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Nissan X-Trail

Nobody's perfect, and the same is certainly true of cars. But we've always rated the Nissan X-Trail as one of the best 4x4s around - so were anxious to see what alterations the firm has made to improve the car for the new model year.

The T-Spec is a great package, and the rest of the X-Trail range seems just as impressive. Even the £16,995 entry-level model is generously equipped, and the new-style interior is much better than the original. It looks as if Auto Express's favourite small 4x4 remains top of its class.

Nobody's perfect, and the same is certainly true of cars. But we've always rated the Nissan X-Trail as one of the best 4x4s around - so were anxious to see what alterations the firm has made to improve the car for the new model year.

From the outside, they're not obvious. There's a different front bumper, revised lamp units and a mesh grille, while at the back the foglights are in pods on the bumper. Other than that, it's pretty much as before.

Open the door, though, and you'll find an interior that is better equipped and finished than the outgoing model's. A modified centre console has heater controls that are easier to use, more cubbyholes and a new vent above the steering wheel that directs air straight at the driver's face. The chilled holders for canned drinks have been moved from the middle of the dash to either side, and are now upright so they can be used for open containers as well as sealed ones. A new cargo net fitted as standard to all models can be converted to a dog guard if required.

Our car also came with the new top-of-the-range trim level, sampled here for the first time, and in terms of value for money it's our pick of the line-up. Costing £23,395, the T-Spec is certainly not cheap, but the equipment list is extensive. Leather trim, Birdview sat-nav system, climate control, roof-mounted safari lamps, heated power seats, a full-length electric sunroof and four electric windows are all standard. By way of comparison, a Land Rover Freelander with as many toys on board would cost you more than £25,000.

The Nissan's greatest asset is not its improved interior, though. That hon-our goes to the all-new 136bhp diesel engine with more power, torque and performance than before. It still growls at high revs, and the improved six-speed manual gearbox can feel notchy, especially when cold, but it's certainly livelier than earlier X-Trail oil-burners.

By facelifting its small 4x4 already, Nissan is ahead of the game and has turned a good car into one that will be extremely difficult to beat.

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