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Road Test: Nissan X-Trail dCi 130 4WD Tekna

Alex Grant wonders if the versatile X-Trail might be the last of its kind.

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SECTOR Large SUV PRICE £35,025 FUEL 52.3mpg CO2 143g/km

Nissan’s global best-seller, few cars offer quite as broad a set of talents as the X-Trail. Depending how it’s equipped, it can move up to seven people, bulky objects or heavy trailers, and it’ll keep on moving long after the journey has run out of road. In this spec, it can do all of the above.

Survey results show customer satisfaction is strong for the X-Trail, Nissan says, despite what had been a slab-sided, utilitarian towing machine turning into essentially a larger Qashqai when this latest generation launched in late 2014. Controversial perhaps, but it’s ramped up demand significantly – almost a quarter of all X-Trails registered in Europe since 2000 are the current version.

It helps, no doubt, that Nissan is listening to what those customers are saying. The 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel was brought back to the range in 2016, and this mid-life refresh addresses what appear to be minor grumbles rather than significant issues. Notably a very complementary restyle, with half-tinted rear lamps and a more conventional, aggressive, SUV front end. This is a global car, but it feels more European with its recent nip-tuck.

The X-Trail shares a platform with the Qashqai, but feels tuned to be more like a large estate than a lifted hatchback. It’s a much less engaging driver’s car; noticeably weightier when changing direction and offering less feedback through the wheel while doing so. This is best suited to long-distance cruising, where the crashy low-speed ride quality settles down and there’s limited wind noise for what is quite an un-aerodynamic body.

Space is the X-Trail’s forte, and there’s a choice of five or seven-seat versions with UK demand split down the middle. We tested the seven-seater, which offers – just about – room for adults in all three rows, and easy access via rear doors which open at almost 90 degrees to the body. For load carrying, the rear bench folds and slides in two sections, creating a flat 2.5-metre cargo area to the front seatbacks. It’s impressive, but hampered slightly by only offering two ISOFIX points, and a tailgate opening which restricts access slightly when loading really large items.

Tekna comes in at the top of the range, putting pricing close to the Land Rover Discovery, albeit with a much higher spec. The downside, at this level, is that the cabin has never been the X-Trail’s strongest point. It’s not badly made, but there’s a lot of hard, shiny black plastic about which rivals hide better. Its new thick-rimmed steering wheel, taken from the Qashqai, is an important update as that’s the most-held item inside, but little else has changed. Including Nissan’s infotainment which, despite being all-new software, still has no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity, and buries its useful features under fiddly, counter-intuitive menus.

The 128bhp 1.6-litre diesel was brought in as the low-carbon option for fleets. It’ll return almost 50mpg with respectable motorway refinement, but it’s particularly coarse at low speeds, as if the cabin sound deadening was designed for quieter petrol engines. There’s just about enough power on offer for the X-Trail not to feel like it’s struggling, but the bigger 2.0-litre diesel is a better fit for heavier use.

At least, it is for now. Nissan is discontinuing diesel engines with its next generation models, and with international versions of the X-Trail already including a petrol-electric hybrid, this large SUV is likely to follow the newly diesel-free Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in the coming years. City-friendly electric driving could be an add talent for what’s already an impressive all-rounder.

What We Think:

The X-Trail is high on functionality and comfort, but let down slightly by a drab cabin and noisy, just-about-powerful-enough diesel engine. Go for the bigger engine if you need to tow, and stick with two-wheel drive if you don’t.

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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.