The Nissan X-Trail.
The Nissan X-Trail.

2014 Nissan X-Trail road test review - SUV with the X-factor

WELCOME to funky town Nissan X-Trail.

The sports utility vehicle, which previously looked like it was designed with a set square, has a new fluent modern look inside and out.

Despite starting from a headline price of $27,990 (that is just for the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol engine with a manual transmission), most buyers will be chasing the larger 2.5-litre powerplant which is partnered to an automatic transmission and starts from $30,490 - and you can have seven seats for about one grand more.

There are three grades, ST, ST-L and Ti, and all have the option of 4WD with the Nissan 4x4-i system.

Anyone chasing a diesel will have to wait until later this year when a 1.6-litre oil-burner will join the range.

Comfort

Huge gains have been made with interior finishes and a more cohesive design. Even base model ST has a more refined feel with glossy black materials and a crisper, clearer instrument cluster for the driver.

Pivotal to the improvements is the new driver digital read-out, which sits between the speedo and tachometer and can be altered between functions such as trip computer, digital speedo and chassis drive modes.

Just like the Altima sedan launched last year, the X-Trail benefits from supple seats which offer cosseting support laterally and at the bases.

It makes long journeys a pleasure.

There is nothing too technical about the dash operations, and finding your way through the various functions and using the air con only needs a quick look before you have a thorough understanding of how things work.

Soft touch materials are used in the areas which matter most, like across the doors, with hard plastics restricted to the base of the console.

Getting into the back is made easier by doors which open at up to 80 degrees. With the second row having a tilt and roll function, it offers ample leg room for adults and improves entry into the third row of the seven-seat models.

Adults can fit in the third row, but that's best suited to shorter journeys and it is territory more akin to kids.

On the road

Quiet and composed, the new X-Trail is an easy and comfortable drive.

We sampled the 2.5-litre unit partnered to the continuously variable transmission in two and four-wheel drive, with both living up to modern expectations with responsive acceleration and a quiet cabin at speed and around town.

Many drivers are critical of CVTs for "flaring" through the rev range and sounding like a sewing machine. Often the transmission and engine work hard to catch up with driver intentions, but this is part of a growing band of good CVTs, which operates well and feels more like a conventional auto box.

While the SUV cornered flat with limited body roll and responded positively with good steering feel, we found the ride jittery on all-wheel drive variants. You feel the various small bumps and corrugations, whereas the heavier seven-seat two-wheel drive was more composed and compliant.

We'll reserve final judgment until we test them again post launch.

Approach and departure angles have been reduced, as well as ride height, although the X-Trail was virtually unchallenged on some dirt trails and deeply rutted surfaces.

What do you get?

Base STs come with 17-inch alloys, 12.7cm LCD monitor, push button start, CD stereo with USB and auxiliary port as well as Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Nissan Connect system with apps, air-con and cruise control.

The ST-L also gains fog lamps, privacy glass, sat nav with larger 17.7cm screen and digital radio, cameras which provide front/rear/top view, leather trim, power adjustable driver seat, dual zone climate controlled air-con as well as heated pews for driver and front passenger.

Range topping Ti also receives 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, power tailgate, automatic wipers, sunroof, along with lane departure and blind spot warning functions.

Running costs

Official fuel consumption figures are about eight litres for every 100km, and with some smooth rural cruising we achieved similar figures.

Nissan has a solid warranty and roadside assist plan, as well as capped price servicing, but maintenance intervals are short at six months or 10,000km.

Practicality

While the X-Trail is longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, it does lose cabin space due to the more shapely design.

Rear seat knee and leg room has improved, but load space has decreased by about 250 litres.

The bench seat does have a handy 40/20/40 split fold function which is great for awkward-size cargo.

Five-seaters still have a good storage system in the boot area that can be used a variety of ways, but it's not as good as the old hardy draw system, which was perfect for dealing with wet and dirty stuff.

In front of the shifter is a useful spot for phones and MP3 players, and it's close to the auxiliary port and USB plug. Two large cup holders are found in the console, and there are slots in each door for bottles. An arm rest folds down in the back with another two cup holders.

A deep centre console features another 12 volt plug.

Funky factor

Refined creases in the bonnet, chrome exterior features and a tapered roofline, the X-Trail's square lines have been banished and replaced by a sleek and sexy silhouette.

The lowdown

Nissan's X-Trail has been a strong performer within the brand's portfolio, and armed with more modern styling should only strengthen its resolve.

There have been some tradeoffs, with reduced rear cargo space and changes to the storage system. But most of that space is in the rarely used roofline and buyers will appreciate the greater rear leg room as well as the option for seven seats.

Among some intense SUV competition, the new X-Trail more than holds its own.

What matters most

What we liked: Modern styling, groovier interior look and feel, fuel economy, linear acceleration response.

What we'd like to see: Electric park brake across all models, parking sensors, all-wheel drive available on seven-seat models.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/ 100,000km warranty with roadside assist (option to extend to six years), capped price servicing is available for the first six years or 120,000km. Intervals are every six months or 10,000km, with average price for the 2.0-litre engine $304 while the 2.5-litre is $310.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Nissan T32 X-Trail.

Details: Five-door medium-size sports utility vehicle.

Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder generating maximum power of 106kW @ 6000rpm and 200Nm @ 4400rpm; 2.5-litre petrol 126kW @ 6000rpm and 226Nm @ 4400rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 7.9-8.3 litres/100km (combined average, slight differences depending on model).

CO2: 183-192g/km.

Towing: 1500kg (braked), tow ball rating 150kg.

Bottom line: 2WD - ST (m) $27,990, ST (a) $30,490, ST seven-seat (a) $31,580, ST-L (a) $36,190, ST-L seven-seat (a) $37,190. 4WD - ST (a) $33,980, ST-L (a) $39,080, Ti (a) $44,680.