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Driving Impression: Nissan X-Trail 2.0 XE

4 January 2015

Nissan’s new X-Trail has gone in a different direction style wise from its predecessors, but underneath it’s still the same SUV we know and love.

I don’t particularly like the styling of the new Nissan X-Trail, or the Qashqai for that matter.

It’s not that I find the design offensive or dull. In fact, with its rounded edges and dynamic side profile, it actually looks rather handsome, but I can’t help but think some of its character has gone missing. It’s the same story with the Qashqai.

The Qashqai used to be the funky compact crossover, while the X-Trail was a boxy, macho SUV. Now they appear to be twins, with one merely being 20% larger than the other.

I wouldn’t normally comment on my personal feelings about styling, but in this case it’s necessary because it’s about the only criticism I have of an otherwise great car. On the other hand, the comment won’t count for much if  you find Nissan’s new design appealing!

And while the design might be a big departure, Nissan has stayed close to the formula that has made the X-Trail such a global success story.

At the recent launch event, I found myself behind the wheel of the entry-level front-wheel drive petrol derivative, which will probably be the volume seller in the range.

This model uses a 2,0-litre four-cylinder engine, mated to a smooth six-speed manual transmission. It puts out 106kW and 200Nm of torque, which is perfectly adequate, even for a car as big as the X-Trail. It’s not going to break any speed records, but it does a decent job in the city and on the highway.

Nissan claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 8,3 l/100km for this particular model.

The interior, while slightly unimaginative, is attractively appointed. The sound insulation is most impressive, with the X-Trail being on a par with vehicles costing twice as much.

The layout is logical, there’s loads of space (thanks to an increased wheelbase) and, even in basic XE trim, it comes with everything a reasonable person could want or need in a car. It has air-conditioning, a decent sound system with all the obligatory connectivity features, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel and cooled bottle holders in the centre console.

The X-Trail proved to be a worthy and comfortable companion on our 200km test run, but this on-road prowess hasn’t had a negative effect on the vehicle’s ability to tackle a gravel road. As far as the driver is concerned, the road surface merely changes colour. The X-Trail glides over dirt, but that’s not the most impressive thing about it. Those of you who regularly drive on gravel roads will know that, for the most part, it is a deafening experience. Even on dirt roads, the interior of the X-Trail remained quiet and rattle free. Well, at least quiet enough for me to have a conversation with my co-pilot.

The more adventurous drivers will be happy to hear that the X-Trail is still very capable when the going gets extra tough. My short stint behind the wheel of the 2,5-litre petrol AWD CVT model was enough to confirm this.

Nissan allowed us to tackle a few obstacles on an off-road course, and while it wasn’t exactly a white-knuckle experience, it certainly proved that the new X-Trail is capable of doing a lot more than the average buyer would expect of it.

Retailing at R327 700, the entry-level X-Trail XE matches rival vehicles in this segment. You do, however, get Nissan’s class-leading six-year/150 000km warranty and five-year/90 000km service plan as standard, which just shows that Nissan has a lot of confidence in this product.

For years the X-Trail was considered the “default SUV” in its segment, but as it aged, it started slipping slowly downwards. With the introduction of the new X-Trail, Nissan is once again back on top.