ON THE ROAD
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.