The road to Port Douglas. Windy, twisty, scenic and thrilling. It’s a sunny day, 30 degrees in fact, and our hour long journey through the hills and along the coast will test out our vehicle’s climate control to the max.
While the road is fitting for an exotic sports car as the sun rises, we’re taking a less cliché approach today. I collect a Nissan X-trail, and slide the key fob into my pocket, never to be seen again.
The keyless entry blips and in we climb. The first thing I notice is that the x-trail is uncharacteristically toy-car like as I’ve come to expect at least in lower end Nissans. Rather than the ‘quirky’ approach of the Qashqai, the X-trail features roominess and practicality by the truck load. The plastics, whilst not on the level of a Mercedes or BMW, aren’t expected to be. What they do bring to the party is a no-nonsense, rugged feel.
Behind the Wheel
Perhaps outgunned by the driving position in something like the CRV, The X-Trail is still a nice place to be.
The controls are spaciously laid out and I didn’t find myself fiddling for the right button like I would in a Falcon for example. The speedo is large enough that my mum would be able to read it without too much of a squint. Functional, bold and effective.
An LCD rides in the middle giving you the necessary details about your ride.
Happy to say that the Bluetooth pairs up nice and easily too – and stays that way. You get a large LCD media screen which can display a plethora of apps through your smart phone. Nissan have gone the way of Toyota in utilising the navigation through your phone as opposed to an inbuilt mapping system – which has its benefits, the main one being that you don’t have to worry about updates.
The first impressions continue with a walk around. Front and rear park sensors? Check. Reversing camera? Sure. In fact this Fully loaded rendition of a family 4×4 comes equipped with:
Blind spot warning.
LED daytime running lights
The standard Cruise control
Tyre pressure monitoring,
Dual Zone Climate Control and;
Automatic lights and wipers, to name a few of the features.
My favourite bit is a little vent in the arm rest cup holder to keep your ginger beer nice and chilly. The range steps from entry level ‘Visia’ through to Chart-Topping ‘Tekna’
There are plenty of trimmings such as leather and electric everything that you can add in addition. The boot is spacious offering 500 litres of capacity; that’s enough to carry two large bags equipped with a shirt for every occasion and a small chemists supply of men’s grooming goods. Oh and of course a couple of cartons. The doors open generously wide making getting in and out child’s play.
A firm push on the start/stop button and the peppy 1.6 diesel engine springs to life, the only engine available in the range at one point, now complimented by a 2.5 petrol option which is somewhat a testament to the market that Nissan is targeting here.
It’s zippy enough, pulling the X-Trail from 0-100 in 10.5 seconds. For such a large machine, that’s not a bad effort by any measure. The six speed manual boasts 139g/km co2 emissions, making it the pick for fleet owners. There is however the CVT gearbox, aka the Xtronic which is designed to feel like a traditional auto.
It spits out 96kw and 320Nm of torque so it is set to battle through the typical family duties. Despite it’s brutish appearance, the X-Trail will only tow 750kg unbraked. Enough for a getaway perhaps, but not to tow a jeep that has gotten bogged. Which leads to another point but we’ll touch on that later.
The X-Trail claims to be capable off-road, and you can’t deny it tries. But before you hit the mucky stuff, you’ll have to chew up some tarmac kms first. And credit where credit is due, the X-Trail doesn’t have the mannerisms of a relatively large family SUV on the road. It steers nicely and dare I say it, even gives some useful feedback through the wheel. The supple suspension smooths out the roads and as I push on the Chassis control kicks in, applying the brakes to each wheel tenderly and independently to keep us travelling the right way up.
The 1.6 diesel isn’t the ideal choice, whilst the turbo charger keeps it chugging along when it gets up to speed, around town and taking off from the lights, it feels a little asthmatic. A victim of the small capacity turbocharged engines that are becoming all so fashionable.
Throw the X-Trail from side to side and you will feel the chassis lurch, but for more gradual twisties, it is soothing enough to pilot. You don’t feel like you will get out of shape and it recovers from bumps with stability. In the wet stuff, the 4×4 will keep you going, but don’t expect to go everywhere a Landcruiser would. Naturally. It just isn’t build for serious exploration. The clearance is more family convenience than Bear Grylls, and I was surprised to hear a crunch from under the vehicle when I pulled into my hotels poorly maintained carpark with a bit of gusto. In sand you feel the wheels scrambling for grip as all of the pseudo-fourby’s do.
Keep in mind that if you opt for 7 seats, you also opt for two wheel drive; and if you opt for 4×4 you loose the under boot storage.
The CRV is the natural competition for the X-Trail, without being notably more capable or rewarding. Larger vehicles such as the Kluger we tested feature curtain airbags for the third row seats unlike the X-Trail, whilst offerings from Honda, Mazda and Subaru have the option for automatic emergency braking which doesn’t make an appearance at club Nissan.
How do I feel? Surprised. I expected a slightly more hardy-go-anywhere vehicle in the X-Trail which was perhaps disappointing. (Maybe I had too many memories of the original X-Trail advert below!) BUT. From the easy entry from the keyless fob, to the comfortable seat, to the roomy cabin and long list of options, I can’t dislike it. It has typical modern Nissan styling, polite driving mannerisms, and (in petrol form at least) a bit of guts to match the garnish.
There are more capable wagons out there but that doesn’t detract from the X-Trail from being
satisfyingly universal, the X-Trail would make a great daily commuter-come-weekend greenlaner and is a perfectly good compromise between family life with a little adventure!