Nissan X-Trail

10 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail

Bill McKinnon

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One of (many) unpredictable things that can happen during a Car of the Year judging process is the way that, just occasionally, a car that doesn’t on first impression scream pick me! can emerge from the pack and take the money.

So it was with the Nissan X-Trail in the Best 4WD under $40,000 class in Drive Car Of The Year 2007.

Our three finalists at DCOTY were the carryover champ, Toyota’s RAV4, Honda’s new CRV and the X-Trail. This contest is now an important one because compact four-wheel-drives have become one of the largest single-market categories. There are 20 contenders in the class.

At the time of writing, sales were on track to hit 90,000 in 2007, putting compact 4WDs in a close race with medium cars for overall fourth place in the charts.

On the first day of judging, to be honest, the X-Trail looked like it was there to make up the numbers. Nissan has made the new model look just like the old model, from the outside at least. But when we got around to dissecting and driving the Nissan, it soon became clear that we needed to take it seriously.

Three variants are available. The base ST costs $31,990, the ST-L is $35,990 and the Ti is $38,990. All use the same 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine, carried over from the previous model.

Peak power is 125kW at 6000 rpm; peak torque is 226Nm at 4400rpm. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard.

We chose an ST for DCOTY judging, with the optional ($2000) continuously variable automatic transmission.

The first big tick on the Nissan’s scorecard was easily earned. It’s the first volume player in this class to offer front, side and curtain airbags, plus stability control, as standard. In a kid carrier, that’s now the baseline safety specification.

Cruise control, air-conditioning, 16-inch steel wheels (with a full-size spare), a single CD player, trip computer and roof rails are also included on the ST.

The ST-L adds 17-inch alloys, automatic air, leather-wrapped wheel and an in-dash six-stack CD player with MP3 compatibility (but no auxiliary player plug-in.) The Ti also gets a sunroof, heated, power-adjustable leather front seats and rear parking sensors.

Like most engines in this class, the 2.5 isn’t the torquiest device in the world but the optional CVT automatic extracts every bit of useful performance.

The CVT gives the X-Trail a considerable performance and refinement advantage in this class, where four-cylinder engines are asked to deal with relatively heavy wagons, a combination that doesn’t really suit conventional autos. There’s no hunting, shift shock, or dropping off the engine’s peak operating zone, for example.

The Nissan easily won the 0-100kmh acceleration contest against the RAV4 and CRV. Another X-Trail attraction is that it has more off-bitumen ability than its rivals. The X-Trail remains a genuine recreational wagon because you can have heaps of fun with it in some pretty remote places.

Hill-descent control and hill-start assist – which holds the car for a moment when you move from the brake to the accelerator – are also included.

Nissan X-Trail

The X-Trail is too softly sprung and lightly damped to have any sporty aspirations. However, in day-to-day driving it’s fine. At highway speeds, and on rough, corrugated dirt tracks, the suspension is well controlled and provides secure, confident roadholding. Ride comfort is luxurious.

Braking performance is acceptable but front-end dive under hard braking is excessive.

Nissan has cleaned up the X-Trail’s interior styling, which on the original was chaotic and tacky. Fit, finish and materials quality have also been improved.

The instruments have been moved from the centre of the dash to the conventional position. The trip computer/fuel and temperature readouts are displayed on a little round screen between the main dials. It’s often impossible to read because of reflected glare.

There’s no reach adjustment for the wheel and a tall driver will use all the front-seat travel.

The X-Trail has plenty of handy storage near the driver including a covered dash-top bin, centre console bin and glovebox, plus six cupholders – four of which can be heated or cooled.

The back seat has less leg room than rivals such as Honda’s CRV but most adults can fit comfortably. The high seating position and low windowsills make it a pleasant place for kids to travel.

The X-Trail’s cargo bay, accessed via a roof-hinged tailgate, is a big space – wider than before, thanks to the new rear suspension and a re-routed exhaust – lined in durable plastic. Under this false floor is a slide-out drawer, with movable partition pieces, and an additional storage compartment. The entire moulding is hinged in the middle and can also be lifted out altogether for a deeper load area.

In the Best 4WD under $40,000 class for DCOTY 2007, the X-Trail did it easily, winning by seven votes to one, that being for Honda’s CRV.

The judging notes tell the story: A genuine recreational wagon that also works as family transport. Wins on price, safety, performance, comfort, refinement and day to day practicality.

Simple, really. It just took us a few days to work this out.

Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail
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