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Crossover lessons have been put into practice with the X-Trail, resulting in a near class-leading SUV
Nic Cackett
30 July 2014

What is it?

The UK debut of Nissan’s halo crossover. Anyone who remembers the X-Trail as a bug-eyed box of angles released post-millennium can now put those memories to rest; the third generation marks the model’s transition from niche soft-roader to mainstream range topper. 

Its metamorphosis is doubly important because the new car doesn’t just replace the previous X-Trail, but also the seven-seat edition of the Qashqai - Nissan’s formidably popular profit maker.

The walk-up from its smaller predecessor is around £1750 so the company is selling the X-Trail as an upgrade not just in size or versatility, but also status. 

A fresh look best embodies that thrust – the car is a proper shoulder barge of SUV chunkiness in the flesh. Seven seats doesn’t seem inconceivable (we’ve tested the five-seater here) although you’ll pay £700 for the option. Likewise, the X-Trail now starts life as a front-wheel-drive model – 4WD is an additional £1700. 

There’s also now a proper entry-level option – the Visia – with the same 128bhp 1.6-litre dCi engine that features across the line-up. It costs just £22,995. 

However, given the Qashqai’s popularity beneath and the X-Trail’s new positioning, Nissan expects the upper-middle n-Tec spec to get most of the attention.

That’ll set you back £27,295 in standard format, and includes a DAB tuner, power tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry and start. 

What's it like?

A Qashqai – with bigger, baggier skin. No surprise there, of course - the relationship between the two is considerably closer than before, and the smaller model’s success means Nissan has every reason to encourage reference to its blood ties.

Indeed, the car seems setup, designed and decked out to make the Qashqai owner feel at home. If it hadn’t been for the X-Trail’s existing (and healthy) customer base, one suspects the firm may even have entertained the idea of renaming the car in its sibling’s honour. 

As it is, the X-Trail keeps its own badge and makes a more concerted play for justifying its premium. Size is obviously the trump card here; the exact dimensions of the car’s gentle growth spurt are probably less important on the forecourt than the subjective result - from outside and in, it feels markedly less bijou than the Qashqai.

It’s also handily better looking, too, which is convenient for the status upswing Nissan reckons is critical to the X-Trail’s new mainstream placement in the market. 

Trim material upgrades are meant to do the same inside, but the effect is perhaps too faint (or the parts bin too liberally raided) for it to seem dramatically different. Practicality wise, it is the boot of the five-seat model that seems usefully bigger on first inspection.

The rear seats are on runners for even more luggage space – or, alternately, maximum legroom which, unlike its sibling, appears usefully generous. Combined with broader width and the helpfully high ceiling, and the suggestion that five adults would fit better here than in the Qashqai seems entirely warranted.

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That they would be more cosseted or carried any quicker, is more dubious. The larger proportions means there’s additional bonnet length to worry about, and obviously more car behind you in the rear view mirror too; rather promptly then, the X-Trail feels slightly more ‘SUV’ to drive.

That isn’t an entirely unwelcome – especially given the nameplate’s provenance – but it does mean that Nissan’s attempts to transplant the Qashqai’s benign-yet-pleasant handling into its larger host are, by degrees, somewhat less triumphant. 

Light control surfaces (clutch engagement and steering wheel input require practically no effort) prevent the X-Trail from feeling needlessly hefty, and while no match for a Ford Kuga, its turn-in is chipper enough too. But the car is obviously less limber at the dampers; the latest Qashqai’s ability to go quasi-Land Rover at the sight of a broken road isn’t much in evidence.

Instead, on 19-inch wheels, the big Nissan emulates the segment standard: consenting enough over pockmarks, then noisily stiff-legged when things get tough. 

Still, even on UK roads it’s a sporadic trait rather than incessant tragedy. The 1.6-litre dCI bears up under the burden in similar fashion. It doesn’t have the length of stride meted out by its rivals bigger capacity engines, and consequently cannot be stroked along in the same mellow, big-twist fashion.

There’s a tendency, via the X-Trail’s tall gearstick, to snatch at the lower gears and rev determinedly away from the motor’s listlessness below 1750rpm. Such behaviour won’t render the 57.8mpg claimed by Nissan, but it makes the sub 11 second 0-62mph time believable, and progress briskly convenient. 

Should I buy one?

Nissan’s conquering of the crossover high ground has been one of the automotive stories of the last decade, and its lessons have been poured into the X-Trail.

Clever traits – the look, the ergonomic finesse, functional simplicity and ease of use – are manifested throughout, and contribute evenly to a product seemingly custom built for success. 

The occasional buyer - certainly those acquainted with the impressive quality of Nissan’s latest Qashqai - may pause at the model’s faintly inferior dynamic, but mostly this is just the hallmark of the X-Trail’s greater size and weight; measured by the standards of a comparatively under-cooked segment, the five-seat car is a well-sized, good value and fetching contender for class honours.

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Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCI n-Tec 

Price £27,295 0-62mph 10.5secs Top speed 117mph Economy 57.8mpg CO2 129g/km Kerb weight 1550kg Engine 4cyls, 1598cc, diesel Power 128bhp at 4000rpm Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 6-speed manual

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John O'Groats 31 July 2014

More power and torque

A 2 litre diesel producing at least 160 horsepower with 250 lb ft would be required to get this X-Trail firing in a sensible manner.

Also, as The Apprentice points out above, 19" wheels fitted with relatively low profile tyres doesn't make sense to man nor beast, unless being in danger of having one's fishing tackle shaken loose from its moorings is a high priority.

Oilburner 31 July 2014

remap, seriously?

It's good that this engine can produce some useful amount of power if remapped, but why should we have to risk the warranty and mess around with insurance because Nissan don't see fit to provide a decent engine in the first place?

Surely Nissan will put this right soon...

The Apprentice 31 July 2014

Oilburner wrote:It's good

Oilburner wrote:

It's good that this engine can produce some useful amount of power if remapped, but why should we have to risk the warranty and mess around with insurance because Nissan don't see fit to provide a decent engine in the first place?

Surely Nissan will put this right soon...

Absolutely agree! - but there is a reason. Nissan are expecting 60% of sales of this car to be company car sales, the 2WD version cleverly come in at 129g/km CO2 and a huge number of companies are now setting the allowed upper bar at 130g/km so no coincidence here! So here we have a big seven seater that is available on the car list that is not a dull MPV for people that want something like this there is no alternative, Nissan have made a niche all of their own. So no doubt the 130bhp output is as much as they could go to and keep the CO2 below 130.

Nigel_HD 31 July 2014

So near but misses three things.

I agree with the criticism of the 130bhp engine. The Nissan group already have a 160bhp 1.6 litre diesel either in production or close to release. Why not fit it to the X-Trail ?
Secondly, the fitment of 19" wheels with no option to change down to 17" wheels is stupid. Take a lesson from the Volvo XC60. I need to fit winter tyres. It's very difficult to find 19" winter treads. The Mazda CX-5 also suffers the curse of the 19" wheel. I will not even consider a car when I have to buy a second set of rims. Yes, the smaller rims are available with lower spec versions, but if you want all the bells and whistles you have to take the 19" rims.
Finally, where is the wonderful Thermaclear heated windscreen as fitted to the Qashqai ? Unbelievable. Having finally broken the Ford stranglehold on this option, they "forget" to fit it to the X-Trail. Two dealers I asked had no explanation to give on this one.
The Apprentice 30 July 2014

As a footnote, some of the

As a footnote, some of the better tuners are already easily remapping this engine in the Qashqai to 160bhp and quite a lot more torque, combined with its low weight would make this quite a good long distance tool.

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