Road test: Nissan cashes in on massive SUV demand

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The Nissan X-Trail


Nissan’s global crossover and SUV sales increased more than 12 per cent in 2017 to more than two million vehicles, helped here in the UK by the fantastic success of the Qashqai, fourth best-selling car in here in 2017 with 64,216 sales.

The Qashqai has been built in Sunderland since its inception in 2007 and is now in its third generation. It continues to hold its own in 2018, remaining in fourth place but with rivals snapping at its heels.

From the outset, the Qashqai was always distinctive, becoming more so with its increasingly edgy styling. It made sense for Nissan to adopt the same appearance on a larger scale when replacing the boxy old X-Trail with a new model. It also avoided having a Qashqai+2 for those wanting a seven seater as the X-Trail now does the job. In fact it gives the X-Trail a function that would otherwise be difficult to define.

With increasing pressure on motorists to switch from diesel to petrol power, we booked a petrol-engined X-Trail for test and while the change in smaller cars may be seamless in a model of this scale it’s something needing serious planning about how you want to use a bigger car.

For instance, there’s a wide variety of maximum towing weights across the X-Trail range affected by both engine and transmission choices – as expected, the car has the option of petrol or diesel engines plus four or two wheel drive and manual or continuously variable gearing. A diesel manual 4×4 is the best option if you are into leisure towing but you may be tempted by the petrol car if what you’re after is the 1,996 luggage volume with the seats down.

There’s a caveat for potential buyers of the petrol car if they are switching from a previous diesel model. We found the 1.6 litre engine struggling to cope with just two of us on board; we outwardly appear to make up for 3.5 average people and that’s only half the theoretical capacity of the seven seat test car. We say theoretical because getting seven into the X-Trail might be a squeeze. The two in the rear would have to be quite small children / teenagers.

Nissan quotes a 0-62 mph time of 9.7 seconds and top speed of 124 mph for the Tekna DIG-T 163 PS two wheel drive six speed manual X-Trail we drove and that’s impressive for such a bulky car. While it pulls well in the lower gears, it struggles in higher gears with the in-dash indicator disappointingly suggesting a downshift to fifth on main road hills even at quite high speeds. The car could be felt resisting the urge for more if that downshift wasn’t made.

That said, on a longer run it was giving in excess of 40 mpg and overall we averaged almost 37 mpg. What it all means is that drivers making the switch might find themselves far more active in the left foot deployment/gear lever movement arena than in the past when they relied on the sheer slugging power of a turbodiesel to get them through. As the turbo spooled up, a diesel would quickly gather momentum. Now the X-Trail needs a prod to get results.

This panic over diesel power is pitiful, driven by luvvies who probably glory in their “sustainable” woodburner while flashing their eyes in anger at anyone who dares fill their car at the appropriately-coloured black nozzle; pumping environmental sin into the car is perhaps how they see it. Well, the counter argument appears to be that wood smoke is far more damaging for particulate content than diesel fumes and wood burning is a far bigger polluter in Britain than diesel…

There’s plenty of clever detail in the X-Trail’s design, not least the way a spare wheel has been hidden beneath the hinged third row of seats so it stays clean inside the car rather than hanging under the back. The centre row of seats slides forward to help balance legroom, which is superb with the car set up as a five seater.

Inside the Nissan X-Trail

The exterior looks great, too; it’s rugged without being fussy or too hip like the Juke that holds up the Nissan SUV range at the bottom. And even in two wheel drive (the test car had 4×4 pattern tyres) it could cope with a gravel track that wasn’t too muddy. It’s a decent all-rounder.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Nissan Tekna DIG-T 163 PS 2wd 7 seat

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 9.7 secs

Top speed: 124 mph

PS: 163 @ 5600 rpm

Torque: 240 Nm @ 2000 – 4000 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £32,101

Combined: 44.1 mpg

CO2 emissions: 149 g/km

Best bits: better than it sometimes feels

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