Nissan X-Trail making its own path

Friday, March 23, 2018

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The Nissan X-Trail offers great looks and the blended practicality of those wanting space and functionality in the middle of the size spectrum. It drives like a comfortable sedan without the unwieldiness of a large sport utility vehicle, and yet has enough off-road, all-weather skills to give peace of mind.

Sitting between the compact crossover Qashqai and the legendary Pathfinder, the X-Trail offers customers the size and off-road capabilities of the Pathfinder, but in a more road- friendly package.

On the outside, the X-Trail gets a mild makeover to its already handsome design. While others have received the softer, more rounded look, the Nissan is a muscular angled machine; its nose now following the corporate appearance pioneered on the company's supercar, the GT-R.

Inside, the size differentiation is clear. There's more space than the Qashqai, but it's small enough to feel more car-like than the bigger Pathfinder.

Passenger comfort is no issue as it can seat five with ease. With the seven seat option, two extra seats fold out of the trunk floor. The third row is best left to children and average teenagers for long journeys. Otherwise, things are fine as every row has its own climate controls and storage options. The EZ Flex seating system means access to the third row is a lever pull away. For those wanting to haul cargo, the X-Trail's second and third rows fold flat, again with ease, for maximum room. Open up the sunroof and the extra light gives the interior an even more airy feel.

Up front, the driver is wrapped in a mix of soft-touch materials and hard-wearing plastics for which the X-Trail is expected to see plenty of use. Piano black paired with more metallic accents that follow the external theme keep the cabin feeling premium. There's a hint of racy carbon fibre around. Of course, Nissan's patented Zero Gravity seats are supportive.

The layout keeps the important functions within hand. However, those for the infotainment system are duplicated on the steering wheel, which also has a smaller secondary screen in the instrument binnacle. Impressive is the rare, 360 degree reversing camera even at this price point. Slip into reverse and drivers are greeted with a virtual aerial view of the vehicle making parking a breeze.

Firing up the X-Trail is a quiet affair. Available in both front and four-wheel drive, it's been tuned for on-road refinement. It feels very car-like rather than a heavy sport utility vehicle partly due to the host of subsystems to aid driving and keep things safe, like intelligent trace control and ride control. They both use active braking; the former at each wheel during cornering and the latter over bumps. The square-bottomed steering wheel is very racy in hand. The 169bhp is metered out smoothly by the six-speed CVT, with SPORT mode adding urgency upon activation.

The drive is comfortable on rough terrain as well, since the suspension absorbs bumps before they can reach the cabin. yet it remains firm enough as to not fall over itself in corners. For those that opted for four-wheel drive, Nissan has given the X-Trail real off-road chops. For fuel economy, the X-Trail runs in front-wheel drive mode. Twist the knob for Nissan Intelligent 4x4 and it automatically distributes traction to the relevant wheels. There is the option to forgo that and just lock the vehicle in a 50/50 split. The more daring off-road user has Hill Descent control, regulating the speed down long steep hills.

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