New X-Trail is a weekend warrior
Not a full-blown 4x4, but it has great ride quality on tar and trail
IT WAS a slight scraping sound from under the front of the car – as a I nudged forward over some rocks – which finally brought the trail to an end for Nissan’s new XTrail. Even with a fairly decent approach angle of 24 degrees, and a ground clearance of 209mm, there would have been too much metal/granite contact.
So I backed off and turned around. Whatever lay of the other side of the rocky outcrop remained unexplored.
Cars like this are often bought for their pose value and most are destined for the shopping-mall car park or the school run, not a game reserve road in Limpopo.
However, when you badge your car a “4x4”, Nissan, expect to have its credentials put to the test. So that’s what I did.
Having been beaten by the rocky section was a pity because, up to then, the car had passed the “weekend warrior” test. The chassis coped well with a number of axle-twisters which the day before hadn’t been there – but a fall of 85mm of rain in a night at the Limpopo game lodge wrought a drastic change to the dirt roads. Having the ground clearance made me thankful I was in a crossover rather than a sedan.
The new X-Trail is slighter lighter than the outgoing model (by about 90kg or so) and the new, macho design makes it appear larger – but the approach and departure angles are less impressive than they were previously.
It’s got the same “4x4i” (4x4 Intelligent) part-time four-wheel-drive system found on the previous XTrail and other vehicles in the Nissan-Renault stable.
My problem with these part-time systems is that people are often fooled by the marketing banter.
The car remains front-wheeldriven for most of the time, in the interests of fuel economy (and it does work, I’ll give it that). But, when the electronics detect slippage at the front, power is channelled to the rear wheels as well.
You can lock the drivetrain in 4WD mode – but everything unlocks once you hit 40km/h. And, as any hardened 4x4 or gravel-road driver will tell you, you need all-wheeldrive most at speeds above 40km/h because of the increased balance and control this gives you.
Once the X-Trail system unlocks itself, you are basically in a high-riding, high centre-of-gravity, frontwheel-drive station wagon.
There is a clever animated graphic on the dash which shows exactly where the power is going (Ford’s AWD Kuga has something similar) … but even in sandy conditions, I never saw the rear getting much more than 10 percent.
It is also not as sharp in the handling stakes as its smaller sibling, the Qashqai – but it is still a good drive.
The ride, particularly, is out- standing on both tar and dirt, the 225-65 17” Yokohama dual-purpose tyres soaking up many undulations and bumps.
The version we had on test – the 2.4 petrol engined 4WD with CVT gearbox – is the least attractive of all, though.
The engine is rough and doesn’t like to rev – traits which are thrown into stark relief by the awful CVT box: pulling out to overtake produces a death-like groan from the engine as the revs spiral and then the box catches up.
To be fair, though, that is on the highway. Off road, crawling through a game park, the CVT really comes into its own. You can dawdle along almost as slowly as with a proper first gear, low range – and the relief of not having to keep gear changing. Something to think about ...
Surprisingly, given the large capacity petrol engine and auto box, I got really good economy from the X-Trail. We covered 650km on the 60-litre tank at an indicated 8.1 litres per 100km. That included highway driving and about 40km of offroad work, including stretches with the 4x4 system locked. Nissan claims an overall city and open road figure of 8.3l/100km. In the city, you will probably get between 11 and 12l/100km.
Nissan claims the 96kW 1.6 diesel engine AWD version averages 5.3l/100km which is enticing – although the base model diesel 4x4 costs R388 000 against the 2.4’s R364 000. There is an even more expensive diesel AWD 4x4 version, which comes in at an eye-watering R473 000. When you look at those figures, the petrol version, despite its higher fuel consumption, does start to look like a bargain. VERDICT The X-Trail is one of the better crossovers out there. It is well made, comfortable, economical and it comes with a five-year, 90 000km service plan.
Ford’s Kuga and Subaru’s Forester are better, though, if you want to have more offroad options.
Latest version of Nissan’s X-Trail crossover features more curvaceous lines than its predecessor. It’s also 90kg lighter.
CVT ‘box fine offroad, but not on tar.