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Nissan Murano

Like it or not, it seems we're always being told we are just like the Americans these days. We share the same values and vision and even like the same foods. It's a fact that hasn't been lost on Nissan, which has decided to test our resolve by launching a popular American off-roader over here.

Numbers will be very limited for the Nissan Murano, with only 1,000 predicted sales in 2005, so exclusivity will be a main attraction. The high standard spec will appeal, as will the gutsy engine and practical boot. While it lacks a diesel and the on-road manners of the BMW X3, it still offers a genuine alternative. Nissan's march into funkiness continues.

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Like it or not, it seems we're always being told we are just like the Americans these days. We share the same values and vision and even like the same foods. It's a fact that hasn't been lost on Nissan, which has decided to test our resolve by launching a popular American off-roader over here.

The Murano is hailed as an 'Urban Sport 4x4 Crossover' - a big four-wheel drive that's better off the rough stuff than on it. It debuted in the US in February, where it has a pretty good sales record, and it's set to arrive here early next year.

With its high stance and futuristic lights, it is further proof that Nissan's current design team is one of the most capable and innovative employed by the company for years. It has created a car that looks different, yet retains some key Nissan features, such as front and rear lights which have an obvious hint of the 350Z.

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Step inside and you'll see why Nissan calls it a Crossover, and thinks that it's bringing the best of the US to the UK. It's very practical, with plenty of cubby holes and neat touches, such as the rear seats. You can flatten them using a lever in the boot, without having to open the back doors.

There's plenty of rear legroom, too, while the driving position is excellent. The seat is electrically adjustable in 10 ways, and the standard leather chairs offer plenty of support. But the radio and air-conditioning controls are straight out of Nissan's parts bin, while the V6 engine is from the 350Z.

So far, that's the only power option, and it is mated to a CVT gearbox. The US-style 23mpg fuel figure will disappoint, which is a shame because the drivetrain is smooth, while the CVT provides impressive mid-range pull, and unlike on some four-cylinder cars, does not compromise refinement. It's a pity, then, that the chassis can't quite match it. The Murano has been tuned for Europe, but there's too much body roll, and it feels softly sprung. It doesn't bounce over long undulations, but the steering and suspension lack communication when pressing on through corners.

However, with a comprehensive standard specification list that includes xenon headlights, a CD changer and sat-nav, plus the practical interior, we're sure Nissan won't struggle to meet its target of 1,000 Murano sales next year.

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