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Driven: Nissan X-Trail hits the road from $27,990

Great X-pectations: Nissan is hoping good early customer reactions will result in this version of the X-Trail being the most successful yet.

Third-generation X-Trail to restore Nissan’s standing in the medium SUV sales race

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4 Apr 2014

NISSAN is confident its new third-generation X-Trail will be the most successful version in the series’ 13-year stint in Australia, taking it right up to the dominant Mazda CX-5 in the bustling medium SUV segment.

With a dealer network already reporting better-than-anticipated customer reaction to the new ‘T32’ edition’s ‘soft’ launch over the final weeks of March, hopes are growing that the latest iteration may shoot backtowards the top-end of the sales race after a period of protracted decline (down 33.4 per cent in 2013).

The addition of a family-friendly seven-seat option will no doubt open doors, while Nissan is also projecting a healthy sales split for its more expensive all-wheel-drive offerings and the forthcoming diesel due in October.

While Nissan Australia marketing executive general manager Peter Clissold did not reveal volume projections at the media launch in Melbourne this week, he did say he was heartened by the dealer body’s positive feedback.

“The X-Trail represents the most important chapter of our vehicle renaissance,” he said.“This one feels like the biggest one to date – for us and for our dealers.

“And a critical component of this is having dealers energised. I’ve not seen dealers this energised before. You can feel the energy through the entire network.”

Mr Clissold believes the entry ST – priced $500 below the outgoing car from $27,990 plus on-road costs in 2.0-litrefront-wheel drive manual guise, $30,490 for the 2.5-litre automatic equivalent or $33,980 with AWD – would account for the largest portion of X-Trail volume.

Meantime the new seven-seater variants, which area $1090 option on the front-drive ST and ST-L and a first for the series, are expected to account for around 20 per cent of sales – a conservative number considering the model it directly replaces (the outgoing Dualis +2) regularly managed a 30 per cent split.

If there is enough demand, seven seats could be added to the Ti flagship, which kicks off from $44,680 and is only currently available with AWD.

All told, Nissan project about 40 per cent of X-Trails will be sold with this revamped three-mode (2WD, AWD-Auto and AWD-Lock) part-time 4x4 system fitted with a limited-slip differential.

Finally, the upcoming diesel variant – using a new-generation 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit – is charged with scooping up about 20 per cent of T32 buyers. The front-drive version will be auto but the AWD will be manual-only for now, hurting sales.

Mr Clissold says that there should be enough stocks of the old T31 2.0-litre diesel variants to last until the new-comer arrives in about October.

Built off the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s all-new ‘Common Module Platform’, the monocoque-bodied X-Trail is 5mm longer than before at 4640mm, 30mm wider at 1820mm, 10mm taller at 1710mm, 75mm longer in the wheelbase (2705mm) and 34kg heavier on average than before. Tare weight varies from 1437kg (ST manual) to 1574kg (Ti CVT AWD).

The increase allows for seven seats to be offered for the first time, as well as more second-row knee room (on seats that recline and slide) and rear doors that open up at a wide 80-degree arc for easier loading of a child seat. ISOFIX hooks are also fitted. Nissan is also proud of the X-Trail’s new ‘Divide-N-Hide’ multi-level compartmentalised cargo area on five-seat models (in lieu of the third row), as well as an electrically remote-operated tailgate with ‘garage’ mode for adjustable height control in confined spaces.

Though not designed for off-road duty, with 5mm less ground clearance than before (210mm), Nissan quotes approach and departure angles of 24.9 and 17.2 degrees respectively for the AWD version (0.1 degrees less than the FWD).

Maximum-braked towing capacity is 1500kg.

Beneath the T32’s stouter bonnet – but only in the base ST with a six-speed manual gearbox – is a new MR20DD 1997cc 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine with twin variable timing control producing 106kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4400rpm.

Interestingly, its 8.2 litres per 100km fuel consumption average (and 190 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions) falls short of the carryover QR25DE 2.5-litre unit found in the remaining 91 RON unleaded petrol-powered X-Trails.

The latter’s 2488cc in FWD five-seater guise returns 7.9L/100km and 183g/km of CO2 emissions (the 46kg-heavier seven-seater and 56kg-weightier AWD variants add 0.2 and 0.4L/100km apiece respectively), and can deliver 126kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4400rpm.

Along with a fuel-consumption minimising ‘Eco’ mode that cuts engine outputs, the main economy driver in the larger four-pot petrol engine is Nissan’s new-generation ‘Xtronic’ CVT automatic with Active Engine Brake that mimics a regular torque converter auto in providing engine braking when cornering or decelerating.

An electric power rack-and-pinion steering system is also used, featuring software that interacts with the X-Trail’s standard new Active Ride Control system that monitors the road ahead for undulations to counteract body roll and pitch.

As before, MacPherson struts are employed up front while the rear is supported by a multi-link design.

Other technologies include Active Trace Control that applies the brakes individually according to driver inputs to help provide improved body control and stability through bends or in wet conditions and Hill-Start Assist.

On the connectivity front the X-Trail now gains Nissan Connect,a smartphone Bluetooth enabled communication, information and entertainment system, while digital radio also makes its debut in this series.

The front seats have anti-fatiguing cushioning built in, there is a new driver information display screen between the analogue instruments with digital info, trip and optional sat-nav turn-by-turn maps.

Every model receives six airbags (but as yet no ANCAP crash-test rating), electronic stability control, alloy wheels, scratch-resistant body coating, a central screen with rear-view camera, keyless start, Bluetooth phone and audio, cruise control, sliding/reclining and 40/20/40 split-fold theatre-style middle-row seating, hidden floor storage and a space-saver spare wheel. Note that no model offers audible reversing sensors.

The ST-L from $36,190/$39,080 AWD adds fog-lights, roof rails, tinted glass, a larger console screen with sat-nav, an around-view monitor for bird’s eye parking assistance, digital radio, leather seats (heated up front), an electric driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control.

Finally, the Ti ditches the 225/65 R17 tyres for 225/60 R18 rubber on 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, the powered tailgate, auto-levelling headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof, lane departure warning, a system to detect and warn of moving objects in the driver’s path and blind-spot monitoring.

Over 140,000 X-Trails have been sold in Australia since the series debuted in late 2001. The main rivals are the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Holden Captiva, with only the last two offering a seven-seater configuration choice.

All Australian-bound models are sourced out of Nissan’s Fukuoka plant in Japan.

2014 Nissan X-Trail pricing*
ST 2.0L 2WD$27,990
ST 2.0L 2WD (a)$30,490
ST 2.5L 7-seat 2WD (a)$31,580
ST-L 2.5L 2WD (a)$36,190
ST-L 2.5L 7-seat 2WD (a)$37,190
ST 2.5L 4WD (a)$33,980
ST-L 2.5L 4WD (a)$39,080
Ti 2.5L 4WD (a)$44,680
*Excludes on-road costs.

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