Is Nissan pulling a fast one? This looks the same as the old X-Trail
It’s a dead ringer for the one that's just been discontinued, isn’t it? Incredibly, it’s totally new, right down to the engines. Two new 2.0-litre diesels (150 and 173bhp, both lifted from the Renault Laguna) replace the old dCi unit, while the 2.0-litre petrol and underpinnings come from the Qashqai. You can blame those same-again looks on existing owners. In customer clinics they told Nissan not to meddle with the styling.
Qashqai underpinnings? That sounds like it could struggle off-road
X-Trail may share much with the Qashqai, but it uses a modified version of the platform with Nissan’s new 4x4 system, All-Mode 4x4-i. It’s controlled by a dial on the dash. Most of the time it can be kept in auto – sensors link the ECU, wheel speed, steering angle and yaw rates to anticipate when a wheel will slip and rectify it by applying more torque appropriately. It does such a good job that it only needs to be locked into four-wheel drive for very muddy conditions and to engage hill descent control.
Does that mean it’s a bit of a brute on the road?
This is where the Qashqai bits come in handy. It drives like a hatchback from behind the wheel and behaves itself on the road with good body control, reasonably accurate electric power steering and a supple ride. The ride is impressive too – thanks in part to a new, longer wheelbase.
Are those diesels any good?
Both are better than the old 2.0 unit that the previous X-Trail had. They’re a bit clattery when they start up, but quieten down once warmed through. With 236lb-ft (150bhp) or 266lb-ft (173bhp) of muscle on offer, they pull well too. The 150bhp version is offered with a six-speed auto gearbox. Unusually for an auto, it harnesses engine braking when it’s not accelerating. This makes it feel much more akin to a manual and helps smooth out some of the gearchanges. Fuel economy’s good too: both return upwards of 38mpg on the combined cycle – not bad for an SUV.
So has it got any tricks up its sleeve?
Just being good in the mud doesn’t cut the SUV mustard these days. So X-Trail’s picked up a few tricks from MPVs. There are fold-flat seats in the back, a ‘double deck’ boot with a long pull-out drawer for the odds and ends that usually slide around in the back and cubbies galore. Interior quality is much improved and Nissan’s moved the instruments back from the centre of the dash to in front of the driver.
It may lack the off-road bloodline of a Land Rover Freelander and doesn’t carry the same cachet as the BMW X3, but the X-Trail is surprisingly capable. It’s comfortable, clever inside and can hold its own in the mud. It's just a shame the styling isn't more adventurous.