The X-Trail has one of the best suspensions in the class. It irons out ruts on road and softens the big hits.
Craig Duff road tests and reviews the Nissan X-Trail TS 4WD.
Compact SUVs are the family wagons to be seen in. The segment account for just under half of all soft-roader sales - and that number continues to grow. Four-wheel drive associations report more compact SUV owners are calling to see if their vehicle is capable of doing an off-road course and some courses are now targeted specifically at women.
It's the old story: women listen to instructions better than men and usually learn more. Nissan tops the sales in this segment with its X-Trail/Dualis duo. The Dual is is strictly a high-riding wagon, but the four-wheel drive X-Trails have reasonable off-bitumen capability. The boxy wagon is as practical as families looking for a weekend escape vehicle can aspire to.
Money talks in this market and the leading players are generally within a few hundred dollars of each other. The base 2.5-litre petrol X-Trail ST all-wheel drive starts at $32,490 -- the same price as the Hyundai i35 and Mitsubishi ASX and climbs to $44,490 for the Ti model.
The 2-litre turbodiesel TS is $35,990 stepping up to $42,990 for the TL. The base price is equal to the Hyundai i35 and Mitsubishi ASX and includes cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and alloys wheels.
A big part of the X-Trail's appeal is the number of clever storage areas, from the heated/chilled glovebox to the slide-out drawers in the boot. The boxy shape is softened by the curved tailgate and the rear seats fold flat to give it serious cargo capacity.
Parents with kids in capsules will appreciate the seat height and wide-opening doors and the durable plastics and interior trim. It's not class leading, but the dirt and dust from a weekend in the bush is easily wiped or swept off.
The all-wheel drive system in the X-Trail is known is controlled by a rotary dial with 2WD, Auto and Lock settings. It is as capable on gravel as any of the electronic AWD systems and also uses hill start assist and descent control to keep things tidy on slopes. There's the option of a continuously variable transmission on the petrol models or a six-speed auto on the diesels.
The X-Trail crashes with four stars, according to the Euro NCAP authorities. It packs the expected front, side and curtain airbags, along with stability and traction control and ABS with brake assist and emergency brakeforce distribution. It didn't make five stars because the frontal offset collision test found that neck support for the driver was weak and front seat leg protection was marginal.
The X-Trail has one of the best suspensions in the class. It irons out ruts on road and softens the big hits when negotiating a rocky track without wallowing like a pregnant hippo. The steering is accurate but set up so there's a bit of play before it responds to inputs and feedback through the wheel is reasonably ordinary.
The diesel engine is the pick for off-road duties -- the 360Nm give the car enough grunt to scrabble up most slopes, or to poke its way through a river crossing. Drivers will usually find they run out of ground clearance (212mm) before the AWD system starts to struggle.
On road it is a competent vehicle for shopping duties or interstate runs, though like most compact SUVs, pushing hard will create body roll and upset the passengers. Fuel use is about average with a claimed 9.3 litres for the 2.5-litre petrol engine with the manual transmission and 7.4 for the 2-litre diesel manual.
The X-Trail is one of the more reassuring SUVs on dirt without affecting its on-road manners. It just pips the Forester for off-road action thanks to the diesel/auto drivetrain and as such, is the car to choose if you aim to be more adventurous than most compact SUV owners.
Nissan X-Trail TS
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service: Six months/10,000km
Safety: Four star NCAP rating. Six airbags, stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel; 127kW/360Nm (manual), 110kW/320Nm (automatic)
Transmision: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Economy: 7.4 litres/100km 196g/km CO2 (manual), 8.1 litres/100km, 216g/km CO2