First Drive: 2018 Nissan X-Trail

First Drive: 2018 Nissan X-Trail
 

Nissan SA has launched the updated version of its X-Trail sport utility vehicle to remain relevant and attractive.

First launched locally in 2015 the current X-Trail arrived shortly after the Qashqai was updated and seemed to offer a similar visage, with many wondering why the marque would bring out such similarly styled cars for different segments.

Of course, the much bigger X-Trail was also offered with the option of seven seats, which gave it a slight edge over its Qashqai sibling.

Since 2015, one of the X-Trail’s main drawcards was its price. Now the company has taken the knife to the model and the updates seem to work fairly well. For starters, the headlights now have LED daytime running lights and the model now has a V-Motion grille. There are new 17- and 19-inch wheels, while the tail-lights have been given a darkened effect.

The cabin has also been updated, with the infotainment interface and some materials having a better overall tactile quality than the pre-facelift models. You can still opt for a seven-seat option for the Visia specification (standard on high-specification Tekna variants), while the engines have been carried over. These include a 2.0-litre petrol with 106kW and 200Nm, a 1.6-litre dCi making 96kW and 320Nm and a 2.5-litre petrol mustering 126kW and 233Nm.

The entry-level model comes with six-speed manual as standard while a CVT (continuously variable transmission) is offered for the 2.5-litre petrol models. Strangely, diesel models are paired to a six-speed manual, which the company says is due to the fact there is little demand for a diesel automatic in the segment.

We drove the model at its launch in the Eastern Cape and while I remain averse to CVT, the 2.5-litre motor performed well at the coast, although that initial droning of the gear box still takes some getting used to.

Personally, it was the diesel that offered the most relaxed driving disposition, in spite of only being offered in manual guise. It’s a great little engine with gutsy performance and exemplary fuel consumption habits quoted at 5.1l/100km.

With a comfortable ride quality, the X-Trail is a particularly fuss-free, no-nonsense proposition that should appease a family looking for a spacious mid-size SUV.

Ride quality was particularly good, even over gravel with 19-inch tyres, while the all-wheel drive did its best to keep traction on the moving surface. The new model’s build quality seemed sound even while driving over rough terrain.

The Tekna models come with a host of safety functions including blind-spot monitoring, emergency braking, cross-traffic warning, forward collision warning and lane-keep assist.

The latter was rather too sensitive and beeped incessantly at the slightest movement of the vehicle towards the lane markings. You can turn the system off although you would do well to leave it on if you are driving long distances, which is closely associated with fatigue.

In isolation, I think the model is competent, but the CVT gearbox is something I could do without. Why many a Japanese manufacturer still insists on this archaic set-up, other than it being as cheap as chips to make, is beyond me. A regular torque converter would be a much more welcomed proposition.

Among its rivals, the X-Trail manages to pull the rug out from under its competitors through its more palatable pricing point. Starting at R369 900 and rising to R469 900, it plays in a price spectrum most of its competitors are unable to.

This can be attributed to the company having simplified its range while keeping a beady eye on what Toyota’s Rav4 is offering to the segment.

Should you buy one? If you are looking for utility space at an appealing pricing point, then the X-Trail ticks all the right boxes in that regard.

For me, however, I would also look at the recently rationalised Kia Sportage which, courtesy of the model expansion, seems to offer comparable value, in particular the entry-level 1.7-litre turbo-diesel variant.

The segment continues to be oversubscribed by various models — but this is a good thing for consumers.

In order to stand out from the crowd, a manufacturer has to ensure it has an offering that is almost second to none in the segment — and that largely equates to best value for money. The Nissan X-Trail, I can safely say, has that one aspect thoroughly waxed. – Mark Smyth