Blazing an even smoother (X-)Trail

By Denis Droppa Time of article published May 3, 2015

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ROAD TEST

Nissan X-Trail 1.6 DCi XE

Johannesburg - The third-generation Nissan X-Trail, launched in South Africa late last year, ditched its formerly chunky and tougher-looking design in favour of a more fashion-conscious aerodynamic shape.

It may have lost some of the “butch” utility appeal that made some buyers choose its predecessors over the likes of a zhoozh-looking Nissan Qashqai or Kia Sportage, but whatever your opinion about the shell, the stuff underneath is all improved.

The weight’s dropped 90kg to give the X-Trail more dynamic road manners but the vehicle’s grown in size and width to provide 20 percent more rear legroom than before, and it also comes with an optional third seating row.

Like the smaller Qashqai with which it shares a platform, the X-Trail is a crossover vehicle, not an offroad-focussed SUV like the Pathfinder or Patrol. Still, in the eight-model X-Trail range there’s an all-wheel drive version for the weekend warriors that comes with hill descent control and an electronic limited-slip differential.

The version tested here is the 1.6 DCi XE two-wheel drive model. Selling for R357 400 (R6400 less if you don’t opt for the third row of seats) it’s probably the value-for-money pick of the range as the cheapest all-wheel drive model costs R388 300.

BELLS AND WHISTLES

The XE is roomy and well specced; it has manual aircon instead of the dual-zone automatic climate control found in higher models, and the steering wheel and gearshift are covered in plastic instead of leather, but aside from those and a few other absent high-end features it lays on a lot of standard comforts including cruise control, hill-start assist, tilt and telescopic steering, and an audio system with all the bells and whistles including Bluetooth and USB connection.

There’s also a trip computer integrated into a new five-inch colour drive-assist display in the instrument panel. The only feature I missed having was parking sensors, as especially when reversing it’s difficult to judge where this vehicle ends simply by looking.

Safety spec is generous however, with six airbags, ABS, and stability control.

The cabin design’s very appealing with a neat, well-groomed look. There’s soft-touch plastic on the dash and passenger touchpoints such as door armrests and centre console cover are well padded. In the XE model the seats aren’t leather, as in the flagship X-Trail, but they’re covered in a cushy-feeling soft cloth.

The X-Trail’s one of the largest vehicles in the mid-sized SUV segment, and adults in the front two rows have real stretch-out room. A bonus is that the rear seats are adjustable for legroom and backrest angle, or they can be folded down and flipped forward to create a cavernous cargo area.

ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL

The optional two extra seats in this seven-seater are too cramped for adults, but come in handy for transporting toddlers. These seats fold flat into the boot floor, completely out of sight, to expand cargo space from 135 to 1310 litres. The spare wheel is full sized.

Cabin oddments space is plentiful too and includes a centre box between the front seats big enough for a 10-inch tablet.

With two-wheel drive and no differential lock, the X-Trail isn’t a bundu basher but its generous 209mm ground clearance is superior to most rivals in this market segment and makes it quite useful on rougher dirt roads.

For a tall-riding vehicle the X-Trail takes corners very neatly, without excessive body roll, thanks to an active ride control feature that adjusts the electronic dampers to keep the body level. It’s matched to a comfortable ride, even on the optional 18-inch lower-profile rubber fitted to our test vehicle (higher-profile 17’s are standard).

Powering this version is a 1.6 turbodiesel that rated for fairly generous 96kW and 320Nm outputs. There’s some turbo lag right at the low end, but it pulls eagerly through most of its rev range and has particularly good cruising legs. The cabin’s noise insulation is notably good, and because of the lack of sound you often find yourself cruising at a higher pace than intended.

The smooth and swift performance is matched to great fuel economy, with the aid of an idle start-stop function, and our test vehicle averaged 6.4 litres per 100km (Nissan claims 5.1).

The six-speed manual is an easy-shifting ‘box and there’s hill-start assist to help prevent roll-backs. The car has an awkward clutch action that makes it tricky to make smooth pulloffs however, and we stalled it a few times.

VERDICT

Refined, economical, roomy, there’s little to criticise the new Nissan X-Trail. Besides being one of the largest soft-roaders in its segment it has the added bonus of those optional seven seats, and the class-topping ground clearance makes it a little more capable than the norm in the two-wheel drive SUV segment.

The warranty is particularly good at six years or 150 000km, while the price also includes a five-year or 90 000km service plan.

FACTS

Nissan X-Trail 1.6 DCi XE seven-seat

Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Power: 96kW @ 4000rpm

Torque: 320Nm @ 1750rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 10.5 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 188km/h

Consumption (claimed): 5.1 litres per 100km

Price: R357 400

Warranty: Six-year/120 000km

Service plan: Five-year/90 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Nissan X-Trail 1.6 DCi XE seven-seat (96kW/320Nm) - R357 400

Nissan Qashqai 1.6 DCi Acenta AT (96kW/320Nm) - R392 100

Hyundai ix35 1.7 CRDi Premium (85kW/260Nm) - R359 900

Ssangyong Korando D20T High (130kW/360Nm) - R339 995

Toyota Rav4 2.2 D-4D GX AWD (110kW/340Nm) - R390 400

VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI Trend&Fun (81kW/280Nm) - R355 900

Star Motoring

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