perhaps even Suzukis little Vitara.

Wrong on all counts. In 1995, the vehicle which actually topped the European league of off-roaders was the Nissan Terrano/Ford Maverick.

In the UK, however, it is a very different story. Whereas the nations favourite, the Land Rover Discovery, has dominated the 4×4 off-roader market for the past five years, the Nissan-built Terrano and its Maverick twin have struggled to find their niche since launch in 1993. According to Nissan Motor GB, that is about to change.

From July, both three- and five-door Terranos and Mavericks will emerge from Nissans Spanish plant with major facelifts which include uprated engines, changes to exterior styling, as well as a host of mods to trim and specification levels. Nissan, in particular, has decided to streamline its line-up with the three-door Terrano targeted at the "younger" Frontera Sport buyer, while the bigger five-door model caters for the more business-like end of the market.

But it is under the bonnet where the major change takes place. Admittedly, the 2.4-litre petrol unit just gets modest tweaks to reduce noise and exhaust emission levels. In contrast, performance of the better-selling 2.7-litre diesel is transformed.

What was a rather wheezy 100hp turbodiesel now benefits from an intercooled air feed – hence, the hump on the bonnet – which boosts maximum power by 25% to 125hp. Maximum torque also increases, with a 26% rise to a class-leading 278Nm peaking at a lowly 2000rpm.

All this translates into a flexible motor which now pulls evenly from engine speeds that previously left the indirect injection unit struggling. Note the engine is still indirectly fuelled despite new use of Tdi badge on vehicles backend.

Drive-line and chassis remain largely unchanged on all models, with the power still transferred from engine to wheel through selectable 4wd transmissionand limited slip diff on the rear beam.

New is the option of a five-sensor ABS set-up, which operates in both 2wd and 4wd and is claimed to be capable of differentiating between on- and off-road use.

Full pricing details have yet to be announced, though Nissan has said its revised Terrano line-up will carry about a £500 premium over existing models. The entry-level three-door petrol is expected to start at £15,995.


UK 4×4 Market

4x4Market share Jan-Apr 96 (%)

Land Rover Discovery18.1

Suzuki Vitara11.7

Vauxhall Frontera10.5

Range Rover9.4

Toyota RAV49.0

Terrano/Maverick8.4

Mitsubishi Shogun7.7

Remainder25.2

Twin-light nose and wider stance for the 1996 Nissan Terrano. Note hump on diesel bonnet which accommodates performance-boosting intercooler. Petrol model also gets the hump, but no intercooler – cheaper to use same bonnet.