Nissan X-Trail review
The Nissan X-Trail has morphed from rugged 4x4 to car-like crossover, and will appeal to a much wider audience as a result
There has been a radical overhaul of the Nissan X-Trail: gone is the upright styling and off-road bias of the old model, replaced by a curvy body and crossover-style performance and handling inspired by the slightly smaller Qashqai. As a result, it looks much more sophisticated and has a far higher-quality cabin that can be crammed with technology, while the large body means it delivers decent space, too.
The new X-Trail is likely to appeal to a broader selection of buyers, and it continues Nissan’s fine run of recent form in building family-friendly crossovers. It looks well capable of challenging rivals such as the Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V, while the seven-seat option means it’s a viable alternative to the Hyundai Santa Fe.
There’s only one engine available: a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 128bhp and 320Nm. Front-wheel drive comes as standard, but 4WD can be added on any of the four trim grades (Visa, Acenta, n-tec or Tekna) for £1,700. A 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol X-Trail will arrive later this year.
Our choice: X-Trail 1.6 dCi 2WD manual
Take a passing glance at the Nissan X-Trail and you might initially mistake it for its little brother, the Qashqai. However, the X-Trail is a full 100mm longer, as well as being wider and taller, and while the corporate nose is largely the same as the Qashqai’s the rounded rear is significantly different.
The ‘Qashqai XL’ styling creates a clear link between the two, and is clearly aimed at pulling in buyers easily won over by a sharper new suit. Nissan’s given the car its own LED running light ‘signature’ at the front, while the bold wheelarches are supposed to hint at Nissan’s rugged 4x4 heritage.
Entry-level X-Trail Visia models come on small 17-inch alloys, and the car looks much more purposeful and well proportioned in higher-spec n-tec or Tekna guises. These more generously equipped versions wear 19-inch rims, as well as a wealth of toys inside.
Owners of the old X-Trail won’t recognise the new one from the inside, but Qashqai owners will feel right at home. The layout is identical to the Qashqai’s, exhibiting quality soft-touch materials and excellent fit and finish. On X-Trail Teknas, the dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch touchscreen interface, called ‘NissanConnect’.
As well as controlling all the usual navigation and entertainment commands, it allows occupants to access their social media accounts on the move, and makes parking a doddle with the ‘Around View Monitor’ camera system. This uses cameras in the nose, tailgate and both door mirrors to create a birds-eye view of the X-Trail. The display is a little fuzzy, but it’s a handy back-up feature for urban driving.
The X-Trail is no entertainer, but it’s easy to drive for such a bulky machine, thanks to light steering, an unobtrusive six-peed manual gearbox (the Xtronic CVT auto is a £1,350 option) and a raft of safety tech.
Nissan wants to offer a commercially viable, fully autonomous car by 2020, and the X-Trail benefits from some of that burgeoning technology. ‘Active Trace Control’ constantly monitors your speed and steering input, trimming your line through a corner if the car senses you’re going to run wide, rather than cutting in with juddering traction control once the car has lost grip.
Active Ride Control appears too, using subtle engine braking to reduce oscillations over particularly bumpy roads, or over urban speed humps. However, it’s not enough to disguise a fidgety ride on the 19-inch alloys fitted to n-tec and Tekna X-Trails.
The 1.6 dCi engine develops 320Nm of torque – exactly the same as the old X-Trail’s 2.0-litre diesel. As a result, it’s just as punchy, but thanks to the smaller capacity, stop-start and a 90kg weight saving, the new X-Trial is 20% more efficient.
On the road, the X-Trail gathers adequate pace, but given this car hints at tough-terrain ability and can be offered as a seven-seater, we’d sacrifice a little of that fuel-sipping attitude for some more load-lugging grunt. Key rivals offer larger 2.2-litre diesel engine options, which would be a welcome addition to the X-Trail range. Nissan says it'll add a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine to the line up later in 2015, but it's unlikely to fix the in-gear pace problem, due to having only 240Nm, along with an admittedly healthier 187bhp.
This X-Trail is an all-new car, right down to its chassis, so there’s limited reliability data for the time being. Impressively, it’s ageing predecessor still managed a 56th place finish in our 2014 Driver Power Survey, and the top areas owners criticised it for - quality, handling, and running costs – have all been vastly improved for this new X-Trail. Nissan itself finished 22nd in our best manufacturers tally, out of 34 total entrants.
The new X-Trail has plenty of safety tech in its arsenal, including liberal usage of high-strength steel in the bodyshell, plus the Nissan ‘Safety Shield’, which incorporates emergency city braking and lane-departure warning systems. All of this meant a strong five-star Euro NCAP rating for safety in 2014.
On first impressions, the X-Trail makes a great case for itself as a family car. Thanks to an all-new platform co-developed with Renault, and a 76mm wheelbase stretch versus the outgoing version, the X-Trail has the most legroom in its class, and the rear doors open outward by more than 80 degrees.
The rows of seating are arranged in a tiered theatre-style system, where every row sits a little higher than the one in front, for better visibility. This doesn’t come at the expensive of headroom, though, as there’s plenty of space in the back seats.
Nissan has consolidated its crossover line-up with the introduction of the X-Trail. It will no longer offer a seven-seat Qashqai+1, and if you want a third bench, then the X-Trail has them as an option. It’s a £700 upgrade, even on the most expensive model, which seems a little stingy - we’d prefer it if the flat-folding chairs were included as standard.
Paying £1,700 for four-wheel drive adds an adaptive 4x4 system. This can be switched between fuel-saving front-wheel drive, an automatic 4x4 system, which only sends drive to the rear wheels under hard acceleration or in slippery conditions, or a 4x4 lock mode, which is ideal for the worst weather and off-road situations. Nissan expects all-wheel-drive to be a small percentage of X-Trail sales and that should tell you all you need to know about this car’s move towards a road-biased, crossover metamorphosis.
Downsizing from 2.0-litre to 1.6-litre power pays dividends at the pumps for the X-Trail, which can return a claimed 57.6mpg in its most efficient two-wheel drive manual form. That only drops to 53.3mpg for the all-wheel drive model, although this is expected to be the minority seller as far as UK X-Trails are concerned.
CO2 emissions from 129g/km-139g/km mean the new X-Trail is four tax bands cheaper than the version it replaces. It’s dropped 10 insurance groups too, which all adds up to cheaper running costs, while there’s also an estimated nine per cent increase in residual values versus the old X-Trail.
That could be a killer blow against the X-Trail’s rivals from Kia and Hyundai, which traditionally depreciate more rapidly due to their perceived inferior badge credentials.