Friday - - Motoring - CVT, AWD

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

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