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First Drive: Nissan X-Trail dCi 177

By / 2 months ago / Road Test / No Comments

The X-Trail’s high-power diesel isn’t just an option for caravaners, explains Alex Grant.

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SECTOR: SUV PRICE: £27,645-£35,090 FUEL: 647.1-50.5mpg CO2: 148-158g/km

Nissan launched the latest X-Trail to some lofty goals in 2014. With crossover styling, two-wheel drive options and 1.6-litre diesel engine, it was aiming for appeal beyond the utilitarian qualities of its predecessor with sights on more than quadrupling its retail-weighted 2,500 UK sales to 11,000 units, almost half of which it hoped would go to fleets.

It’s delivered. Replacing not only the old X-Trail but also the seven-seat Qashqai +2, which Nissan reasoned was bought more for load-hauling than its extra seating, it’s on track to sell 16,500 units in the UK this year. But ongoing growth means re-introducing a bit of its predecessor back into the range.

The old X-Trail was only ever available with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, producing 147bhp or 170bhp. Now something similar is coming back into the new car, a 174bhp 2.0-litre diesel, augmenting the 1.6-litre diesel offered from launch and a response, in part, to customer complaints that downsizing had robbed the brand’s flagship SUV of its pulling power.

But the aim isn’t to re-discover traditional retail buyers. Nissan reckons a quarter of X-Trail customers will opt for the high-powered version, with a similar fleet mix to the rest of the range. It’s an opportunity to net buyers out of premium brands, turning the X-Trail into a potential high-spec conquest car. Significantly, 60% of dCi 177 sales are expected to be incremental growth.

There’s certainly a market. The XTrail’s rivals, which span large Korean SUVs, seven-seat premium models like the Discovery Sport and even the new Skoda Kodiaq, all include similar powertrains. Surprisingly, it’s also the first time that Nissan has offered four-wheel drive with an automatic transmission, though it is a stepped continuously variable unit. Four-wheel drive manual and two-wheel drive CVT versions will also be available.

Transmission choices have a big effect on the way it feels. CVT-equipped models felt noticeably more agricultural on the launch event, the manuals better insulated from the grumble and drone of the engine under load. It’s not significantly faster than the dCi 130 on paper, and it still can’t rival the old X-Trail’s towing capacity, but the increase in torque does at least mean that there’s less need to hunt through the gears when the engine is under load.

That said, it’s a large SUV with a convincingly car-like drive. The X-Trai is about as close as Nissan has to a rival for a Mondeo Estate; which is a shrewd move. It rides well on its biggest wheels, doesn’t roll around while cornering and forward visibility is impressive from all three rows, which makes for a less claustrophobic journey in the back. A large load area with a similar luggage board system to the Qashqai, for dividing up the boot floor, add some MPVlike flexibility for those not adding the £1,000 seven-seat upgrade.

So the big diesel adds a string to the XTrail’s bow, even if it’s no longer the caravaner’s workhorse in this segment. But, given the success it’s had so far, that would seem to be what the majority want.

What we think

A welcome injection of low-rev performance for the capable but lethargic X-Trail, which should broaden its appeal. But others can now tow more.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.