GRR

First Drive: Nissan X-Trail

15th October 2017
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

The Nissan X-Trail is the world’s best-selling SUV: 766,000 of them sold last year. Me neither. Heaven knows, there are a lot of them about – some premium, some mass-market, some impressive, some less so. 

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Nissan adopts the same ethos with the X-Trail (and the baby sibling, the Qashqai) as Jeremy Bentham did with politics: the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (or, specifically, in Nissan’s case, families, which is the group this X-Trail is squarely aimed at). You can get posher SUVs, and cheaper SUVs, but here’s a five-seater, with a seven-seat option, that’s tried and tested and a firm winner in the sales department since 2001. 

The Bentham reference isn’t a bad one actually, with his utilitarianism bent: here is one of the most utilitarian Sports Utility Vehicles on the market, designed to swallow up the discontinued Qashqai +2 niche, too.

The latest X-Trail is a better-looking beast, especially in its launch paint, Monarch Orange pearlescent, which will set you back £745 but is worth it in our opinion. There are funky square fog lights in the revised bumper, a wider V-shape in the grille, new splashes of chrome at the rear and on the side door sills.

Inside, it’s largely a case of “if it ain’t broke…”, although the whole ambience has gone noticeable upmarket: the steering wheel is now a D-shape with a smaller hub, there are optional heated seats in the second row (standard on the highest Tekna trim, which Nissan says will be the best seller), the centre console has been clad in leather to cushion knees, the air vents have a new black gloss surround and there’s a new tan and black two-tone leather interior option for Tekna customers, who also get a new Bose eight-speaker system as standard.

Engines on offer are a 1.6 diesel, 1.6 petrol and new 2.0 diesel. Transmission is either a six-speed manual or Nissan’s X-Tronic automatic box, and you can choose two- or four-wheel drive on the diesels (petrol comes with two-wheel drive only).

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We tested the 1.6-litre 129bhp diesel version, with the six-speed manual box and 4WD. It’s plenty enough power for daily road journeys, but we can imagine that if you’re fully loaded to the gills, the 2.0-litre diesel will be far preferable. the six-speed manual is a lovely gearbox and would be our preference over the XTronic, especially with this 130 dCi, which will give you fantastic fuel economy for such a big car – mid-40s mpg.

The ride on tarmac is impressively refined, with little cabin noise; in fact, if it weren’t for the rather cheap-sounding and feeling doors on the car when they open and shut, you’d figure this was a more premium offering than it is. Off-road, however, this engine is impressive. With a load of smooth torque at tick-over, the X-trail acts almost as an automatic once you’ve locked the four-wheel drive courtesy of a large knob in the centre console, crawling its way up steep descents and through mud and water in first gear without the need to feather the clutch. 

In fact, as an activity vehicle for the aggressively adventure-seeking families of today, this ticks a lot of boxes: Nissan has thought carefully about its intended customer. There’s the Paw Pack, comprising dog guard, ramp, dog bed, non-spill water bowl and boot liner, roof bars and fixed towbar with electric hook-up. Every X-Trail comes with cruise control with speed limiter, Bluetooth, electric folding and heated door mirrors and alloy wheels. Optional extras include ProPliot, Nissan’s autonomous driving capability, which controls the steering, acceleration and deceleration and is activated via a steering wheel button; we didn’t get to test it, as it’s not available in the UK yet.

There are plenty of mid-range SUVs out there: no self-regarding manufacturer would be without one these days. Add seven seats though, and this X-Trail, which was designed from the ground up to take seven, becomes something of a winner, especially in Tekna trim. The world’s population can’t be wrong, after all.

The Numbers

Engine: 1,598cc turbo diesel

Transmission: 6-spd manual

bhp/lb-ft: 129/236

0-62mph: 11sec

Top Speed: 186mph

Price as tested: £35,455

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  • X-Trail

  • first drive

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