New X-Trail is a week­end war­rior

Not a full-blown 4x4, but it has great ride qual­ity on tar and trail

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TEST - BREN­DAN SEERY

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.

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