SPECS AND VERDICT Model
Nissan says it’s reinvented the SUV with the new X-Trail. The 2015 model doesn’t fly, isn’t a hovercraft, can’t double up as a submarine and it won’t bend space and time. Nothing’s been reinvented here. It’s a vehicle that is a crossover and can seat seven occupants, just the same as about a thousand other choices currently on the market.
But it happens to be one of the good choices.
Perhaps we should have a moan first about the X-Trail’s transition from rugged off-roader to sissy city slicker. The truth is Nissan’s obviously done its focus-group testing and X-Trail owners don’t go off-road, so the new car shares a manufacturing process (rather than a specific platform) with the little Qashqai and the upcoming Renault Espace.
The new X-Trail actually looks quite smart with its flowing lines – the exact opposite of its predecessor’s squared-off styling – and sits well proportioned on a longer wheelbase and wider track.
Along with Hyundai’s Santa Fe it’s probably the neatest-looking affordable large crossover on the market. It’s perfectly competitive inside too – some colleagues prefer the X-Trail’s cabin materials to its chief Korean rivals, and I prefer the Koreans’, so take a look for yourself if you’re going out car shopping.
Hyundai caters to smaller and bigger families by offering a fiveseater Santa Fe and a seven-seater Grand model, but Nissan just makes seven seats an option on the X-Trail despite being shorter than the
I kept snatching the horn every time I reversed and switching on the high beam when I indicated
Hyundai. It’s slightly longer than Honda’s CR-V though, wide too and taller than both of them, with a fairly longer wheelbase as well, and a significantly higher ground clearance than all its soft-roading rivals. So there’s room inside. If you opt for the third row, it’s nice to know you can slide and recline it instead of being burdened with a fixed bench.
It also folds completely flat – which Nissan seems proud of but, really, it is standard fare in the segment.
You can pick from three X-Trail trims starting with this S; the top SL trim is loaded with equipment including navigation, leather, LEDs, a panoramic sunroof, and useful features available in the colour driver display, such as tyre pressure monitoring. The entry-level S (and mid-level SV) feels a bit bare to be honest. There’s no sat-nav, the screen is tiny, cloth seats, only a single automatic one-touch window, and no side and curtain airbags in the fine Middle Eastern tradition of car manufacturers skimping on safety. In other markets all grades feature six airbags.
There are some useful bits (a total of Dh16K worth of options) like parking aids, roof rails, that sunroof, and cooled cupholders, which cool whether the vents are closed or open, so hurry up and drink your coffee.
Controls on the steering wheel are nicely laid out and simple to get around immediately, but I’m not a fan of the actual steering. It is obviously electric – I didn’t even have to look that up – and it hardly correlates at all with the angle of the front wheels. In terms of feel, it’s just terrible. I also kept snatching the horn somehow every time I reversed, and without fail kept switching on the high beams whenever I indicated.
I was expecting the CVT to be the bane of this new X-Trail but I just didn’t care enough to criticise it. It’s actually not that annoying; with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and merely 170bhp it’s not like I was going anywhere in a hurry (I was disappointed slightly with the urban fuel economy figures too; I averaged 11 litres per 100km) so the drone of the CVT wasn’t always lingering irritatingly. In fact if most of your driving is done in the city, you might never know there is a CVT under there somewhere, and I suspect many buyers won’t care either. There’s all-wheel drive though, and a rotary dial that lets you select between two-wheel drive (S only), auto mode and all-wheel drive, but I don’t know why. I’d just leave it in front-drive mode forever.
Competent car; drives fine, no obvious discomforts, rubbish steering, nice little engine, loads of room, looks all right, and it’s all about the pricing… The X-Trail line-up starts from Dh78,000 and goes to Dh117,000 for the SL.
X-Trail Engine 2.5-litre four-cyl Transmission Max torque 233Nm @ 4,000rpm Top speed NA 0-100kph NA Price Dh79,000117,000 (Dh94,000, as tested) Highs Nothing really wrong with it, practical and spacious Lows Maybe trifles (in the context of this class), for example, steering feel and airbags Max power 170bhp @ 6,000rpm