Initial impressions of a motor vehicle can be quite a powerful emotion and long lasting, almost like a young duckling imprinting on its mother for the first time.
And so it was with the first iteration of the Nissan X-Trail. What I liked most of all was the fact the actual front corners of the vehicle were visible, whatever the seating position, a like emphasised as we put it through its paces on the launch activation by driving off-road in situations most owner would never contemplate.
The latest version, launched in South Africa in October this year, stays true to that, even though the overall shape has modernised and rounded out somewhat from the original ‘brick’ design to become what designers would probably refer to as svelte.
X-Trail is a medium size SUV competing in a rather busy and cutthroat market segment. X-Trail garnered significant support and many thought Nissan had shot itself in its own foot when it introduced the more luxurious Murano and followed this by the smaller Qashqai, both of which seemed pretty direct competition for the X-Trail.
At that time, the X-Trail itself had ‘softened’ slightly in terms of looks to be rather a morphed cousin to the other two. Locally, Murano did not last all that long, giving back to the X-Trail in terms of size, while Qashqai continues happily in its smaller sibling role.
The latest iteration of X-Trail brings in a raft of new technology under the Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) banner as well as offering the option of a seven-seat configuration.
Including the USA, where the car is badged Rogue, some 3,7-million have been sold since the first Nissan X-Trail was launched in 2000. It is also a record-breaker. Including Rogue sales, in FY16 the X-Trail was the world’s most popular SUV, with 766 000 vehicles sold – more than any other rival model.
The Nissan X-Trail has always been known for its sculpted and muscular styling, with chiselled lines, high wheel arches and elegant curves on the bonnet. All of those characteristics remain, and are now showcased through a distinctive and robust redesign of the front end, adding a new dynamism and more premium styling cues.
At its heart is Nissan’s latest ‘V-motion’ grille, wider than before and echoed in the design of the bumper beneath. The redesign makes much greater use of the X-Trail’s body colour, with the visible black plastic benefiting from a smart new gloss black finish.
On either side of the grille are new headlamp clusters, with much clearer design differentiation between the halogen units on Visia and Acenta and feature the latest version of the X-Trail’s ‘boomerang’ Daytime Running Light signature.
At the rear of the new X-Trail, the bumper has been redesigned and the rear lamp signature has been upgraded to become full LED, while the parking sensors are improved, as at the front of the car.
The upgrades have resulted in a slight change to the overall length of the car – an increase of 50 mm means it is now 4 690 mm from bumper to bumper. There is no change to the new X-Trail’s width (1 830 mm), height (1 710 mm) or wheelbase (2 705mm).
Inside, the new steering wheel is the first thing drivers will notice. It echoes the design of Nissan’s newest models globally and is standard across the X-Trail range. Now D-shaped, the horizontal base means easier entry and exit for the driver, as well as providing a sportier look and feel.
The new X-Trail has a redesigned central armrest storage area and models with the XTronic automatic transmission, the gear selector has been restyled and features a new leather-style gaiter.
The boot on the new X-Trail is larger than before. Thanks to improved packaging, VDA capacity is up from 550 litres to 565 litres on the five-seat version with all seats in place. Total space with all seats folded flat increases to 1 996 litres.
Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) highlights include Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention that alerts the driver to the presence of vehicles in blind spots diagonally behind the car, Intelligent Lane Intervention and Intelligent Cross Traffic Alert that can detect and warn the driver of vehicles that are approaching behind the X-Trail.
Intelligent Emergency Braking uses radar technology to keep an eye on speed and proximity to the vehicle in front and will alert the driver before engaging the brakes. Intelligent Forward Collision Warning helps alert drivers of an impending collision with a slower moving or stationary car. Intelligent Auto Headlights and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection – a support technology that assists drivers to park more easily by providing a better understanding of the vehicle’s surroundings.
I have never been a great fan of CVT gearboxes and, despite the fact the Xtronic unit fitted to the X-Trail ranks amongst the better ones, I still believe a ‘proper’ automatic gearbox would be a far better proposition, especially off-road if you intend to try and finesse the throttle without dropping into manual mode.
The 2 488 cm3 four-cylinder petrol engine producing 126 kW at 6 000 r/min and 233 Nm at 4 000 r/min produces 197 g/km of CO2 and has an average fuel consumption that can be contained to 8,6 l/100 km in normal conditions.
Power and torque are more than ample for what this X-Trail is designed for and, unlike some petrol models, there is not a black hole of zero torque below that peak efficiency of 4 000 r/min.
Driver options are standard two-wheel drive, Auto and four-wheel drive locked, with the former sending power to the front wheels. The Auto option is quick on the uptake and efficiently provides drive to the rear the instant any slippage is detected at the front.
Locked in all-wheel drive, the X-Trail outperforms its looks and, like that first generation I drove, can take on quite demanding rough roads and obstacles bigger than a shopping centre kerb.
The front suspension consists of an independent strut type with stabiliser bar backed up by a multi-link setup with stabiliser at the rear.
Ride quality is good both on and off road with the seats supportive and comfortable over long distance – naturally the full air-conditioning dealing with ambient temperature and the upgraded sound system laying down whatever beats move the occupants.
Fully kitted with anti-lock brakes, multiple air bags, stability and traction control along with the other previously mentioned systems, the X-Trail offers latest generation safety (active and passive) to mitigate injury in the event of a crash.
The X-Trail remains and icon in its segment – and rightly so.