It's lost its good looks, but the new X-Trail is better to be in, better to drive and more refined

What is it?

This is Nissan's all new X-Trail 4x4. The last one was a popular car; it's surprising still, even after Nissan’s long years of making 4x4s, to discover that it sold so many. Over 800,000 examples sold worldwide, around 50,000 of them in Britain, but it’s Nissan’s cars that somehow seem better known. Perhaps it’s the profusion of Micras and the shoals of ageing Primera minicabs that do it.

Either way, the X-Trail has been a success, breaking all kinds of sales records. More than that, it’s so well liked, research reveals, that owners don’t want it changed. Which is why Nissan is serving more of the same, but with its abilities extended, equipment increased and some rough edges buffed smooth.

There’s been a restyle, too. It still looks like an X-Trail – that was the aim, given the research – but with some unfortunate distendings, to these eyes at least.

What's it like?

In most other departments, thankfully, the changes Nissan has made to the X-Trail are all gains. Most obvious are the refinements and the superior cabin quality. The new dashboard is constructed entirely from soft-touch plastics, and though of somewhat bluff architecture, it’s good to look at, well stocked and convenient.

Also new is 50-litres worth of storage space, ranging from eight cup-holders (four of them chilled), a lined dash-top box and plenty more bins, cubbies and boxes. The cabin’s roomy too, though it’s a shame that the rear seat doesn’t slide (at least it is split 40:20:40) and that there are no sixth and seventh seats in the much-enlarged boot.

Life’s more tranquil inside, too. The 171bhp diesel (there’s a 148bhp version too, plus a pair of petrols) is mostly subdued, smooth and reasonably potent. A slick six-speed ’box allows progress brisk enough to test a chassis that’s tidy, supple and lightly entertaining. The understeer-neutralising efforts of the intelligent four-wheel drive system are challenged in tight bends, when the outside-front tyre struggles, but many will appreciate a largely crash-free and supple ride.

And it’s been built for fairly serious off-roading, like Land Rover’s Freelander. A rotary knob allows you to run in front-drive (improving economy), automatic four wheel-drive (apportioning torque between axles, up to a 50:50 ratio) or with the centre diff locked. The wheels are individually and automatically braked to mimic axle diffs via the switchable ESP, and there’s hill descent control and a hill-holder. The result is impressive get-out-of-trouble traction across trying topography.

Should I buy one?

This X-Trail really is a fine all-rounder. It’s more practical, better finished and better equipped. It musters civil manners on road, stalwart abilities off it, provides more space and it feels tough. It’s a shame that the good looks of the original have been lost, but in most other respects, it's well worthy of recommendation.

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