2014 NISSAN X-TRAIL REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $44,680 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 126kW/226Nm 2.5 petrol 4cyl | CVT
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.3 l/100km | tested: 9.8 l/100km
Besides being a signal of the company's new aesthetic direction, the Nissan X-Trail’s metamorphosis from boxy offroader to sexy crossover is an indication of a massive shift in buyer tastes.
SUV buyers no longer put such a high value on off-road ability, and big ugly wagons are a turn-off.
All-wheel-drive ceased being a mandatory requirement for an SUV long ago. For many manufacturers, their 2WD SUV models are the top-sellers.
The previous generation X-Trail was the last “off-roader-ish” SUV of its type. But it’s gone now: replaced instead by something that resembles a slightly larger, slightly more modern Dualis (which will soon be replaced by the new Qashqai).
Has some of the X-Trail’s rugged charm survived the transition, and is the new X-Trail the better car? We drove a top-spec X-Trail Ti to find out.
Quality: Lots of soft-touch surfacing in here, though the centre console plastics are rock-hard and scratchy.
The lack of a rubber or carpeted surface on the small tray in front of the gearlever is an oversight too, with the hard dimpled tray a potential threat to smartphone screens.
That said, everything is tightly screwed together and the leather upholstery is soft and comfortable. The carpeted boot-floor is also a massive improvement over the slippery plastic of the last-gen X-Trail.
Comfort: Aside from a seat-squab that’s slightly short for front-seat passengers, the X-Trail’s cabin is quite comfortable.
Headroom is plentiful front and rear (even with the intrusion posed by the panoramic glass roof), and there’s loads of legroom for backseaters. Rear air-vents are also standard.
The seating position affords a good view of the road ahead, and the wide range of movement in the power-adjustable seat and tilt/reach adjustable steering-column makes it easy to get settled at the wheel.
But if you want to carry seven, you’ll need to go elsewhere in the X-Trail range. The top-spec Ti is only available as a five-seater.
Equipment: The X-Trail Ti is packed with luxuries big and small, from dusk-sensing LED headlamps, to keyless entry, to air-conditioned cupholders.
Add that to the Ti’s dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, cruise control, digital radio tuner, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, sat-nav, seven-inch touchscreen, USB audio input, top-down parking camera, powered tailgate and rain-sensing wipers.
And, though all top-spec competitors are pricey in this segment, at $44,680 for the X-Trail Ti, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
Parking sensors however are absent, though the car’s four-camera array helps compensate.
Storage: The old X-trail had a pretty generous boot, but the new model outdoes it with its 550-litre seats-up load capacity. The Ti’s power tailgate is also a massive advantage when you’ve got your hands full of cargo.
Like the old model, there’s also a dual-level layout to the new X-Trail’s luggage area.
However, instead of the slide-out drawers of old, the new X-Trail boasts a two-piece false floor that can be reconfigured to give three ‘shelves’, a cargo-dividing wall, or just the biggest cargo space available.
The sliding second row can boost luggage space at the sacrifice of passenger legroom, but if you’ve got nobody in the second row you can fold those seats down and enjoy 1520 litres of space.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: This is where the new X-Trail starts to lose some of its sheen, because while Nissan has lavished the X-Trail with creature comforts, it hasn’t been quite so generous in the engine bay.
The 126kW/226Nm 2.5 litre petrol inline four that powers the X-Trail Ti has to work hard in a 1.5-tonne SUV with a full load of passengers. Clearly, a diesel would fare much better.
A diesel will be added to the T32 X-Trail range in September/October of this year and the previous-gen T31 X-Trail diesel will remain on sale until then, but if you want a new X-Trail with real torque, you'll have to wait.
The lack of grunt isn't a handicap when just one or two are aboard and the CVT gearbox keeps the engine in the meat of its powerband most of the time, but steeper hills can have it huffing a bit.
The gearbox does help mask the shortage of torque though.
Tromp on the accelerator, and the gearbox steps through seven defined ratios rather than the usual CVT trick of pegging the engine at one RPM. It’s a nice change from the usual “slipping clutch” feel of most CVTs.
Refinement: The engine is pretty loud and thrashy at full throttle, and the Ti’s 18-inch alloys transmit a fair amount of road noise on coarse surfaces.
The cabin is free from rattles and squeaks however, and in normal everyday cruising is quite a pleasant place to be.
Ride and Handling: The previous X-Trail was no fun to drive on the road. The handling was sloppy, the steering overassisted and vague, and there was a seasickness-inducing amount of bodyroll.
The new X-Trail is a massive improvement on-road.
The steering - though not alive with feedback - has a nice weight to it that progressively increases when more lock is wound on. This new model certainly tracks better into corners and handles with much greater precision than before.
Body control is also greatly improved over rough surfaces, and though there’s still noticeable bodyroll, it’s not nearly as evident as in its predecessor.
The ride generally is comfortable and civilised, even on the Ti’s larger 18-inch wheels.
Braking: The X-Trail’s all-disc brakes pull up neatly and predictably, though the pedal needs a strong shove to get the best performance in an emergency stop.
ANCAP rating: The 2014 X-Trail has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: In addition to the usual six airbags, stability control, traction control, ABS, brake assist and EBD, the X-Trail Ti comes standard with blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: All new Nissans are sold with a three-year, 100,000km warranty.
Service costs: Under Nissan’s capped-price servicing scheme, the X-Trail Ti costs between $215 and $478 for a scheduled service. For precise pricing, visit Nissan.com.au.
Servicing intervals are set for every six months or 10,000km, and the scheme covers the first six years or 120,000km of ownership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mazda CX-5 Akera petrol ($46,570) - A stellar drive and a quality machine, the Akera nevertheless loses to the X-Trail when it comes to standard equipment, price and rear passenger space.
It’s got more power and more torque though, so we’d call it a tie between the two. (see CX-5 reviews)
Honda CR-V VTi-L ADAS ($45,790) - Spacious and comfortable, the CR-V’s ADAS safety suite is also a near match for the X-Trail’s set of active safety aids (the Honda misses out on blind-spot monitoring though). (see CR-V reviews)
Toyota RAV4 Cruiser ($47,290) - The RAV4 is bigger than it has ever been, and its 132kW/233Nm inline four has more muscle than the X-Trail’s.
It’s not as lavishly equipped as the Nissan though, and also costs substantially more. (see RAV4 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s an X-Trail, but not as we know it. Is that a bad thing? Well, that all depends on whether you have a fondness for the quasi-4x4 styling of the previous model.
But take off that rose-tinted eyewear. The old X-Trail wasn’t all that great.
Yes, it could go further than the average soft-roader on an off-road trail, but it wasn’t much chop on the blacktop - which tends to be the natural environment of SUVs these days.
Advantage: new X-Trail, then. And if features and comfort are important, the new X-Trail will have bucketloads of appeal.
The value quotient is particularly strong too. Nowhere else in the medium SUV category will you get as many high-tech toys for your money.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- ST 2.0L Manual - $27,990 ($31,155 estimated drive-away)
- ST 2.5L Xtronic - $30,490 ($33,727)
- ST 2.5L Xtronic - Seven Seat - $31,580 ($34,853)
- ST-L 2.5L Xtronic - $36,190 ($39,601)
- ST-L 2.5L Xtronic - Seven Seat - $37,190 ($40,631)
- ST 2.5L Xtronic - $33,980 ($37,325)
- ST-L 2.5L Xtronic - $39,080 ($42,575)
- Ti 2.5L Xtronic - $44,680 ($48,343)