After driving the impressive new Nissan Pathfinder I was looking forward to its baby brother, the X-Trail. That was my first mistake.
The second mistake was sliding into a fully loaded X-Trail Ti four-wheel drive, complete with a contrary CVT transmission that removed any possibility of driving enjoyment.
The basic X-Trail might be fine but the $44,680 Ti one is way too costly and anodyne to make much of an impact against such classy rivals as the Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester. Then add the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and all the rest.
The X-Trail is perfectly fine as a family SUV but perfectly fine is not good enough in such a competitive class and against some cars that start with fine and move on up closer to spot-on. I've yet to drive a bullseye but there are others that come closer.
Perhaps I'm doing the X-Trail an injustice, because there is plenty to like and enjoy: it looks good, the cabin is pretty roomy and flexible, it drives quietly and the standard equipment - there is a lot of it in a loaded Ti - makes travel easy.
Nissan also provides an impressive warranty and a six-year service package, although the six-monthly trips to the dealership to keep up to date with maintenance earn the car, among other Nissans, a cross. And I wonder why it must be this way, when my parents' old Pulsar seemed to run forever without a single glitch.
But back to the X-Trail, which sits above the value-first Dualis - soon to become the Qashqai in Australia, like the rest of the world - and below the seven-seater Pathfinder. I've often recommended the Dualis for people who want maximum value and the Pathfinder is one of my favourites of this year.
There is plenty of space inside for family work, I like the audio and the chilly aircon and the satnav. But I recall correspondence from a Carsguide reader who is chasing map updates for a Nissan and another who complains about the limitations of the Tri-Zone entertainment set-up in the Pathfinder.
Some say the seats are decent and I know Nissan does a good job in the Pathfinder. This X-Trail was sub-par because the driver's bucket fell forward every time I braked. It was probably an easy fix at the dealership but not good when I'm trying to assess the driving dynamics.
The 2.5-litre engine is pretty economical for an SUV but the transmission is lacklustre. I've never enjoyed CVTs - from my first experience in a Nissan Micra - and this one is too noisy and not nearly responsive enough, despite the paddle-shifters.
The ride is OK but not as compliant as a Forester, the cornering is OK but not as good as a CX-5.