Ticking all the right boxes...and then some
Nissan may have been late to the pick-up based SUV party, but we could say (with confidence) that their Terra definitely made up for lost time. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but we were impressed by it nonetheless.
Barely two years into their life cycle, Nissan gave it a bit of an update. Nothing major, really, just more of an updated infotainment system. Still, we thought it was worth revisiting the Terra which, in this case, is the VL 4x2. After all, it is one of Nissan's top sellers. With its competition getting updates, does the Terra still impress?
But first, how can you tell a 2020 Terra from a 2019 model? Well, all variants now get a black grill from entry-level all the way to top-spec and, er, that's it. The tailgate spoiler is slightly pointer than before too, but it's barely noticeable. You'd be hard-pressed to tell the differences if I'll be honest.
Still, it doesn't discount the fact that the Terra is a good-looking SUV. I think it looks even better with that blacked-out grill. I do have to laud Nissan for not making it totally look like the Navara too. Okay, so it's not totally different from the Navara but it's enough to give the Terra its own identity. For instance, its daytime running lights have a different pattern just so you'll know if it's this or the Navara that's looming in your rear-view mirrors. From what I can tell, it seems that only the front doors are lifted from its pick-up brother. Even after two years in the market (give or take), the Terra doesn't look outdated next to its prime rivals.
Inside, it's still the familiar cabin we've been seeing for quite some time now. It's (almost) the same one in the Navara, which can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on personal taste. Personally, it's alright although it could use a bit more soft padding on the dashboard and door panels just to make it feel more upscale. Ergonomics are good, and for those transitioning from the Navara to this won't have anything to worry about at all.
Of course, the highlight here is the aforemetioned infotainment system. It now incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which is a big plus these days. If you find the process of setting up Bluetooth a little to fussy at times, this system makes phone pairing a whole lot easier. All you have to do is plug-in and it's all good. The screen itself is much better than the initial release and, hence, easier to use now too.
Another benefit of the new screen is that there's now a bigger display for the exterior cameras. Prior to this update, you had to look at everything from the rear-view mirror, which is just a little bit too small. You no longer have to squint at the mirror just to see what the camera sees. You can also control the camera views from the screen, which is a neat touch. If anything, you'll better appreciate the Intelligent Mobility safety package thanks to the larger display.
Space is good, which shouldn't be much of a surprise given the Terra's size. Also, large windows make it feel that it's much more spacious than it looks. You can especially feel this at the back and you have this sensation that you're seated high up off the ground. One thing I really like about the Terra is the push-button function to tumble the second-row seats. This makes access to the third-row much easier and it's something we wish more automakers would put in their three-row SUVs, crossovers, and MPVs.
While we're on the subject of the third-row, it's not exactly the best in its class. Yes, there is a decent amount of legroom and headroom way back there. The thing is, the bottom cushions are set really low, forcing you to put your knees to your chest. It's not a fun place to be if you're over five and a half feet tall, but children would be (relatively) comfortable in the back row. Thankfully, putting those seats up and down is easy. Simply pull one tab to set, and pull a different tab to stow. All in all, the Terra may not have the most premium-feeling cabin, but it's smartly designed nonetheless.
The engine is still the same 2.5-liter turbodiesel mill from all those years ago. Power is rated at 190 PS and 450 Nm, which is on par with its class. While it's not the most powerful, it's still a competitive figure. What's good about this is the fact that you get the same power whether it has four-wheel drive or, in this case, two-wheel drive. There is also a 2.3-liter twin-turbo offered in select markets but, curiously, it makes the same power and torque as this 2.5-liter. Transmission, on the other hand, is a seven-speed automatic.
So, does the 2020 Terra feel any different from the 2018 model? No, but that's not such a bad thing.
See, the Terra was already a good SUV to begin with. The ride isn't jarring at all and can be best described as supple. It's no luxury sedan but as far as truck-based SUVs go, the Terra is one of the best to sit in long distances or, in the case of many, traffic jams. The seats are superb too, thanks to Nissan's Zero Gravity tech. So while it may not have the best ride out there (I still believe the Montero Sport rides better), the front perches are perhaps the most comfortable among its peers, at least for me.
Handling isn't half bad either given its underpinnings. Of course, it's nothing like a 370Z but it never feels nervous or wayward even if you somehow end up driving it spiritedly. Body roll is present, but that's expected in this kind of vehicle. Sure, Nissan could have made it handle even better, but that's not the point of this SUV. As for steering, some may find it a little bit on the heavy side, particularly those who have become accustomed to electronic power steering. For those who do want feel and feedback however, the Terra's steering should please them.
On to performance and the Terra delivers. With 190 horsepower and 450 Nm of torque under your right foot, getting up to speed is no problem. Whether it's passing a truck or merging on to the highway, you won't feel nervous performing these maneuvers in the Terra. Fuel economy is good too, averaging 8.6 kilometers per liter in heavy traffic, and bumps up to 15.4 kilometers per liter on the highway thanks to that seven-speed transmission.
There are, however, a few things I'd wish Nissan would do to enhance the driving experience. First is noise isolation because that engine quite vocal. On cold starts it sounds like, well, a truck: It's rough, gruff, and loud. It doesn't help that you need to rev it a little bit higher to squeeze more power out of it, making it even more of a racket inside. I also noticed that a fair bit of vibration makes it way through the accelerator and I would like to see that gone come its first facelift. Refinement then isn't the Terra's strongest trait.
Braking is another area that needs improvement. No, the brakes aren't weak but the feel doesn't really inspire confidence. Pedal engagement is on the spongy side and you get this feeling that you aren't scrubbing off speed fast enough. Yes, it's a common trait in most pick-up based SUVs but it doesn't have to be the norm in all of them. Case in point: The Ford Everest. With that in mind, I do wish Nissan will fit the Terra with disc brakes at the back instead of drums down the line. And while we're on the subject of things we'd like to see in the facelifted Terra, a driver's side grab handle would be helpful, along with a telescopic function on the steering wheel.
The Terra VL 4x2 starts at Php 1,949,000, PhP 40,000 more than the previous model we tested a few months ago. Sure, it still felt the same but was nice revisiting the Terra. I was reminded of its abilities, as well as some of its shortcomings as well. I do have to say that it's still good in value thanks to the improved infotainment system and the Nissan Intelligent Mobility safety package along with it. Plus, the smart touches such as the push-button folding second-row and the intelligent rear-view camera make it even more appealing in my book.
Should Nissan address some of these niggles, namely the noise, vibration, brakes and minor nitpicks, the Terra could possibly be at the top of its class when you factor in the overall package. Let's hope Nissan does get to do that in the future.