We do like the Nissan X-Trail around here.
Mainly because it's a bit of an anti-crossover. Most soft-roaders in this segment are all about fashion. Not the Nissan: saying it's plain is putting it kindly, but it is supremely functional.
Massive glass areas all around, copious interior storage, easy-fold rear seats and a tough plastic-lined cargo area that can swallow a mountain bike (or two) whole: to use an X-Trail is to love it. What's missing from this big, square Nissan is something to sex it up a little. A unique selling proposition. Something to stop people simply passing it over because it doesn't exactly grab the eye. Around View might do it. At the very least, it does grab the eye and take it 360 degrees.
Around View is a four-camera system that's now fitted as standard to the top versions of the X-Trail (2.5-litre Ti petrol $49,990, 2.0-litre TL turbo-diesel $51,990).
It's not exactly new. BMW offers something almost identical called Surround View (see what they've done there?) for example. But it is quite clever and Around View is certainly unique in the compact-crossover segment.
The quartet of Around View cameras feed images into a screen in the centre console. You can have a bird's-eye view of the car in real-time (it's kind of like Google Earth for parking) or close-ups of the front/side/rear of the car. Naturally, the setup also provides a conventional reversing camera.
As with any such system, the view you get from the combination of fisheye cameras is quite distorted. Reality television is not the goal: rather, Around View aims to give you a good overall picture of where your car sits in relation to other objects, to assist in parking or other manoeuvres. Keep that in mind and it's an extremely useful tool and a really good toy to show your friends.
The close-up views do take a lot of the stress out of close-quarters work. Although you have to remember that the wide-angle lenses make things look a lot further away than they really are, they are still a reliable means of checking that you're not actually touching that Bentley behind you. If there's clear air visible, there's clear air there – albeit quite a bit less than it looks.
A novel but useful system, then, and one that comes with the bonus of satellite navigation incorporated into the same head unit and screen.
The least visible compact-crossover on the market now gives you the clearest view out. Funny how things work out.