On a fresh trail

On a fresh trail

With a series of refurbishments, is Nissan's 2018 X-Trail a viable proposition in one of the most competitive segments in the auto market?

By George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 24 May 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 24 May 2018, 2:00 AM

I remember the 1st generation Nissan X-Trail well. Having spent considerable time with the vehicle, I found its overall size and usability quite agreeable. Nissan tells us that so did 835,000 other individuals who bought the vehicle. It seems a lot of those people were parents who drove every day - so that must account for a testament of sorts. But as we know, the compact crossover SUV market is very competitive and being ambushed by a new model from a different manufacturer often. So how does the newly-refreshed 2018 Nissan X-Trail stack up?
The Nissan X-Trail was once the boxy interpretation of the SUV, but wore an identifiable and endearing attitude. The current generation, seen since 2013, has adopted a more aerodynamic silhouette that is more a raised car than old-school SUV. Moving bottom to top of the curved and sporty snout, you notice horizontal fog lamps have replaced the round ones of old, and the V-Motion grille has evolved. The top-spec is equipped with powerful LED headlamps, with sophisticated luminaire detailing, but all ranges get boomerang-shaped LED DRLs. The side profiles of the new vehicle and its predecessors can't be separated by much: both have that rising belt line for an athletic stance, and some chrome highlights around windows. The back doesn't differ either, except for the LED-lit rear lamp design.
I like the sporty 19-inch wheels seen on the range-topping SL model. It is large for its segment and improves surface footprint for better traction as well. Lesser models come with 18-inch models, with the base riding on 17-inch wheels. You'd think that this is a near-entry level vehicle, but then you see that the X-Trail is offered in as many as 11 exterior colours. That's a premium option, I'd say. Although looks are subjective, the X-Trail has the body and balance you can subject loved ones to.
The overall length is 4,690mm, width (with mirrors open) 1,830mm, and height 1,740mm. That places it well alongside rivals like the CR-V and RAV-4. So it is compact while feeling diminutive on the roads - a good thing. That also makes it easy to climb into and out off. I'm sure older folks and children will appreciate that.
Although classified a compact, there's room for everyone, especially in the front cabin. The second row is accommodating too, but three adults abreast can cause some shoulder discomfort over long hauls. You can also have the X-Trail as a seven-seater - something some large luxury vehicles don't offer. But the third row is strictly meant for little ones.
Occupying furniture space are zero-gravity seats, designed to apply pressure in equal measure to all parts of the body. I can't say I experienced the comfort of floating in outer space, but it's a relaxed seating arrangement with an added degree of luxury - thanks to the faux leather upholstered seats in the SL trim.
Some characteristic satin finish surfaces have been avoided for a more sporty/functional look. A lot of it was seen on the 3-spoke steering wheel which has been made to disappear as well. The new vehicle gets a flat-bottom steering that Nissan likes to call "D-shape". In its background, you'd find - also unchanged - well-lit analog gauges with legible lettering. The counters, split by a central screen, are capable of delivering sufficient info and even turn-by-turn navigation.
As for infotainment, the range starts off with a rather tiny 5-inch screen. Smartphones are bigger these days! And while you get the auxiliary input and USB connection port for iPod interface and other devices as standard, you'll have to upgrade to the SL for the 7-inch colour touchscreen set on that piano black centre console. The screen is sufficiently vivid and ergonomic, but not very engaging to the eye.
For 2018, almost everything under the hood previously remains. That means all models get a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine that makes 169 horsepower and 233Nm of torque, which is around the average for this sort of displacement and segment. All of the power is channelled through a CVT - typically known for fuel-efficient applications - down to either a 2WD or 4WD system.
In the days I spent behind the wheel, the motor came across as punchy and useful, although it isn't the fastest in the segment. If you seek out numbers, the X-Trail manages just under 9 seconds in the dash from 0 to 100 km/h. But having seven on board has its implications.
What is equally important for this segment is the fuel economy. The 60L tank may seem average in capacity, but it is apt for its use. It is complemented by a claimed 6.4L/100km economy, which can be achieved on the highway; in mixed conditions, it's closer to 10L/100km.
The rack- and pinion-based steering mechanism provides ample feel and feedback. And the overall size and turning circle of 11.3m keeps it nimble in the city. Even with its compactness, it does maintain a certain amount of composure on highways, and while it may not have a sport-tuned suspension, it does keep body in check around corners with some help from the traction at all four ends, and the Intelligent Trace Control, which can brake each wheel individually to help you steer better.
You'd expect at least a sedan-size boot, won't you? You get that and more with the X-Trail, which starts off with 455L behind the tailgate. Some models come with the 50:50 split third row: flat that out as well as the second row, and it could swallow up a total of 1,996L, which will surely come handy when you're moving house, or even your dog.
You can have the boot space in several configurations. One is for maximum luggage space, with the floor dropped to the lowest level. You can also have it higher up or compartmentalise the space - what Nissan calls "divide and hide" - so people don't see what's in your boot even if you open it up in public.
Things like front seat belts with pre-tensioners and ISOFIX points for child seats are standard. So are front airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control and Traction Control. But you have to upgrade to the pricey SL to get things like the extra set of airbags, High Beam Assist, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert etc. Strangely, you even have to upgrade to the 4WD S model to get parking sensors - which I think should be mandatory in cars these days. You need the SV model to get the rear camera; the useful-but-not-mandatory 360-degree camera is reserved only for the SL.
Nissans have been known to give their vehicles generous air-conditioning capacity and the X-Trail is no different in that respect.
The 2018 Nissan X-Trail does exactly what it says on the box and then some. And that is enough to steer a horde of potential buyers into its showrooms. If at all there were any concerns, it would have to be that some other rivals come with better-dressed interiors, while some edge it out in terms of reliability and resale.
For the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market), they had a limited edition model called X-TRAIL 20X BLACK X-TREMER X. With so many 'X' characters, the name is almost algebraic!
Body type: 5/7-seater; 5-door compact crossover SUV
Engine: Front-engine; 2.5-litre inline 4-cylinder; all-wheel drive
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (automatic)
Peak output: 169bhp@6,000rpm; 233Nm@4,000rpm
0 to 100km/h: sub-9.0 seconds (estimated)
Top speed: 180 km/h (drag limited; estimated)
Price: Starting at Dh87,150
Pros: Compactness and chic exterior styling; usable power; practicality
Cons: Average residual value and longevity; pricey range topper
Author's rating: 7.5/10

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