X marks the family Nissan
This compact four-wheel drive has good manners around town, writes GRAHAMSMITH MODEL WATCH
THE SUV phenomenon started in the 1970s with intoxicating images of peaceful places far away from the hustle and bustle of the city and has since become a tidal wave that has flooded our everyday lives.
The weekend getaways to the beach or bush have given way to the trek of a lifetime for baby-boomers who have taken to the open road in huge numbers.
But the SUV has also set down roots in our towns as more and more families turn to it for day-to-day family transport.
SUVs (sports utility vehicles) such as the Nissan X-Trail have become the enduring phenomenon of modern-day motoring. WITH the evolution of the SUV came variations on the theme as carmakers strove to meet the expectations of a wide variety of buyers.
What was once a rough, tough four-wheel drive designed to do hard work in the bush became a jacked-up wagon with town manners.
Most carmakers gave their SUVs the look of an offroader, but it was what was underneath that separated them from the real bush-bashers.
Nissan tried to give the X-Trail, the compact soft-roader SUV it launched in 2001, some off-road credibility with its smart drive selection system.
A dial on the dash allowed the driver to select their desired drive for the conditions. Select 2WD and all the drive was directed to the front wheels for regular driving. The rear wheels were just there to keep the back bumper off the bitumen.
When the road was wet and slippery there was the Auto setting, which engaged the centre viscous coupling. Drive was electronically distributed front and rear as needed.
For more tricky going, the drive could be locked, which set the torque split at 53 per cent to the front and the rest to the rear. It was effective up to 30 km/h.
It was a good compromise that delivered smooth-road manners and reasonable capability off the road.
The X-Trail’s four-cylinder engine was on the money when it came to output, which ensured it had plenty of performance available under the right foot when desired.
The double overhead camshaft engine delivered 132kW at 6000 revs and 245Nm at 4000 revs, enough to have it doing 100km/h about 11 seconds after launch.
X-Trail buyers had the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or a fourspeed auto. The auto was the choice of most townies.
Manual gearboxes were normally preferred for control when driving off-road, but even in auto form there was good control of the gears.
Inside there were comfortable seats and roomy accommodation for five, though the centre rear seat passenger had only a lap belt.
The dash was rather unusual with the dials located in a centre cluster, and there was a second glovebox ahead of the driver.
The rest of the controls were in the centre console along with drinkholders and more switches, including the drive mode control.
ON THE LOT
THE entry ST model can be found for $13,000-$17,000; the better equipped Ti will cost $2000 more. The Ti-L will absorb an extra $5000 over the ST.
IN THE SHOP
ANY time an SUV is driven off-road it’s susceptible to damage from sand-blasting or flying rocks. Check for damage to the underbody, suspension, drive shafts and exhaust system.
If you find no damage it’s a good bet it hasn’t gone off-road. Few SUVs actually do.
The X-Trail is generally robust and reliable if serviced according to Nissan’s recommendations.
Servicing is even more crucial if a vehicle is used off-road.
IN A CRASH
DUAL front airbags provide protection for the driver and front-seat passenger. Anti-skid brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution kick in when things are looking like going pear-shaped on the road.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A BLEND of town manners and bush capability makes the X-Trail a good family all-rounder.
Family wagon: the Nissan X-trail has enough get up and go to reach 100km/h in 11 seconds.