Review and road test of the Nissan Terrano II (1993 - 2006)
YOUR PARTNER IN SLIME
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
It's a tribute, both to Nissan's dealer network and the company's marketing skills, that the Terrano II has done so well. The product itself was virtually identical to Ford's Maverick, both cars being developed in the early Nineties to plug what was then a growing demand for affordable family sized off roaders.
While the Maverick flopped, the Terrano II made useful profits for Nissan, selling in much greater numbers despite the smaller dealer network. It still suffers from an image problem however. Not even the most optimistic of Nissan dealers can pretend that this is any kind of Range Rover. The sensible ones concentrate on its less obvious virtues; rugged build, surprisingly good off road ability and proven reliability.
These attributes make it a good prospect as a second-hand buy so it's icing on the cake that used prices are reasonably attractive.
June 1993 - June 1996: (3 & 5dr, 2.4, 2.7 turbo diesel [LX, SLX, SGX, SE]). June 1996 - December 1999 (3 & 5dr, 2.4, 2.7 intercooled turbo diesel [S, X-treme, SR, SE, SE Touring]). January 2000 to date (3 & 5dr, 2.4, 2.7, intercooled turbo diesel, 3.0Di [S, SE, SE + SVE])
The Terrano II was introduced in June 1993 as a joint venture with Ford. To be more accurate, Nissan did all the work and Ford put up the cash. The feel of the car was, not surprisingly, very Japanese. In fact, most of the interior fittings came straight from the Nissan Primera.
Right from the beginning, the Terrano II outsold its Ford Maverick cousin handsomely due to sharper pricing and a superior warranty. Both cars shared the same engines - either a 122bhp 2.4-litre petrol unit or a noisy and sluggish 100bhp 2.7-litre turbo diesel.
There was the option of either three or five-door body styles (though, until the 1996 facelift, three-door customers could specify only diesel power). You could have various trim levels; SLX and SE on the three-door and LX, SLX, SGX and SE on the five-door. Seeker, Outlander and Highlander special editions followed in 1995 and 1996.
Substantially revised versions arrived in June 1996. You couldn't miss the major change - an all-new front end, designed by Nissan's European Technology Centre at Cranfield, with a restyled grille and integrated headlamps and fog lamps. There was also a new bumper and wider wheel arch extensions.
Under the bonnet, the 2.7-litre diesel engine most Terrano customers preferred delivered more power and torque. This was achieved by the adding an intercooler and a new electronic fuel injection control system. The result was 125bhp, a massive 25% increase in urge, with an equal improvement in pulling power.
Nor had the 2.4-litre petrol engine been forgotten; it was now more refined with lower emissions. There was also a new 'intelligent' dual-purpose anti-lock braking system. It operated in both two and four-wheel drive and modified the braking response depending on whether the vehicle was being driven on or off-road. There was also a new security system.
Trim levels were now SR and SE on the three-door and S, SR and SE on the five-door. An Xtreme three-door special edition was offered in May 1997 and joined the range as a model in its own right for the '98 model year.
January 2000 saw another substantial facelift. The front grille and bumper were restyled and there were new dual-optic headlamps and revised rear lamp clusters plus a high-level stop lamp, larger door mirrors, redesigned side steps and bigger 16'' wheels. Inside, there was a new centre console, new dials set into a two-tone fascia, an outside temperature gauge, cup holders, a back door stowage net and redesigned seats.
Nissan also introduced water-repellent glass and Electronic Brake Distribution which stopped the Terrano II between 5.6 and 8.2m shorter than its predecessor. The revised ABS system now cut out below 8kmh to improve braking in deep snow or sand. The Terrano 3.0Di was introduced in Spring 2002, lifting its 154bhp engine from the mighty Patrol.
The Terrano was on its way out by spring 2004 but in one last throw of the dice Nissan reduced the range to include only the up-spec SE and SVE models. Prices were reduced and the tired looking wood interiors were ditched in favour of more contemporary plastic.
What You Get
A decent family workhorse. The interior is just like that of any family hatchback. The trim quality is well up to standard and everything falls easily to hand. All major equipment is in evidence; second generation Terrano IIs come with tilt adjustable wheel and power steering as standard while the plusher models add electric windows, central locking and an electric sunroof. Some also have air conditioning.
However, there's little of the class you'd expect in an up-market family saloon. Hard plastic is everywhere. Still, it's practical. So is the reliability; Terrano IIs have a reputation for not breaking down - something many Vauxhall Frontera owners would kill for.
What to Look For
As with any used 4x4, check for signs of heavy off road use. Few Terrano IIs will have done anything harder than climb a grass verge but you can never be too careful. Oil leaks, smoky turbo diesel engines, worn rear shock absorbers and poor-fitting interior trim have all been known.
Apparently, some diesels suffered from a driveline vibration which required a special clutch assembly. If you notice this on the test drive, find out if the clutch has been changed. And, on the subject of turbo diesels, try and stretch to an intercooled post-June 1996 model if you can. Otherwise, resign yourself to the slow lane.
(approx. for a 1995 2.4) As you might expect from a Nissan, parts are plentiful - but in the case of this model, they're not particularly cheap. A clutch assembly is around £200, brake pads are around £60 front and £75 rear, a full exhaust system about £400, a starter motor about £225, an alternator around £190, a radiator about £210 and a headlamp about £80.
On the Road
Such 4x4 vehicles are usually bought by those who want to carry six or seven people in comfort, tow a trailer and carry two months' worth of shopping plus a soggy dog. All these requirements are comfortably within the Terrano II's abilities. You may find the rear door annoying, though, as it's hinged to open from the right which is usually away from the kerb on right-hand drive cars.
Though the Terrano II is obviously not designed as an out-and-out mud-plugger, it's quite competent enough off road to stay with its illustrious rivals over any ploughed field or icy slope.
Beyond that, you'd have to concede best to the more accomplished (and expensive) off roaders in the class. Having said that, what's the point in paying for all that extra mud-plugging ability if you're not going to use it?
What would be useful is the option to use 4WD during reasonably fast road use for peace of mind in slippery conditions. Still, there is a limited slip differential to keep the wheels from spinning too much.
Once you're on the dirt, you can reach for the second gear lever to bring full-time 4WD into play. At that point, you must choose between high and low ratios depending on the conditions and suddenly, particularly in turbo diesel form, the impressive low down pulling power of the engine comes into its own.
Some versions are cheaper while others are pricier than their Ford Maverick equivalents. However, if you're buying a later, low mileage example, the Nissan has the longer warranty. The Terrano II is a safe if unexciting buy for the outdoor family.
Nissan Terrano II (1993 - 2006) review by JONATHAN CROUCH