The second-generation X-Trail only hit showrooms in 2007, but Nissan knows just how competitive the junior SUV market is – so it’s given the car a mid-life makeover.
To take on the strongest rivals, the X-Trail has been subtly but comprehensively updated, with revised styling inside and out, and more kit than before. Plus, the engine and transmission have been optimised for better performance and economy.
The clever four-wheel-drive system, washable load bay and legion of cubbies and storage areas remain, though, making this the best X-Trail yet. But before it can take top honours, it needs to see off the latest entrant to the sector.
Kia’s new Sorento builds on the previous model’s reputation with the addition of seven seats, a powerful 2.2-litre diesel and an electronic 4WD system offering a diff lock and Downhill Brake Control.
There’s plenty of standard kit, too, and as it has done away with the old model’s ladderframe chassis, it drives much more like a car. Add in Kia’s bulletproof seven-year warranty, and it looks set to make life difficult for its rival.
Neither of these SUVs will disappoint, but there has to be a winner – and unfortunately for Nissan, it’s not the latest X-Trail. On paper, there’s lots to recommend the Japanese 4x4, not least its fuel economy, huge list of standard equipment and compact dimensions. The car-like driving dynamics are impressive and it’s highly capable off road, too, but it simply isn’t as well rounded as the Kia. Peaky power delivery, a notchy gearshift and a lack of composure under heavy braking take the gloss off the package.
In contrast, the Sorento is bigger, inside and out. And while there is a small trade-off in terms of agility, the engine provides superior performance. The Kia also costs less to buy and promises cheaper running costs, while the extra row of seats in the boot adds another dimension to its appeal.
1. Kia Sorento CRDi KX-2
The Kia is a great-value SUV. Not only is it more spacious and versatile than its Nissan rival, but it’s also supremely comfortable. The X-Trail is slightly sharper to drive, yet the Sorento scores with its punchy engine. Factor in its lower price, generous equipment count and strong seven-year warranty, and it’s the clear winner.
2. Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Tekna
With lots of kit and car-like dynamics, the revised X-Trail is a strong contender. It also has superior fuel economy and lower emissions than its competitor, plus a well devised load area. What counts against it in this test is the less flexible powerplant and smaller cabin.