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Nissan X-Trail

Published: 08 March 2007

So, a brand new Nissan X-Trail. Or is it? It doesn’t look any different…

Yes, it’s new – new body, new platform and some new engines. The only thing not different is the exterior style. Nissan is the latest in a line of manufacturers – the Mini Mk2 being the most recent – that has totally redesigned its car. And apparently changed nothing. Nissan says the old X-Trail, first launched in 2001 and upgraded in 2004, is selling at about three times early expectations. It didn’t want to mess with a winning formula. So although every body panel is new, the exterior is almost impossible to tell apart from the old X-Trail’s. The biggest change is an extra 17.5 cm in overall length – nearly all of that goes into a bigger boot.

OK, so what else is different?

There’s a marginally longer wheelbase and a touch more rear legroom. Like the old model, it’s a roomy five-seater. The platform is new – it’s the Renault-Nissan Alliance C platform, as also used on the quirky Qashqai crossover. New kit includes Land Rover-like hill descent control (Nissan calls it Downhill Drive Support), a sure sign that X-Trail is serious about the rough. Three of the four engines are new. There’s a 140bhp 2.0-litre petrol four-pot plus two versions of the latest Renault 2.0 diesel, producing 150 and 173bhp respectively. The carryover engine is the big-chested 169bhp 2.5-litre four, a surprisingly sweet unit. The petrol motors come with a choice of six-speed manual or CVT auto. The diesels get either a manual or a conventional torque-converted stepped auto box. It’s the first time the X-Trail has been available with a diesel auto powertrain.

At first glance, is it a serious alternative to Freelander 2?

The image isn’t as rosy and it’s probably not quite as good off-road – though the old X-Trail was the best compact Japanese on the rough stuff. It’s also handily cheaper than the littlest Landie. It looks tough, you sit nice and high, and the extra boot space over the old model makes it much easier to carry clobber for that sporty lifestyle beloved of all SUV marketing men. A mountain bike can fit easily in the back. The X-Trail is also a tough utilitarian vehicle, as you’d expect from son-of-Patrol (one of the pioneering 4x4s, let’s not forget). The very versatile boot is trimmed in tough hose-out vinyl, the sign of an SUV not frightened to get its tyres dirty.

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience