- Quiet, refined ride
- Upmarket interior
- Confident handler
- Not the cheapest
- Rearmost seats are cramped
The latest Nissan X-Trail has left its rugged off-roading roots behind to become more like the Qashqai. Ben Griffin reviews the new 1.6 DIG-T petrol to see if its new family-friendly approach makes sense.
Crossovers are all the rage these days and Nissan should know, seeing as it was the first to introduce them with the Qashqai and the first to shrink them down with the Juke.
Capitalising on the best of both mentality is the new X-Trail. It still has a touch of off-roading spirit like its predecessor and the looks of the Qashqai, but is a bigger proposition with two extra seats.
The Qashqai was always the better car and its ridiculously high sales figures would suggest consumers agree. Can the addition of an eco-friendly DIG-T turbocharged petrol help the X-Trail shine? We headed to Geneva in Switzerland to find out.
The X-Trail is instantly recognisable as a Nissan and can easily be confused with the Qashqai. It’s tasteful and still has a bit of rugged charm about it, particularly as it’s larger than the average crossover.
A 76mm longer wheelbase means there’s more space for legs in the second row of seats, while new sculpted seats make life comfier for all. It is also 90kg lighter than its predecessor and has the same 210mm of ground clearance despite having a roof that’s 5mm lower.
Inside, the comfy seats and upmarket materials go a long way in making it feel more premium than some of its rivals, save for the dated textured plastic on the dashboard, which looks a bit naff.
Practicality is a strong suit for the X-Trail. Fold the third row of seats flat and you get 550 litres of boot space – 120 litres more than a Qashqai and 47 litres more than a Mazda CX-5. That and various storage spaces make it ready to take on all amounts of clutter.
Speaking of the boot, there are nine storage configurations available including the ability to segment it into upper and lower areas, so you can store a bit of shopping on top and, say, a pram below. An automatic tailgate saves you the hassle of opening and closing it manually.
Interior space is generous to the point where a six-footer in the front won’t make life miserable for another six-footer in the back, in terms of both head and leg room. The rearmost row of seats are for (very) small folk, but how often will have to ferry about seven fully-grown adults?
Admittedly a Kia Sorento is larger on the inside but not drastically.
Performance & handling
The new 1.6 DIG-T turbocharged petrol engine is designed to offer a potent mix of performance and fuel economy. In reality the 0-62mph sprint of 9.7 seconds is reasonable and makes the X-Trail feel fun but the diesel is more torquey and feels just as fast, even if it is slower on paper.
Even so, 161bhp and 240Nm propels the X-Trail up to motorway speeds with surprising conviction. It’s just things fall apart on steep hills where we had to drop down a cog or two to keep up momentum.
The engine note is likable until the revs pick up, but it’s mainly quiet. Meanwhile the standard six-speed manual has a relatively long throw but it’s light and easy to change.
The handling is responsive and it will go into corners at speed and remain composed, but is lacking in engagement. It’s has a clinical feel to it akin to a German car, which is no bad thing.
Light steering should compound the lack of feeling but the X-Trail is surprisingly good at telling you before it’s going to understeer and grip is lost.
Our test roads were relatively forgiving but the X-Trail’s ride, which borders on firm, soaked up the few bumps it did encounter without being wallowly.
Economy & environment
The X-Trail does surprisingly well in the CO2 department, emitting just 129g per kilometre in two-wheel drive spec, 135g/km if you shell out for the XTronic automatic, and 139g/km for the All Mode 4×4-i transmission – 18 per cent less than the outgoing model.
Even with Start/Stop, which shuts the engine off when the car comes to a halt, the fuel economy of the new petrol is behind the diesel (a claimed 44.1mpg versus 57.6mpg for the 1.5dCi).
In terms of the wider competition, the Mazda CX-5 2.0 does better with 47.1mpg and is faster to 62mph.
The petrol engine is £1,590 cheaper but the improved fuel economy and drivability of the diesel makes it worthwhile in the long run, so we would go for that.
Equipment & value
There’s plenty of standard equipment to sink your teeth into, such as air-conditioning, alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control with speed limiter, sliding and reclining rear seats and hill start assist. Prices start from £21,995 for the 163 DIG-T Visia.
Nissan told us to expect a new trim level called N-Connecta that gives you more gadgets like navigation at a lower price-point, so no need to go for the top-spec Tekna unless you really do want all the bells and whistles.
Navigation can be had on the Tucson from as little as £21,295. That’s a whopping £5,150 more than on the N-Tec X-Trail where navigation is standard.
If you do, however, opt for Tekna (starting from £28,445 for the DIG-T 163 2WD) you can expect Bi-LED headlamps, leather seats, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat, engine start button, front and rear parking sensors and 19-inch alloys.
The X-Trail is one of the safer options. It has a five-star Euro NCAP rating in addition to a relatively lengthy crumple zone, six airbags and a chassis that’s 49 per cent high-strength steel.
Various electronic systems help the X-Trail avoid a collision in the first place, including Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Driver Attention Alert for checking if you are tired or not.
In many ways the Qashqai is the better car, but the new diesel and petrol engines make the X-Trail more competitive and there’s no disputing the fact it can come with seven seats and has substantially more space, which will appeal to larger families.
The X-Trail is quiet and refined, with a wonderfully smooth petrol engine, which makes it a pleasure to drive. We think it’s stylish enough to keep the neighbours talking, too.
So what’s the catch? There isn’t one, really. The Qashqai is better value for money if you can forgo seven seats, but if you need to carry a lot of passengers in comfort and style, the X-Trail is well worth looking at.
|Engine||1.6-litre DIG-T petrol|
|Torque||240Nm from 2,000rpm|
|Acceleration||0-62mph in 9.7 seconds|
|Emissions||From 129g/km of CO2|