► X-Trail gets 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel
► Now much better in the fast lane
► Interior lags behind newer rivals
When we drove the previous range-topping Nissan X-Trail in dCi Tekna guise, we concluded that ‘the actual driving experience has taken the back seat, and the X-Trail is a well-made family car, if not quite as practical an alternative to an MPV.’
What it lacked was power and torque. Given that it was spacious enough to accommodate seven people, you’d think Nissan would have seen fit to install something larger than a 1.6-litre diesel. Still, that’s been put right now – with the addition of Nissan’s 2.0-litre dCi engine, rated at 175bhp, and available in manual (front-wheel drive only) or automatic (all- and front-wheel drive).
So, can Nissan’s uprated X-Trail prove itself a better choice than a Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Skoda Kodiaq, or the costlier Land Rover Discovery Sport? To find out, we’re testing the £35,025 all-wheel-drive version in upscale Tekna trim.
Does the extra punch make the X-Trail better to drive?
In the case of the X-Trail, yes and no. The additional power and torque is noticeable, but the engine’s quite noisy at idle and the CVT spends a lot of time hunting between simulated fixed ratios. Which is a shame, because although the quality of the performance is questionable for your money, there’s no denying the quantity – the X-Trail can sprint from 0-60mph in 9.7sec, which is more acceptable than before.
More importantly, there’s ample punch in the mid-range for those all-important overtakes. On the motorway, it runs far less breathlessly than before, and thanks to sensible gearing, it’s turning over at less than 2000rpm at the UK limit. In Germany, where we initially tested it, the X-Trail will – where legal – happily cruise at 100mph.
We did some light off-roading in a quarry, and there’s little doubt it’ll do all that’s asked of it by most owners. Driver aids, such as the 360-degree camera view will help in a tight spot, as will the selectable all-wheel-drive modes. Most of the time, you’re best served leaving it in ‘auto’. It’s a shame it doesn’t have any form of hill descent control, though – and it’s an even bigger shame that the towing capacity for the auto version is limited to a disappointing 1600kg. The manual version, for comparison, is rated at 2000kg.
How does it fare elsewhere?
Despite its age, the X-Trail is still a very pleasant car to drive. The Active Ride Control system allows it to deal with big undulations smoothly and in a controlled fashion, for starters. That, allied with the pliant damping and long-travel suspension, mean it’s very comfortable on typical UK roads.
The steering is also well weighted and suitably responsive. It’s a similar story on the handling front – the X-Trail features Nissan’s Active Trace Control, which uses the brakes to rein in understeer. It works, too. There’s also bags of traction, and the car doesn’t get scruffy when you pick up the pace.
The interior is unchanged from before. You’ll be tempted to describe it as functional, and in truth it all does work well and the build quality is on the right side of acceptable. There are some cheap plastics inside – if you go looking for them – and it lags behind rival offerings on the quality front, especially those from the Volkswagen stable.
There’s no denying that the X-Trail’s appeal has been widened by this more powerful engine. About time too, we say. It’s an interesting car that drives better than you might think, and it’s also very comfortable for families – even on rough roads. We also like the roomy and adaptable interior.
But whether it’s a big enough improvement to encourage buyers to look at the X-Trail with fresh eyes is debatable. It lacks the interior quality of its younger rivals, and probably doesn’t have enough ‘wow’ factor to attract the ‘premium downsizers’ that Nissan likes to talk about. As an option for existing customers it’s a logical enough choice, but it’s otherwise hard to recommend.
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