AT A GLANCE

Mercury (Hobart) - Cars Guide - - FIRST DRIVE - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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