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Conservative changes on adventurous X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Conservative changes on adventurous X-Trail
Nissan's all-new X-Trail might not look very different, but it's improved where it matters.

   



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| First Drive | Staffordshire, England | Nissan X-Trail |

When Nissan unveiled its new X-Trail at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year it was welcomed with rather muted applause. Where were the changes? The new X-Trail, for all but the most committed of X-Trail spotters, looked identical to the outgoing one. But Nissan is adamant that it has created the car that its customers want, that being a slightly larger, better equipped and better performing (both against the clock and for consumption and emissions) X-Trail. So that's exactly what Nissan has given them, the Japanese firm retaining the X-Trail-ness that its customers demanded.

Even so, every body panel is new, the X-Trail having filled out a bit. It is wider and taller, the wheelbase extended to provide more space for both passengers and luggage - certainly unmistakable as a Nissan X-Trail, but one that looks like it's been slightly Americanised and added a few pounds. The headlamps are a tad fussier too, but really, that's about the limit to the obvious changes. And there's nothing wrong with that; some manufacturers have made it company policy to evolve designs slowly through time, so why shouldn't Nissan? Especially when it has managed to produce its new X-Trail without diluting the original's driving characteristics.

If there's one area where the X-Trail has always excelled, it is in the way it drives. For a tall, off-road capable vehicle the X-Trail has always managed to do a convincing job of feeling like an estate car to drive. Sure, there's a loftier driving position, but that aside the X-Trail's dynamics have always been more car, than tractor-like. The new X-Trail continues this, with excellent ride and handling for something so tall. It's now based on the same platform that underpins Nissan's hugely successful SUV-lite Qashqai. That doesn't mean it's merely a pumped-up hatchback with SUV looks, the X-Trail retaining its electronic all-mode four-wheel drive hardware that gives it surprising ability in the rough stuff.

As the majority of X-Trails will never venture further off-road than the owner's driveway, that four-wheel drive system uses front-wheel drive most of the time to the benefit of fuel consumption. And fuel consumption is a big issue with SUVs, not necessarily for owners, but with the people who pour such scorn on people for choosing them. All four engine choices give potential owners a decent enough counter argument with the environmental doom-mongers, with all but the 2.5-litre managing to break through the 30mpg mark on the combined consumption cycle; that 2.5-litre petrol just falling below it at 29.4mpg. But the majority of customers will opt for one of the diesel choices, both of which offer near 40mpg ability; which isn't so far off many 'ordinary' diesel cars.

The turbodiesel choices are based on the same engine, a 2.0-litre unit delivering either 147bhp or 170bhp. It's actually the lower output engine that's the preferable choice, its smoother, less jerky power delivery making for an easier drive. There's very little between the two units in their torque output, 236lb.ft for the lower power unit comparing very favourably to the 266lb.ft of the higher one. Consumption in the lower output engine is better too with 39.8mpg bettering 38.2mpg on the official combined cycle. Of the petrol choices (2.0-litre and 2.5-litre) again it's the smaller engine that over-delivers, the 139bhp 2.0-litre feeling more eager to please than the 166bhp 2.5-litre.

Automatic transmissions are offered on the lower power diesel and the 2.5-litre petrol, the latter being a buzzy CVT. Really, the manual shift on the six-speed transmission is so good in all there's no reason to opt for either of the automatic options. The other driving controls are similarly precise, the steering offering decent weighting and quick response and the pedals being well spaced. The driving environment is much like the old X-Trail, only with improved quality materials and a smart and easy to operate centre console. The dash-top drinks holders remain, and the boot is still lined in useful wipe clean plastic rather than carpet, and depending on which trim you opt for there's useful kit like a rear-view camera and DVD satellite navigation, too. Standard equipment on lesser models is impressive, Bluetooth integration coming with all but the entry-level Trek, and every X-Trail getting climate control air conditioning.

So that's all three boxes ticked for Nissan's X-Trail buyers; it's bigger, better equipped and performs better than ever. It still drives with the sort of enthusiasm for back roads that is unusual in the SUV class, riding and handling very well indeed. Economy is improved and it's able off road (not that anyone is going to care), making the biggest problem you'll have in choosing one being whether or not you can be bothered to explain to the greenies among your friends why you've bought it. Which is a shame, as the X-Trail is rather a good car, which also happens to look like and have the abilities of an SUV.

Kyle Fortune - 20 Nov 2007



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2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Nissan.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2007 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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