As the saying goes, if you're late to the party, you have to bring the best gift.

For over a decade, Japanese marques such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Isuzu have been making pickup platform vehicles. Even American brands are in on it with Ford and Chevrolet jumping in on the craze. And yet Nissan, one of the world's biggest automakers, didn't come up with one until this year. It's not like they didn't make pickup-based SUVs in the past with the Terrano, Pathfinder, and the Xterra.

But Nissan is keen to make up for lost time with the Terra. It's late to the PPV party so it has a lot of catching up to do. The Terra is, perhaps, the most important vehicle Nissan offers for the SUV crazy ASEAN market. So not only does it have to be good, it has to be very, very good.

2018 Nissan Terra VL 4x4

It's not a surprise then that the Terra, from the front at least, looks a lot like the vehicle it was based on, the Navara. You get similar-looking headlights, a slightly altered grill and reworked bumper. Other than those, there really isn't much distinction between the Terra and the Navara. Still, I think it's a good looking vehicle. Subtle, with a hint of brashness.

What I do like about the Terra's design is the side profile. Defined lines and flared fenders give it a butch appearance, making it look rugged and aggressive. The large windows are a refreshing sight to see with many adapting a high window line and slim glass area look these past couple of years. It looks clean and purposeful in my eyes.

The rear however can benefit from a bit more flair. Granted, it's difficult to do that with its upright shape but perhaps a pair of more dramatic looking tail lights might do the trick. All in all though, it doesn't detract from the Terra's handsomely rugged design. Granted, there are more stylish options out there but the Terra won't be offensive to look at in most eyes. However, if I were to get a Terra, it wouldn't be in this rather polarizing color Nissan calls Flare Metallic Gold. I reckon the Terra looks best in brown, gray, or red.

2018 Nissan Terra VL 4x4

If you've sat inside a Navara, or even own one, the Terra's cabin will be a familiar sight for you. The dashboard layout is largely the same as before. It has the same round corner air-conditioning vents, the dash top shelf, and the instrument cluster. Unfortunately that also means you get the same hard plastics from the Navara in the Terra. Then again, most of its competitors do have hard dashboards.

Still, it's nice that the parts where your hands usually go (door arm rests, steering wheel, buttons and dials) are nice to touch. However, I was a bit surprised that the Terra still doesn't come with a telescopic steering wheel adjuster. Nor does it have a driver's side grab handle to making climbing on board a bit easier.

What is different is the infotainment screen. Powered by Android, it's easy to use, and easy to set up. There's even applications like Spotify and smartphone mirror linking to display what's present on your mobile phone's screen on to the infotainment unit. This being the top-spec model, it has a flip-down screen at the back as well.

2018 Nissan Terra VL 4x4

Space is abundant in the Terra, with the second row offering a lot of legroom thanks to its sliding mechanism. The large windows also bring in a lot of light in the cabin and give you the sensation of sitting high off the road. While we're on the subject of the second row, it has a rather clever way of tumbling out of the way to get access the third row seats. All you have to do is press a button on the center console, and the seats move out of the way. Whoever thought of that idea deserves a big bonus over at Nissan.

As for third row space, it's typical mid-sized SUV: tight for tall adults but adequate for children and small adults. What is impressive is the cargo space with all seats up, as you can still fit a cooler or two back there.

2018 Nissan Terra VL 4x4

As it is based on the Navara, there are no prizes for guessing what's under the hood. Yes, it's the same 2.5-liter turbodiesel unit that has powered the Navara for several years now. In the 4x4 model, and all variants for that matter, it makes 190 PS and 450 Nm of torque. It also utilizes a seven-speed automatic transmission, which promises to offer good fuel economy in the heavy SUV. The four-wheel drive system is an electronic affair with a dial to switch to from 2WD to 4WD, and it even comes with a limited-slip differential, which is good if you frequently tow.

And now, the big question: what's the Terra like on the road?

