The original Nissan X-trail launched in 2001 and replaced in 2007 by the second generation remained a no nonsense mid-sized 4x4,a key model range in the growing SUV market.
Now the market has moved on and the majority of customers want softer, lighter more fuel efficient SUVs which have also become known as Crossovers. Customers still like owning SUV styled vehicles as the fast growing sales prove but the vast majority of the most popular models are now only two wheel drive variants.
Past X-Trail users in many cases loved the 4x4 abilities, it was popular with those that needed to tow trailers and caravans but Nissan feels the changing market sector has a new breed of buyer. So following the success of Nissan’s British built Qashqai and Juke Crossovers the new X-Trail drives down the same route.
The new X-Trail does in fact offer both two and four-wheel drive versions, seven are 2WD models, three are 4WD. Prices start from £22,995 and rise to £30,995. Currently all are powered by a 1.6-litre, four cylinder dCi 130hp turbodiesel engine. Specification levels start with Visia and move through the price range with Acenta, n-tec and Tekna. Four-wheel versions are available with all but the Visia level and an Xtronic CVT automatic transmission option is available for 2WD models only, again in all but Visia specification.
Nissan’s aim is to integrate the new X-Trail into their Crossover range and the design language of the Juke and Qashqai is quite clear to see. It also replaces the Qahshai+2 models as the X-Trail has a seven seat option with the Qashqai now only available as a five seater. The X-Trail for all spec levels has the 7-seat upgrade available for an extra £700. There is no increase in size or wheelbase, just the addition of two, small seats which can be folded down into the 445-litre boot load space.
The new X-Trail with its steel monocoque construction is claimed to be 90kg lighter than the previous generation despite it being 17mm longer at 4,640mm , height is 1,170mm, width 1,830mm and ground clearance remains at 210mm so off road driving potential is retained. The wheelbase is 76mm longer than the old X-Trail. The weight-loss has been achieved by using more lightweight steel in the modular Renault-Nissan CMF platform and some reinforced plastic panels in the construction. In its mid-size SUV sector it competes against the Ford Kuga, Vauxhall Antara, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Kia Sorrento but move up to premium models and the BMW X3, Audi Q5 an Range Rover Evoque are also included.
From the Nissan Crossover family face the X-Trail has a rising waistline, a slight coupe roofline and visibility is generally very good with the exception of the D-pillar rear quarter area due to the higher waistline and lower roofline. At the rear the plastic panel lightweight tailgate gives easy access to the load area which has a two-piece false floor which can be located at various heights to give up to 18 configurations of load carrying space. The split rear seats slide fore and aft as well as folding flat for more load space – an impressive 1,982-litres. My test model also had the electronic open/close tailgate function for ultimate friendly use. On the subject of friendly use the increased wheelbase length gives improved rear seat legroom but the headroom, because of the coupe roofline, is not quite as good as the previous ‘boxy’ X-Trail.
Inside the new X-Trail follows similar new designs offered by most of its new-age competitors, more car-like than rugged off-roader. In the front is a twin cockpit style layout with fairly conventional control and instrument layouts, again a far-cry from the identity of previous X-Trails. With a higher and plusher level of specification and comfort the new one is thoroughly modern but not that distinctive from any other new Crossover on the market.
I tried the top of the range Tekna 2WD version with the CVT automatic transmission and that carried a considerable price-tag of £30,645 so it is clearly moving to the top end of the new Crossover market. All new X-Trails have just been awarded a Euro NCAP 5-Star safety rating due in part to Nissan’s Safety Shield Technologies, namely forward emergency braking, lane departure warning, traffic signal recognition and driver alert warning system. In addition there is a full range of airbags and safety kit including a warning triangle, first aid kit and two high-vis jackets. A space-saver spare wheel is also part of the user-friendly spec.
The Tekna version also has 19-inch alloy wheels and those didn’t affect the ride comfort. There are rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, air conditioning, electric windows and door mirrors, parking sensors, sat-nav, cruise control, leather upholstery with heated front seats, colour image front, side and rear cameras, chassis control, adjustment for engine braking response, active trace control and active ride control. In total it is a very impressive package and a far-cry from previous X-Trails designed for a new generation of buyers, some of which will be people moving up from a Qashqai.
New generation buyers also want low running costs hence the use of the latest Renault-Nissan family 1.6-litre 130hp (128bhp), turbodiesel engine. This offers 320Nm (236lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm and that figure and above is where the engine performs in a relatively responsive manner although the CVT auto transmission does sap its response. It is a combination which provides lazy driving performances rather than the powerful response 2.0-litre diesels offer.
Top speed is a modest 112mph and zero to 62mph takes 11.4-seconds. Officially the Combined Cycle fuel economy is 55.4mpg, about 3mpg less than the six-speed manual gearbox version. The CO2 emissions are 135g/km (4g/km less than the manual) so VED road tax is £130 a year and company car tax is rated at 23%.
On test my X-Trail auto was a tale of two fuel consumption figs. On a run 45.2mpg was the average but using the CVT transmission around town reduced this to just below 30mpg so the final long-term figure was a less than impressive 38.6mpg. This according to my colleagues is around 3.5mpg more thirsty in real-life than the manual gearbox version. It does appear that the CVT auto, whilst being relaxing to drive, does sap the power and in reality increases the use of fuel.
The advantages the new generation Nissan X-Trail offers will tick a lot of boxes for a new generation of Crossover customers who will like the thoroughly modern styling, the higher specification and the better and more comfortable road manners. Unfortunately there is still an important generation of owners who will find the new X-Trail is a bit of a softy but you cannot blame Nissan for going where the market requirements now are.
MILESTONES: Nissan X-Trail Tekna 1.6 dCi 130 Xtronic 2WD. Price: £30.645. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder 130hp (128bhp), 320Nm (236lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm, CVT automatic, front wheel drive. Performance: 112mph, 0-062mph 11.4 seconds, 55.4mpg Combined Cycle (38.6mpg on test), CO2 135g/km, VED road tax £130, BIK company car tax 23%. Insurance group: tbc. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: 5-Doors/5-seats, L 4, 640mm, W 1,830mm, H 1,710mm, boot/load space 445 to 1,982-litres, braked towing weight 1,500kg. For: Modern styling inside and out, spacious, comfortable, high specification, improved rear seat legroom, more load space. Against: Power sapping old-fashioned CVT automatic transmission, poor real-life fuel economy, a few rattles from the front passenger seat, lacks the traditional X-Trail 4x4 abilities and character. Miles Better News agency