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November 7, 2018
Just like when your dad decides to wear his baseball cap backwards, is there anything more uncool than trying to be cool? If you're the Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport, you'd be hoping the answer is no.
Nissan has seen fit to take its best-selling mid-sized SUV, the X-Trail ST-L, and give it a tough-guy N-Sport makeover. There are just 600 examples available, and the price increase over the respective ST-L 2WD ($37,200) and 4WD ($39,200) models is $2050.
For my weekend test, I'm driving the 4WD model ($41,250), which retains the same 2.5-litre engine, CVT auto and standard creature comforts of the ST-L.
So, does the N-Sport badge bring any more driving enjoyment when taxiing around the kids, doing the weekly shopping or completing the various shuttle runs around the suburbs? My kids and I had the weekend to find out.
The X-Trail N-Sport's family taxi duties included a trip to the city, various drop-offs and pick-ups, plus a little local shopping.
The key distinguishing exterior feature of the N-Sport is the set of 18-inch black alloy wheels (the ST-L usually rides on 17s), which feature alongside gloss-black mirror caps, a lower body kit with dark metallic front and rear bumper elements and black side skirts, a dark chrome front grille and black roof rails.
My test car was dressed in 'Gun Metallic grey', which did little to highlight the N-Sport's black exterior trimmings. Honestly, it looks like an X-Trail ST-L with black wheels, and so it's hard to get too excited about the added cool the badging and styling is supposed to convey. To be honest, I prefer the look of the standard ST-L.
Moving inside the cabin, my three kids and I discovered it’s pretty much identical to the ST-L. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a thoughtfully designed space with decent amounts of leg and headroom for front and rear passengers.
The kids had no trouble getting comfy in their leather seats, and they quickly made use of the two cupholders in the centre armrest. The rear seats have the added benefit of being able to slide fore and aft, too, allowing you to prioritise legroom or boot space, depending on the need.
The heated leather seats up front are manually adjustable and provide plenty of support and comfort. For the driver, there’s a sporty-looking flat-bottomed steering wheel and gear knob, all of which is standard on the ST-L, too.
The user interface for the 7.0-inch touchscreen is a little dated, but it was simple to use and we connected the smartphone via Bluetooth with minimal fuss. Satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio and a six-speaker stereo also arrive as standard, but there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available.
There is a decent amount of storage, with bottle holders in all four doors, two cupholders between the front seats and a pair of map pockets for those in the back. For loose items, such as smartphones and keys, there’s a nice cubby in front of the shifter and a good-sized centre bin; useful for storing the odd snack for the kids.
We had the weekly supermarket shop today, followed by a trip to the cinema and then to the park to burn off some energy.
Under the hood of the X-Trail ST-L N-Sport sits a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine producing 126kW of power and 226Nm of torque, and which is matched with a continuously variable transmission. Our N-Sport 4WD also featured Nissan’s intelligent shift-on-the-fly system, which apportions torque between the front and rear axles as needed, though it largely operates as a front-wheel drive.
Around the city, the N-Sport's moderate power outputs are enough to propel this mid-sized SUV with little fuss, but it will do little to set pulses racing. But bouncing around the suburbs, the N-Sport is comfortable and composed enough over speed humps and potholes.
The CVT and four-cylinder engine combination did a better job than expected in providing urgency from a standing start, and for darting in and out of traffic. For the most part the engine remained relatively quiet, managing to avoid making its presence felt in the cabin.
The general handling is ok, but with some noticeable body roll. It's competent, but I wouldn't want to really push it. The steering wheel looks sporty and is reasonably well weighted, but delivered little that resembled sportiness in terms of responsiveness and feedback through the wheel.
The X-Trail's mid-sized dimensions coupled with its reversing camera and rear parking sensors were useful attributes in helping to navigate my local supermarket's parking lot. While the reversing camera screen is useable in the day time, image quality at night is grainy making it harder to discern objects.
With the weekly shop done we loaded up the 565-litre boot. It's a thoughtfully designed space with an adjustable false floor system known as 'Divide-n-Hide', which provides an additional enclosed space. There’s a space-saver spare under the boot floor, too. For those needing extra capacity, there's 945 litres of space available to use with the rear seats folded down.
The five-star ANCAP rated X-Trail N-Sport has a strong safety story which includes auto emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, but no lane keeping assist. Also included are six airbags. For parents with small children, there are two ISOFIX attachments and three top tether points.
Over the course of the weekend our X-Trail ST-L N-Sport 4WD covered around 200km of suburban family hauling, with the trip computer displaying a fuel consumption reading of 9.5 litres/100km. Slightly higher than Nissan's claimed fuel consumption of 8.3 litres/100km, however it’s happy to sip 91RON unleaded.