Nissan’s X-Trail is now more of a rounded proposition and less of a square deal. We test the new seven-seat version.
Base price: $39,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.5-litre petrol four, 126kW/226Nm, continuously variable transmission with six-step mode, front-drive, Combined economy 8.1 litres per 100km
Vital statistics: 4640mm long, 1710mm high, wheelbase 2705mm, luggage capacity 495-1500 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels on 225/65 Yokohama Geolander tyres.
We like: Confident style, value, well-packaged third-row seats.
We don’t like: Chassis unruly without all-wheel drive, lacks clever load-carrying options of five-seat version.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Nissan has thrown away the box that the X-Trail came in. After two generations of set-square styling and practicality-comes-first packaging, the X-Trail has gone all curvaceous. There’s a reason for that: crossover/SUV models are crucial to Nissan and the company is establishing a clear family look for its range. So the new X-Trail is very similar to the full-size Pathfinder, and the forthcoming new-generation Qashqai (which fits underneath X-Trail) and Murano will be the same.
Whether four very similar looking models will be a bit confusing for buyers is a moot point. But Nissan certainly has its crossover bases covered. Styling aside, one big change for the new X-Trail is the availability of a seven-seat model, albeit only in entry-level ST specification. That’s the model on test here.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? All X-Trail models have the same direct-injection 2.5-litre petrol engine (the slow-selling diesel engine has been dropped) and continuously variable transmission. What makes the ST seven-seater a little different is that it’s only available with front-drive, whereas all other models (including the ST five-seater) are all-wheel drive.
It’s actually a big difference. It’s well-accepted that these types of vehicles don’t often go off-road, so on paper the lack of all-wheel drive is not a big deal. But based on experience with other X-Trail variants, it’s still desirable on-road: the combination of a sprightly engine with soft suspension means it’s all too easy to spin the front wheels – especially in the wet. The X-Trail has a full suite of traction and stability control systems, but it’s still a bit frustrating to have to be so careful with the throttle on low-traction surfaces.
That aside, the X-Trail is a very easy machine to drive, as you’d expect of what is essentially a family express. The steering is light, the chassis compliant and visibility is good out of the high-set cabin.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Some practicality has been sacrificed for style in the transition from old X-Trail to new. The previous model had a cavernous load bay, flat floor and the ability to swallow an entire mountain bike. The new car is larger on the outside, but less practical inside. The second-row seats slide and the backrests fold down, but you still have a significant step up from the boot floor through to the cabin if you are loading long items. Indeed, the whole ambience of the cabin has changed from utility to an aspiration towards more luxury. The dashboard is quietly elegant and despite being the entry model the ST still has the full Nissan Connect touch screen (including smartphone apps like Pandora), although you have to step up to the Ti to get sat-nav.
Some of the equipment seems a little basic, for sure: manual air conditioning, no automatic control for the wipers. But then you get a few surprise-and-delight features, such as keyless entry/start and heated/cooled cupholders. Rear ventilation outlets are a boon for family driving as well.
The third-row seating is easily raised in one movement. It’s occasional only, but comfortable enough for children and has been packaged into exactly the same wheelbase as the five-seat car. Go for seven seats and you do miss out on the clever (but dreadfully named) Divide-N-Hide cargo system, which has two separate partitions and three possible floor heights for a variety of load-space configurations. You do still get a neat underfloor storage space for the tonneau cover, though – just as well, because it must be removed to raise/use the third-row seating.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? We do miss the unashamed utility of the old X-Trail. But the new one certainly steps up a notch on style and quality. The addition of the seven-seat option is also welcome. The ST desperately needs all-wheel drive and the option of the more luxurious ST-L and even Ti specifications would be worthwhile for the seven-seat version. But there’s a good reason why Nissan New Zealand is keeping the X-Trail seven-seat nice and simple: it’s only one of four crossover models in the portfolio and it doesn’t want to risk taking the price of this X-Trail too close to its other seven-seater, the Pathfinder.
Shame, because a high-end X-Trail is a more appealing proposition than a Pathfinder in many ways. But that’s the way it is. So if you can do without the third-row seating, look at a five-seat version and get the benefit of four-wheel drive. If the extra chairs are your thing, this model is still ticks a lot of boxes – with $10 change from $40k, the X-Trail with the most seats is also the least expensive in the range.
EQUIPMENT CHECKLISTAir conditioning: ManualAudio: CD, iPod compatibleAutomatic lights/wipers: Yes/NoBlind spot warning: NoBluetooth: YesCruise control: YesDriver footrest: YesHead-up display: NoHeated/ventilated seats: NoKeyless entry/start: Yes/YesLane guidance: NoLeather upholstery: NoParking radar: CameraPower boot or tailgate: NoPower seat adjustment/memory: NoRear ventilation outlets: YesRemote audio controls: YesSatellite navigation: NoSeat height adjustment: YesSelf-parking technology: NoSplit/folding rear seats: 40/20/40Steering reach adjustment: YesStop-start: NoTrip computer: Yes
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