AT A GLANCE
THE latest must-have automotive marketing tool is autonomous emergency braking — it’s today’s version of electronic stability control in the 2000s.
The newest players in the mid-sized SUV market have the feature as standard and Nissan is so serious about competing on even terms it has fitted the full suite of sensors to its facelifted X-Trail, plus a diesel engine matched to an automatic transmission.
Adding much more than a new set of lights and bumpers on a mainstream midlife update is unusual — but so is the X-Trail.
The boxy SUV can be configured as a five or sevenseater, comes in front and allwheel drive guises and is one of the more practical vehicles in the segment.
That’s not a smart way of saying it isn’t as fancy as the Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Tucson — it is a reflection of the lifestyle Nissan says its buyers enjoy. And enjoy it buyers do, with the X-Trail wearing the mantle of Nissan’s best-selling vehicle.
Of course, Nissan’s stocks are temporarily limited after the maker announced it was stopping sales of its last sedan, the Altima, in Australia.
That leaves it without a player in the light, small and mid-sized passenger segments until new products flow through the global pipeline — and makes the company’s SUVs all the more crucial for the next couple of years.
Which is precisely why the X-Trail picks up AEB across the range. It is a tacit acknowledgment of the arrival of the CX-5 with the same feature on all its variants.
As well as that, it aims to pitch the X-Trail as superior to the likes of the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, which don’t have the sensors even as an option on lower-spec variants.
The X-Trail gains a larger, thicker V-shaped grille, edgier creases on the front and rear bumpers, revised lights, flatbottom steering wheel and minor interior tweaks.
Prices are unchanged on front-wheel drive X-Trails and drop by up to $1490 on AWD variants. The most expensive versions also pick up the likes of a kick-activated powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlamps and moving object detection when reversing at up to 8km/h.
The popular ST-L versions begin at $36,590 for the frontdrive five-seater, rise by $1500 for seven seats and cost $38,590 for the AWD with five seats.
A turbo diesel arrives in September and should contribute to a sales surge, along with the addition of a more powerful (130kW/ NISSAN X-TRAIL PRICE $27,990-$47,290 WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km CAPPED SERVICING $1232 for 40,000km (2.5) SERVICE INTERVAL 12 months/10,000km SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 106kW/200Nm; 2.5-litre 4-cyl, 126kW/226Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/380Nm TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed man (2.0 only), CVT; FWD/AWD THIRST 6.1L-8.3L/100km DIMENSIONS 4690mm (L), 1820mm (W), 1740mm (H), 2705mm (WB) WEIGHT 1425kg-1664kg SPARE Space-saver TOWING 1500kg (1650kg diesel) 380Nm) 2.0-litre engine matched to a constantly variable transmission.
The previous 1.6-litre diesel could only be paired with a manual, which buyers avoided. Prices for the oilburners start at $35,490 for the TS and step up to $47,290 for the TL
ON THE ROAD
The Nissan is not going to challenge the CX-5 or VW Tiguan for on-the-limit handling but, at less frantic speeds, it deserves serious consideration. The body doesn’t lean much in the turns, the steering is light but accurate and the sliding second-row seats can liberate a surprising amount of legroom.
A stint on hard-packed but pockmarked gravel shows FWD and AWD versions alike have decent off-road manners. The stability control intervenes only when necessary, so there’s scope to let the X-Trail move around a bit before worrying about intervention.
The only real complaint is the continuously variable transmission is typically noisy under load. Push the accelerator moderately hard and the Nissan responds with a drone that doesn’t abate until the desired speed is achieved. It’s acceptable in a $30K car; less likely to earn favour against the top-spec shoppers in the $40K-plus segment competing against plenty of perfectly good conventional autos.
AEB is a welcome and worthy addition that, along with holding or trimming the line on prices, should ensure the X-Trail continues to flourish. The refinement of the newer rivals means it won’t be an automatic choice and I’d be haggling on price from the get-go.