ON THE ROAD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test Nissan X- Trail -

IT’S a shame Nis­san played it safe with the new X-Trail’s styling. Look­ing at it, you’d never guess the car is new — ex­cept for the en­gine — from the ground up. If any­thing, the new X-Trail looks slightly more un­gainly than the pre­vi­ous car, and a bit taller and nar­rower. But looks aside, the X-Trail is a great com­pact AWD wagon.

It’s a good over­all pack­age, with a punchy en­gine, im­pres­sive off-road ca­pa­bil­ity, a spa­cious in­te­rior and im­proved re­fine­ment.

A stan­dard equip­ment list — in­clud­ing elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, six airbags and cruise con­trol — means it rep­re­sents good value for money.

The only thing that could put some peo­ple off, apart from the styling, is the CVT au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Though it is not bad for a CVT, the na­ture of this type of gear­box — which sounds like a clutch slip­ping as it con­stantly varies the gear ra­tio — can be off­putting.

Even though the X-Trail’s en­gine is quite torquey, the CVT has to work hard and the slip­ping noise is in­tru­sive.

Some peo­ple don’t mind the sound, but I can’t get used to it. I would pre­fer a good old­fash­ioned auto — and I sus­pect I’m not alone.

Luck­ily, Nis­san of­fers all X-Trail mod­els with a six-speed man­ual. It is a crisp-shift­ing gear­box with a light clutch that makes it a plea­sure to use.

The 2.5-litre en­gine still needs to pushed to get a move on, but it is ad­e­quate for the X-Trail. It would be bet­ter if Nis­san Aus­tralia could bring in the more po­tent diesel en­gine, which is an im­pres­sive pow­er­plant. I’m told the oil burner is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

The X-Trail doesn’t han­dle as well as a small hatch, but it is quite good for a cross­over wagon. Nis­san has tuned the sus­pen­sion well. It’s sup­ple and ab­sorbs a lot of the bumps with­out be­ing too soft.

The in­te­rior plas­tics look good and most are soft to the touch. Chilled cup hold­ers in the dash are thought­ful ex­tra.

There is noth­ing ground-break­ing about the in­te­rior, but the de­sign is sim­ple and the con­trols are well laid out and easy to use.

Head­room and leg room is good, and the flex­i­bil­ity of the fold­ing rear seats opens up a huge cargo area.

Nis­san has fit­ted the X-Trail with a du­al­lay­ered floor with a slide-out drawer, which is handy for hid­ing smaller items.

Un­for­tu­nately, the full-sized spare wheel is stored un­der this dual floor, which makes its re­moval te­dious.

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