What is it?
In a market where a growing crowd is making it getting increasingly difficult to stand out, the Nissan X-Trail makes a good case for itself. It's a comfortable and practical large SUV, and a common sight on UK roads.
It has a problem, though. Nissan has until now only given buyers one diesel engine choice in the X-Trail, a 128bhp 1.6-litre unit, and while its competitive in terms of fuel economy and CO2 emissions, it isn't particularly quick. It's a compromised package, and drivers seeking a stronger X-Trail have long been praying for Nissan to give the car a larger, more powerful diesel motor.
Well, those prayers have been answered, because now there's a larger 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel on offer. Nissan expects this engine to account for a quarter of X-Trail sales in the UK from now on, so it’s an important addition for the brand.
What's it like?
Fuel economy and CO2 emissions have been a big draw for X-Trail buyers so far, because while the existing 1.6 diesel isn't as powerful as the big units found in most rivals, it is cleaner and more efficient. With this more powerful version, official fuel economy has dropped to 50.5mpg, while CO2 emissions stand at 149g/km - although we averaged a more realistically achievable 38.1mpg on our fairly calm test drive.
There's certainly more low-end pulling power, but it runs out of puff higher up the rev range and similar diesels in rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Santa Fe are more flexible still. Still, although the extra power will no doubt please some buyers, many of the X-Trail's niggles persist - the engine is still very vocal and sends lots of noise and vibration inside under load.
There is a slightly better throttle response with this engine, though, and it combines well with the standard six-speed manual transmission. A CVT automatic gearbox is also available, marking the first time you can get a four-wheel drive X-Trail with an automatic, something Nissan says buyers have also been asking for, but it's not easy to recommend. It is quieter than many other CVTs, and if you’re planning on spending most of your time in the city then it could make sense, but on the motorway the elastic-band nature of the power delivery grates.
Our X-Trail's four-wheel drive system provides good traction over loose surfaces, but in reality you're unlikely to need the system very often in the UK unless you plan on climbing mountains or fording streams on the weekends. If you do choose the four-wheel-drive model, then the added low-end torque of this 2.0-litre engine seems like a good fit. Frankly, though, we'd be tempted to save money and stick with a front-wheel drive model.
Elsewhere, as you might expect, this new X-Trail variant is very much the same as the existing car. The ride is comfortable over most surfaces, and while the handling isn’t set up to provide engagement, it's reassuringly surefooted. The interior, too, while not revolutionary, has all the ergonomic benefits of the big-selling Nissan Qashqai.
Should I buy one?
There’s the hit in fuel economy and CO2 to consider here, because even with a manual gearbox the new 2.0-litre engine falls some way short of the existing 1.6-litre diesel’s 57.6mpg and 129g/km figures. Under the current road tax system, you’ll pay £35 more per year for the 2.0-litre X-Trail, as well as spending more time and money at the fuel pumps.