There may be a new engine under the X-Trail’s heavily sculpted bonnet, but there are no signs from the outside to let anyone know. There’s still one hidden tail-pipe at the back, no badging related to the motor’s capacity and the same range of alloy wheels. While that’s fine by us, we suspect a good few owners would welcome some differentiation.
Fire up the 2.0-litre lump and any hopes that it would be more refined than the rather raucous 1.6-litre unit are dashed. It’s by no means the worst for refinement in the class, but there are a few vibrations through the pedals at idle and a coarse engine note that gets particularly intrusive when you’re working the motor hard.
The engine will pull cleanly from around 1200rpm, but you really need to get up to at least 1800rpm before it pulls with any conviction. Keep the revs up and it’s usefully quicker than the 1.6 and would certainly be better for towing. That said, the Volkswagen Group's 2.0-litre TDI unit comes on song lower in the rev range and is more refined.
The X-Trail handles much the same as before, with not much body roll, adequate levels of grip and a safe, secure balance. It doesn't excite, but the steering is well weighted and allows you to precisely place the nose of the car. It also tracks straight at speed with little correction needed to keep it in lane.
Venture off-road and you’ll find decent traction that can be boosted by locking the system into a 50/50 split front-to-rear. Even left to its own devices, the variable split deals with fairly muddy ground and dirt roads without issue. However, if you regularly drive over heavily rutted ground, we’d look elsewhere, because of the X-Trail's shortage of axle articulation and ground clearance. In other words, it’s not really much different to the vast majority of the competition.
Ride comfort is for the most part good, with the edge taken off all but the roughest of roads. That said, you do feel road imperfections more than you might expect given the lofty ride height. Thank the relatively stiff springing needed to keep the body upright for that.
The X-Trail's interior will be very familiar to anyone trading up from the smaller Nissan Qashqai, with much of the two cars' architecture being shared. While that does mean you get plenty of soft-touch plastics in areas you’ll touch regularly, you might hope that there would be a bit more difference to show where your extra money went.
Look lower down the dashboard and harder plastics are to be found, but these are cleanly moulded and don't have any sharp edges. In the centre of the dashboard is either a 5.0in touchscreen on Acenta models (the lowest trim available with the 2.0-litre engine) or a 7.0in unit that adds a DAB radio, sat-nav and a 360deg parking camera.
Our test car had the larger screen. It's responsive and easy to navigate thanks to shortcut buttons around its edges. The screen's resolution is sharp enough, but the systems in the Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq are more attractive. Dotted around the X-Trail's interior are various cubbyholes and storage areas which, combined with large doorbins, would swallow a family’s clutter with ease.
The middle row of seats is certainly more commodious than that of the smaller Qashqai, and will easily take a pair of reasonably tall adults. The optional third-row seats are best left for short journeys, particularly small adults or children, though. With five seats in place, the X-Trail's boot is commendably large, although this does shrink greatly once the third-row seats are erected.