Now, I've never driven a Navara before so no, I won't say that it drives like the pickup the Terra is based upon. Instead, I can tell you that is it effortless and smooth. The ride in front is worth praise, among the smoothest I've been in actually. Coupled with Nissan's Zero Gravity seats, a day trip to the province wasn't tiring at all. At the rear meanwhile, it's a bit firmer than the front, but it's still on the comfortable side. I reckon the Mitsubishi Montero Sport is still smoother when you're seated at the back. If I were to describe its ride, I'd say supple for a truck-based SUV.

Nonetheless, the Terra is a fantastic long-distance cruiser, providing ample amounts of comfort in the first two rows. The third-row however has the seat bases set a little too low, so you might have to sit with your knees at an angle. Fortunately, the sliding second row helps ease things a bit. Of course, you have the signature cold air-conditioning which kept everyone well chilled in 38 degree heat. In fact, it was so cold that you don't really have to open the ceiling air-con vents unless it's blazing hot outside.

2018 Nissan Terra VL 4x4

For those spoiled by electronic power steering, some may find the steering a bit on the heavy side. But for those longing for the days of feedback, the Terra's tiller is a delight. On paved roads, it handles decently for something that can take on the trail. Body lean is present, but it's not alarming. Brakes, however, could be better, and I wished Nissan slotted in discs at the back instead of drums. Still, it's safe and secure, with no wayward tendencies

On dirt however, the Terra shines, keeping a smooth and steady ride along with good handling. We couldn't resist bringing the 4x4 Terra out on the dirt track and I must say, it delivered. It's fine in 2WD but in 4WD High, it refuses to break the tail out, and it keeps on trucking even when the sand got deeper and softer. The chassis also proved to be robust, with no rattles to report on when the going got bumpy. It felt solid off the beaten path so you can expect it to feel just that way on the road. I actually enjoyed the Terra more off-road than on pavement.

As for performance, the 2.5-liter turbodiesel packs a good punch. Overtaking on the highway is done with ease. Then again, with 190 horses under the hood, you'd expect that. The transmission on the other hand is well matched to the engine, although upshifts are high up the rev band. A bit more refinement would do wonders for the Terra as the engine can get vocal when you press the throttle a bit deeper. At least the noise is translated to speed.

Efficiency on the other hand is decent, returning 8.2 kilometers per liter in the city (average 18 km/h). A trip down the highway yielded 15 kilometers per liter with three on board, camera gear, and a fair amount of overtaking.

2018 Nissan Terra VL 4x4

I also appreciated the safety kit standard on the top-spec Terra. It comes with a smart rear view mirror which can project a live feed from the rear camera. It also shows a 360-degree view of your surroundings, as well as the front or rear views. It also comes with blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning. Six airbags are standard across the range, and so is stability control.

At Php 2,096,000 for the range-topping 4x4 VL model, the Terra actually undercuts several established players in its class. That's pretty good value if you consider the smart interior layout, safety kit, and the driver assists. But say you don't need four-wheel drive, there's the two-wheel drive VE model which has most of the 4x4's goodies for about Php 300,000 less.

2018 Nissan Terra VL 4x4

But is it too little, too late for Nissan? It's more like better late than never. Judging by the Terras I see on the roads these days, no. In fact, the Terra has become one of Nissan Philippine's fast-selling vehicles. So while it may be late to the party, the reception from customers is warm. But now, we can also say that its sales figures are justified as it is a genuinely good SUV. Still, I do wish it came into the market just a few years earlier.

But the Terra wouldn't be as good as it is now if they didn't wait a little longer and studied what the others were doing. What Nissan has done with the Terra is take some of the best bits of its competition and put it in their SUV. Sure, there are some details that let the side down a bit (no driver's side grab handle, tilt-only steering wheel, heavy tailgate, hard plastic dash, rear drum brakes), but it doesn't detract from the overall package.

All in all, the Terra is a solid all-rounder that can take on the established players. But of course, it's a different matter when we pitch it against the competition.

So, comparison test anyone?

  • Make:Nissan
  • Model:Terra VL 4x4
  • Engine:2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve Inline-4 VG Intercooler Turbodiesel
  • Max Power:190 PS @ 3600 rpm
  • Max Torque:450 Nm @ 2000 rpm
  • Transmission:7-speed automatic with manual mode
  • Price as Tested:₱ 2,096,000