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Seven-seater Nissan has many plus points
Andrew Baillie The Nissan Dualis+2 stands out from its rivals in the family SUV market.

_WHILE _it's a real privilege - and great fun - to occasionally review a car for this newspaper, after a while it's hard not to reach the conclusion that most of them feel, well, the same.

They all have that delicious new car smell and they all have lots of airbags, trip computers, sat-nav, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, reversing cameras, keyless entry and start, automatic headlights and steering wheel controls.

And they are all, mostly, super smooth to drive.

This is especially true in the popular small SUV market, where many of them even look the same and many of them can't go off road. It means you need something different to stand out.

Roll forward the Nissan Dualis +2.

As its name hints, Nissan has taken the original, popular Dualis five-seater and popped in an extra row of two seats. To fit these they have added just 21cm to the back and redesigned the rear end to give it a higher appearance. The result is a seven seater that is just 4.541m long.

That's only slightly more than a rival Kia Sportage (4.44m) but less than a Toyota Rav4 (4.625m) - and they only come as five-seaters. The closest seven-seater I can think of, the Mazda CX-9, ambles in at a whopping 5.106m.

All this means you have a family car with extra seats at the back for the kids (children only - I tried and the lack of proper leg wells meant my knees were wedged against my chin) and the agility and high driving position of a sporty SUV. Perfect.

But never mind this versatility and easy-folding seats; when I started up the Dualis +2 and stuck it in reverse, the thing that really made me sit up and take notice was a tiny rectangular display next to the reversing camera.

Nissan call it Around View Monitor technology. It consists of four small, wide-angled cameras on the car - one at each end and on either wing mirror - and when merged together these give an incredible 360-degree bird's-eye view of the vehicle and its surrounds.

It's baffling at first as you try to work out how you can be viewing the Dualis from directly above, but soon you'll find it's fantastic for edging into tight parking spots.

Once you're in that spot the 18-inch alloy wheels with snazzy black highlights and Continental tyres will get admiring glances. Along with the ridged bonnet, it means that a car that first hit the world's roads in 2007 still has a modern, rugged appearance.

What's also modern is six-year capped-price servicing along with 24-hour roadside assist for three years and, right now, 1 per cent finance for up to five years.

And here's another crowd pleaser - the price. I was driving the top-spec 2WD Ti-L, which is $40,827 drive away, but the only extras I found worth having were that camera and the bigger alloys.

The leather seats, glass "moonroof" and heated front seats may be of use in chilly north-east England, where the car is made, but on a trip to Margaret River with the temperature nudging 40C, they aren't.

So I would go for the entry-level ST. It can be yours on the road for $33,651 and you still get the same 2.0-litre petrol engine - slightly underpowered on hills but otherwise a smooth automatic and I got a decent 8.2L/100km.

Roof rails come as standard and there's 130 litres of storage space when all the seats are up - going up to a whopping 1520 litres when the back five are down.

No other seven-seater SUV comes close to that price - just what a growing family needs.