The Nissan X-Trail lacks the Freelander's exceptional ride, handling and extreme off-road ability or the good looks and chic sophistication of an Audi Q5, but somehow emerges from this on a par with its higher-class rivals, because of the sheer quality of the overall package.
The diesel engine is a potent success - more so in higher power output with the slick-shifting manual - and the simple four-wheel drive system works without intrusion and offers plentiful safety features. Add a very practical and spacious cabin that’s nicely finished and feels very robust - if not quite achieving the premium product status its makers would have us believe - and there’s a lot to like about the X-Trail. A generous standard equipment list and respectable economy and emissions also help its case. You get the feeling that the X-Trail could fulfil many tasks in your life without ever demanding much in return.
What it fails to do is offer the peaks in ability that distinguish the class leaders: the car-like precision of the Honda CR-V on the road or the prestige and off-road ability available from the Land Rover Freelander. These are cars which, like the X-Trail, also offer a wide range of talents. Nevertheless, the Nissan sits comfortably among the top contenders.