Car reviews - Nissan - X-Trail - range
Design, value, safety, practicality, smoothness, rear seat packaging, seven-seater availability, diesel AWD auto arrival
Room for improvement
Firm ride on bigger wheels, some road noise intrusion, laggy CVT auto when pushed, foot-operated park brake
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1 May 2017
IF THERE’S one thing to come out of our brief time with the latest, facelifted T32-series II X-Trail, it is that the stalwart Nissan medium SUV is actually a really good example of the breed.
That’s long been the case with this generation, actually, certainly ever since the current body style launched in April 2014. Handsome looks, a big roomy cabin, durable and smooth powertrain options, easy handling and a decent amount of kit have all helped keep the X-Trail in the top five both critically and commercially.
Little wonder this is Nissan’s biggest seller.
As far as the Series II facelift goes, we’re talking very minor visual changes inside and out. A somewhat more aggressive nose and revised tail-lights are about par-for-the-course as far as Nissan makeovers are concerned, but at least the interior scores some worthwhile mods.
Better quality materials. More attractive contrasting trim. Upgraded audio units. That sort of thing. It’s about keeping the crossover contemporary.
Essential when competitors include the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
We also give the Japanese brand a big thumbs up for standardising Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Forward Collision Warning. Until now the sole provenance of the aforementioned rivals, this important driver-assist tech might be enough to nose the Nissan ahead of a bunch of other foes like the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Mitsubishi Outlander. Certainly for safety-conscious consumers.
Yet the very reason why the X-Trail still has the power to surprise – to steal Kia’s tag line – hasn’t changed.
For starters, the design still appeals. Chunky, masculine and purposeful, there’s also a whiff of adventure about this lifestyle wannabe that you’d never associate with, say, a Tucson or Outlander. We’re a bit undecided about the heavy-handed chromed-up grille, but at least it stands out.
More importantly, the now better colour-co-ordinated and more monochromatic dash detailing does give the interior a fresher appearance, without at all compromising all the good stuff we’ve come to like, such as the big cushy seats, ultra-clear instruments, easy-reach switchgear, huge central touchscreen, ample storage solutions, and agreeable driving position – the latter aided by quite deep windows. Annoying archaic foot-operate park brake aside, the X-Trail welcomes you inside.
There’s heaps of room as well, both front and rear, backed up by reclinable backrests for adults to enjoy in the second row. And while the third row is strictly small kids-only, it signifies just how much cargo area is available in the non seven-seat versions. There’s a hint of old-school station wagon coolness that only the Outlander matches in the medium SUV class.
Nissan hasn’t made any changes to the volume-selling 126kW/226Nm 2.5-litre four-pot atmo petrol engine – the only one available on our drive from Geelong to Apollo Bay via some terrific Otway Ranges roads. Not an especially sparkling powertrain combo with the economy-biased CVT auto, it nonetheless is a solid and consistent performer, with eager off-the-line acceleration and a fair amount of mid-range punch when required.
The CVT will only have the engine droning if you’re pin the pedal down to overtake. It’s not particularly quiet or refined doing so, either. On coarse roads, you’re also likely to notice a fair amount of tyre thrum coming through too.
Never mind, because the X-Trail’s steering is sufficiently weighted and responsive to please most buyers, offering safe and accurate handling, as well as planted road-holding characteristics. Again, nothing to raise pulses here, but still engaging enough to satisfy the basic requirements without breaking a sweat. The only sour note is that the ride on the larger-wheeled Ti AWD can be a little firm and unsettled. On the other hand, the latter’s stability and grip on gravel is quite impressive. Unfortunately we missed out on the chance to drive the base 2.0-litre front-drive manual, while Nissan hasn’t yet released the new 2.0-litre diesel AWD auto that it reckons will put the TS and TL oil-burners in league with the best of the medium SUV brigade. You’ll have to wait until September for those ones.
Clearly the company is confident that the X-Trail can still meet its newer and more glamorous rivals head-on in the market, and after a rural-road stint in the volume-selling 2.5-litre petrol ST-L FWD and opulent Ti AWD variants, we reckon the old bus is far from disgracing itself.
With that unique-ish wagon-oid body, space, safety and operation ease, the fundamentals are in place for the Nissan to stay within spitting distance of the top class leaders for a few more years to come.
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