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First Drive: Nissan X-Trail

Qashqai’s revised big brother has enhanced its appeal – but is it enough, asks Craig Thomas?

SECTOR: SUV PRICE: TBC FUEL: 45.6-57.6mpg CO2: 129-158g/km

The X-Trail always used to be a quietly popular SUV that was well-thought-of, by buyers and critics, but it never exactly set the world alight.

Its somewhat worthy boxiness meant that its admirably practical nature was overlooked by buyers who wanted something a little more appealing, a tad sexier.

Nissan rectified that when it launched the current model, the third generation, in 2013. Adopting the more consumer-friendly, shapely styling of a crossover, while still maintaining a winning combination of the height and practicality of an off-roader with the on-road comfort of a car, the X-Trail has become, according to Nissan, the world’s best-selling SUV. It certainly looks like the kind of modern off-roader that will appeal to a wide range of buyers in the market for something larger than a Qashqai (Nissan uses the now-commonplace marketing-speak about it being “the perfect car for family adventures”). It seems to be working, too: sales have increased by 97% since 2014.

Four years on from its initial launch, the requisite mid-life facelift sees a number of enhancements, both cosmetically and in tweaks to the specification.

The exterior changes include the likes of front and rear bumpers, new grille, new headlights and fog lights, new alloys and, on Tekna grade cars, a chrome side moulding. The changes have also resulted in the X-Trail’s length increasing by 50mm.

Inside, the upgrades continue with a thicker, flat-bottomed, multifunctional steering wheel, heated seats in the rear, plus interior trim improvements to add an element of greater refinement. OK, so it’s no Audi or BMW, but Nissan is slowly but surely, like its mass-market rivals, trying to get at least within some sort of touching distance of the premium carmakers.

Practicality has been improved with the addition of a handsfree tailgate, a feature that is steadily trickling down from premium models, while the boot capacity of five-seat variants increases from 550 litres to 565 litres: the 445 litres in the seven-seat version chosen by 40% of buyers remains unchanged.

Also unchanged is the range of three engines, a pair of diesels and a petrol unit. Dispensing with the 161bhp 1.6-litre petrol that returns 45.6mpg, fleet users are left with 128bhp 1.6-litre and 175bhp 2.0-litre diesels. Each is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or continuously variable transmission (CVT auto) – the latter of which is surprisingly good. Front-wheel or four-wheel drive is available with both engines. The lower-powered 1.6 does feel slightly sluggish (the 0-62mph benchmark takes 10.5 seconds, at best) and the 2.0-litre doesn’t perform vastly better (9.4 seconds), while both are less refined than they could be: the engine note isn’t gruff most of the time – indeed, the cabin is pretty quiet most of the time – but if you add some urge, it’s definitely more audible than you’ll find elsewhere in the class.

There are four trim levels on offer, with most buyers opting for the N-Connecta (39%) of range-topping Tekna (47%) versions, which come with the likes of touchscreen sat nav as standard.

What We Think

Although X-Trial is more appealing than ever before, the Land Rover Discovery Sport offers premium quality at an often similar price.

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Craig Thomas

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