Driven: 2015 Nissan X-Trail

Driven: 2015 Nissan X-Trail

It’s a good thing Nissan’s latest SUV has an X-Trail badge on the boot door, because otherwise you might not know what it was. That’s how much the latest X-Trail has moved on from the first and second generations of the vehicle that has served Nissan so well since being introduced in 2001. The square, chunky look that gained so many admirers over the years has all but disappeared.

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Don’t get me wrong. The X-Trail is now a modern crossover vehicle with flowing, sexy lines, following the “design language” we recognise from the Juke, but which probably goes as far back as the Murano. It is longer than before and most of this is now in the wheelbase, which apparently gives rear passengers 80% more knee-room. Look at it from the side and it’s easy to imagine you can see that extra length and reallocation of space. Ground clearance is a handy 210mm.

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There are standard and optional hi-tech extras galore, include lane-keeping and blind-spot devices and a bird’s-eye view monitor to help with parking, as well as an infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen. Big news is that the X- Trail now comes with a six- year, 150 000km warranty and a five-year, 90 000km service plan.That’s a big plus in these times, when customers are looking for every bit of added value. Nissan sees the X-Trail slotting in above its popular Juke and Qashqai models. It is a global car for the company and will be sold in 190 countries.

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The vehicles destined for South Africa will be built in Japan. The range will consist of eight models, including a choice of three engines, five or seven seats and six-speed manual or Xtronic constantly variable transmission (CVT) auto gearboxes. It weighs about 90kg less than its predecessor. There are many small details that improve the X- Trail, such as the rear doors being able to open to 80 degrees, making access easier.

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There are also model-specific goodies such as a sliding, tilting sunroof and a powered boot door with sensors, so you can open it without using your hands. The attractive alloy wheels start at 17 inches and go all the way up to an optional 20 inches. The spares are full-sized. The launch drive in the Pretoria, Cullinan and rural surrounds, was a good test for the X-Trail, because we traversed highways and gravel and country roads. The car was comfortable and quiet and the interior, although fuss-free, gave a favourable impression of quality.

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My driving partner and I got our hands on an entry-level XE petrol model, which proved itself to be a comfortable cruiser and adept on the rougher surfaces. At a 4×4 area en route we swapped to a 4WD X-Trail with an auto gearbox and put it through its paces over a series of obstacles — conquered with ease in the Lock mode, with the hill-descent mechanism also performing impressively. The 4×4 model has a number of other chassis control devices. You get the impression that a 4WD X-Trail will take you most places relatively easily and in comfort.

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People with larger families are going to love the seven-seat options, which don’t add much to the price. Without having driven it, I’d have to say the 1.6dCi model may be the most interesting, tempting choice. The turbodiesel, developed in conjunction with Nissan’s partner, Renault, produces 96kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm at a mere 1 750rpm. The 1.6dCi comes in 4×4 mode as well, but the entry-level 4×2, at just over R350000, is also worth a look.

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Only the 2-litre XE petrol model is cheaper. Nissan has been engaged in a big global push recently, and in South Africa half its model range has been renewed in the past 18 months. The recently launched Qashqai has been well received and, said a Nissan spokesman, the company expects similar success with the X-Trail and plans to sell 500 000 a year around the world.

The Facts: 2014 Nissan X-Trail

2.0 XE
Engine: 1 997cc four-cylinder, direct-injection petrol
Power: 106kW at 6 000rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 4 400rpm
Top speed: not available
0 -100km/h: 11.1seconds
Consumption claimed: 8.3l/100km
Pricing: R327 700 (five seats), R334 700 (seven seats)

1.6 dCi XE, SE and LE
Engine: 1 598cc four- cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 96kW at 4 000rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1750rpm
Top speed: not available
0 -100km/h: 10.5sec
Gearbox: six-speed manual, choice of 4WD or 4×2
Consumption claimed: 5.1l/100km
Pricing: from R351 000 (five seats) to R357 400 (seven seats) to R388 000 SE (4WD) up to R473 600 for range-topping LE 4WD

2.5 SE
Engine: 2 488cc four- cylinder direct-injection petrol
Power: 126kW at 6 000rpm
Torque: 233Nm at 4 000rpm
Gearbox: Xtronic CVT, 4WD
Top speed: not available
0 -100km/h: 10.5sec
Consumption claimed: 8.3l/100km
Pricing: R364 200 (five seats) to R370 200 (seven seats)

Bruce Bennett