Nissan is hoping to muscle its way back to the pointy end of the SUV sales charts with an all-new X-Trail that brings more tech, more space and a bolder look.
Within months there will also be an e-Power hybrid model that promises an EV-like driving experience. The fourth-generation X-Trail, which will go head-to-head with the all-conquering Toyota RAV4, has better driving manners courtesy of new underpinnings.
The new X-Trail starts at about $40,500 drive-away for the ST. A seven-seat version paired with all-wheel-drive costs another $3040. Safety equipment includes blind-spot warning and auto emergency braking in forward and reverse. Smart-key entry, four USB ports and 17-inch alloys are also standard.
The ST-L is $6500 more and adds imitation leather, dual-zone airconditioning, a birdseye view camera and 18-inch wheels.
Both models have an 8.0-inch touchscreen, which looks undernourished against rivals.
The 4WD-only Ti costs $54,200 and adds a head-up display, digital instrument cluster, matrix LED headlights, real leather, wireless phone charging, ambient lighting, a panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The touchscreen also expands to a more generous 12.3 inches.
At the top of the range is the Ti-L, which costs $57,400. It has Nappa leather, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and rear side blinds.
While it’s marginally shorter than the model it replaces, the new X-Trail liberates more passenger space courtesy of a wider (by 20mm) and taller (15mm) body.
The adoption of a stubby electronic gear selector and button-operated park brake creates more space between front seat occupants and combines with a sizeable storage area beneath the floating console. It’s also a huge step up in ambience, courtesy of more comfortable seats, better attention to detail and higher quality finishes and materials. The cabin is quieter, thanks to additional sound deadening that calms wind and tyre noise.
The back seat of all but the entry-level ST folds in a 40/20/40 configuration and the base can slide forward or back to prioritise leg room or boot space.
Leg room is generous by mid-sized SUV standards, while the boot has a false floor and a divider that can be slotted vertically into a groove to create two smaller load spaces.
The third-row seats in ST and ST-L grades are best left to little ones, although the middle seat can be slid forward to create more leg room. Third-row passengers at least have a cupholder and small storage space each.
The new X-Trail is built for comfort rather than speed. Light steering is consistent in its feedback but while it points faithfully, it lacks the crispness of a Volkswagen or Mazda. It will protest if asked to change direction in a hurry.
It deals with bumps admirably, recovering its composure quickly. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder beneath the bonnet will be familiar to current owners, although it’s been heavily updated to boost outputs to 135kW and 244Nm (up 9kW and 18Nm). Teamed to a slick reacting CVT auto it’s a useful combination, although it will become vocal if you push on.
Front-drive variants can scrabble for traction on brisk takeoffs but all-wheel-drive versions put their power to the ground smoothly. There are two off-road-focused drive modes on AWD versions for those who want to get adventurous, although the X-Trail is more SUV than genuine off-roader and carries only a space-saver spare.
While some may welcome the lack of a stop-start system in the Nissan, it incrementally adds to the claimed fuel use, which is higher than some rivals. The official fuel figure for the new X-Trail is 7.4 litres per 100km, or 7.8L/100km for all-wheel drive models.
The Nissan is an honest and practical mid-sized SUV that’s not particularly exciting to drive but is spacious, good value and more stylish than its predecessor.
Spacious and generously appointed mid-sized SUV marks a return to form for Nissan’s family-focused SUV.
NISSAN X-TRAIL ST-L 2WD VITALS
PRICE From about $47,000 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICING Five yrs/unlimited km, $2989 for six yrs/60,000km
SAFETY Seven airbags, auto emergency braking, rear auto braking, lane-keep and blind-spot assist, speed-sign recognition
ENGINE 2.5-litre 4-cyl, 135kW and 244Nm
LUGGAGE 585 litres