The previous-generation X-Trail didn’t need marketing slogans to tell buyers that it is an SUV with off-roading abilities. Its looks did (and still do) all the talking – with its boxy body, chunky bumpers and large square headlamps, the old X-Trail looks anything but soft.
Buyers searching for a rugged SUV, however, might need to be convinced that the new X-Trail is as capable off-road as its predecessor, for the latest model eschews its predecessor’s angular looks for a sleeker design. The headlights are slimmer and the body is curvier. This newcomer has the presence of a soft-roader, rather than an off-roader per se.
This softer image is reinforced by the cabin. As you settle into the cockpit, you’re nestled by what Nissan calls Zero Gravity-inspired seats, which are shaped to reduce fatigue. Softer-to-the-touch plastics are used on the dashboard and door panels, and a metal applique surrounds the air-con vents.
Adding to the interior’s upmarket feel is the infotainment system, which is classier than the one found in the X-Trail’s smaller Qashqai sibling. The screen is bigger, the graphics are snazzier and there’s satellite navigation, too.
The backseat is also larger than the Qashqai’s. Because the X-Trail’s wheelbase is 59mm longer than that of the Qashqai, there’s more legroom for three adults to stretch out. The same, however, can’t be said for the third-row seats, which are only adequate for small children.
At any rate, getting in and out of the X-Trail could be tricky if you’re less than 1.75m tall. This is because the vehicle’s ground clearance of 210mm is a considerable 45mm higher than the Qashqai’s.
This additional ground clearance suits the X-Trail’s purpose as an off-roader, for unlike the front-drive Qashqai, the X-Trail is equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that allows it to tackle a variety of surfaces.
Said system, which Nissan calls All Mode 4×4-i, has three settings: 2WD, Auto and Lock. As its name indicates, Auto mode lets the system vary the engine’s torque between the front and rear axles in reaction to surface conditions. “Lock” puts the X-Trail in permanent four-wheel-drive mode, with the torque equitably distributed to all four wheels.
On regular roads, it’s best to turn the dial to the 2WD setting, in which only the front wheels are driven. In this mode, the X-Trail feels more responsive and a little lighter on its feet compared to the other
The all-wheel-drive, however, isn’t responsible for the X-Trail’s relaxed performance. Neither is its 2-litre engine, which is identical to the one in the Qashqai. The issue here is the kerb weight – at 1626kg, the X-Trail is 247kg heavier than the Qashqai.
With just 144bhp and 200Nm, the X-Trail takes a leisurely 12.1 seconds to complete the century sprint – two seconds longer than the Qashqai. Being aggressive with the throttle pedal doesn’t help either, as it only causes the continuously variable transmission (CVT) to emit an unpleasant drone. And unlike the Qashqai, the CVT doesn’t have a manual override function to hasten progress.
However, the X-Trail does excel when it comes to ride comfort. The cabin is well-insulated and deals with poorer surfaces by employing the Active Ride Control feature, which subtly applies the brakes to reduce pitching over undulating roads. This is something the majority of SUV buyers (who have no intention of going off-road anyway) will appreciate.
Buyers who want a rugged SUV might feel let down by the X-Trail’s sleeker and softer character. But they shouldn’t overlook the fact that the X-Trail has grown more talented as well. It can still blaze new trails in the forest, but it now also feels right at home in the concrete jungle.
ENGINE 1997cc, 16-valves, inline-4
MAX POWER 144bhp at 6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 200Nm at 4400rpm
0-100KM/H 12.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 180km/h (governed)
CONSUMPTION 13.3km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 178g/km
PRICE INCL. COE
$152,800 (no CEVS rebate/surcharge)