Nissan Terra 2.5L VL 4X4 7AT: The smartest SUV of them all
Nissan leveraged its years of off-road expertise with the Patrol and the Navara and threw in cutting-edge safety technology called “Intelligent Mobility” which made the Terra somewhat of an SUV phenomenon in the country.
In less than two years and at the end of 2019, this mid-sized SUV helped Nissan claim 10.9% of the market to become the third highest-selling brand in the country (up from fourth in 2018).
It sold 10,469 units last year, the second most in its very competitive segment, and with the way it’s setup, it will go on to sell a lot more in the years to come.
The front is basically cut from the same cloth as the Navara with the raised ridges along the sides of the hood, although the Terra does have a fancier and more expressive grille.
While it shares the same platform, it is shorter than its pickup cousin but wider, taller and with a longer wheelbase to provide the roominess and comfort of an SUV.
It’s equipped with auto on/off LED headlamps, LED taillights (which appear oddly shaped), and fog lamps.
Wheel arches are slightly flared for a more macho look while the roof rails and spoiler kicks up its sportiness a notch.
It’s matched to a small intelligent key but will require the driver to push the button on either front door handle to unlock. Likewise, the hatch door opens when you push the electronic latch if the key is on your person.
The black and brown interior combo (black panels and brown leather on the seats) feel like a mismatch with the exterior color but for practicality’s sake, it doesn’t smudge easily and dirt wipes off quickly.
I expected soft-touch materials coating the dashboard of this top trim, but Nissan did a decent enough job to give the plastic great texture and finish.
There are thick silver accents bordering the infotainment system and the gear selector that create a bit of contrast to the otherwise black cockpit.
Right smack in the middle of the center stack is a seven-inch touchscreen system with iOS and Android integration, WiFi- and navigation-ready (if you have a capable SIM card and a micro SD with a map).
It connects to two USB ports at the front of the center console, and can stream video to the flip-down screen right in front of the second row for all the rear passengers to see.
Cabin space feels just about right for this seven-seater. It isn’t cramped and feels generous enough for the average Filipino.
Seats on the second row split 60:40 and come with retractable armrests and backrests that can recline as well, but I like how they can be folded automatically using the buttons near the gear selector.
Two-seater third row seats split 50:50 and fold flat to give way for cargo.
A huge chunk of the Terra’s “Intelligent Mobility” tech lies in the rearview mirror. Aside from being just a plain mirror, it also doubles as a display for video output of the rear and side cameras.
What’s good? Aside from the default full rear view, there’s a full 360-degree "around" view, and blind spot view (the camera shows what’s in the proximity of right front panel).
What’s not? Full rear view is looks too close and is aimed higher than I would have wanted it. It can be adjusted but it still doesn’t get the angle I’ll be most comfortable with. Also, depending on the time of day, you can’t use it as a mirror at all and even when I really wanted to, my eyes struggled to adjust between what the mirror reflects and the video.
I love how well its 187hp and 450Nm of torque is utilized, and every time I hear that grunt from the 2.5-liter turbodiesel engine, I imagine there’s a three-liter mill under the hood. It feels robust and powerful by sound alone, but more so when the torque actually kicks in especially on the low gears.
The engine is paired to a seven-speed AT that sedan-smooth and handles shifts swiftly without skipping a beat.
I had to take the revs higher than 2,000 to really get it up to overtaking speed, and actually even for plain quick acceleration but despite that, I still averaged 8.5 kilometers per liter in pure city driving.
Ride and handling
The coil springs in front make the ride understandably stiff despite the multi-link suspension with stabilizer bar in the rear. And with only myself weighing it all down for majority of the test drive, the overall impression is that it's still more truck-like than SUV.
I didn’t get to try cruise control — no point in the city, really — but the lane departure warning system (also part of “Intelligent Mobility”) does work even with the faded markings on EDSA and what’s good is it’s not as intrusive as other similar systems.
Other safety features include hill start assist, hill descent control, and six airbags (this comes across all trims)
Even at P2.176 million, it still undercuts a few of its popular competitors in the market by some P100,000, and that’s even without scrimping on features and shortchanging the market.
Its power and off-road capability are legit because of its Navarra heritage and that is true across all trims, but what sets the Nissan Terra 2.5L VL 4X4 7AT apart and makes it truly smart is the “Intelligent Mobility” has to offer.
Photos by Eric Tipan