Nissan X-Trail VS Renault Captur
- No price penalty for new model
- Among the most versatile offerings in its segment
- Safety updates add plenty of appeal
- CVT auto a loud and intrusive annoyance
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Not as dynamic as segment leaders
If you're a fan of the old Nissan X-Trail - and plenty of you are, it was the brand's best-selling model here last year - then we've got good news for you: this 2017 Series II update is absolutely unchanged under the skin.
Better still, it costs the same as the old one. Or less. So is more of pretty much the same a good thing?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
The Renault Captur is stupendously, ridiculously popular… in Europe.
So popular, in fact, that it’s not quite enough to have just one Renault Captur, to they sell another one - a de-specified, Dacia-based Renault Kaptur – that looks exactly the same.
Bizarre. But then, the Captur is a bit bizarre. It’s as if it comes from an alternate dimension where style trumps practicality, and vibrant colours and tight dimensions are more important than, say, a cupholder.
The point is, in Australia at least, buying a French car tends to be a deliberate and not necessarily value-based choice. With so many keenly priced and well-specified Japanese and Korean competitors, a car like this requires a buyer who wants something genuinely different.
So, can the recently updated Captur appeal to buyers wanting something a little left of centre in one of Australia’s most hotly contested market segments, or does it play second-fiddle to the small SUV market leaders? I spent a week in one to find out.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It might not be an X-Trail blazer, but this nip-and-tuck has added some critical technology and safety extras to an already competent package. It's improved in the areas that matter and, CVT aside, is an easy-breezy drive from behind the wheel. For ours, the petrol-powered ST-L makes the most sense, no matter which configuration you opt for, scoring the best of the new stuff without breaking the bank.
Has this refresh put the Nissan X-Trail on your SUV shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Captur might be one of Europe’s strongest-selling small SUVs, but what it offers doesn’t translate well into Australia’s market, where the sheer number of highly specified and keenly priced competitors puts a strain on its value.
The powerful new engine is welcome, and it continues to serve up plenty of that unique French style, it’s just a shame to see those things come first over today’s advanced safety items and a truly slick drive experience.
Do you think the Captur still has what it takes to duke it out with the small SUV segment leaders in Australia? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
It was and still is rather handsome, the X-Trail. It's not pushing any design boundaries, sure, but neither is it controversial or polarising - plus, it's bound to age well, given it hasn't really changed much since 2014, and it still doesn't look old.
This time around, though, Nissan has redesigned the grille, with a new shield that forms part of a now-jutting jawline. There's a new design for the alloy wheels, too, along with new rear lights and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Inside, you get what you pay for, with the cheap plastics that lower the tone in the entry-level model replaced with soft-touch and premium-feeling materials (along with a bigger multimedia screen) in the more expensive models.
In the entry-level ST, for example, the 5.0-inch screen is surrounded by a sea of rock-hard plastics, while the top-spec TI offers up a leather-wrapped and raised centre console, and a stitched leather panel lines the dash.
This is one of the Captur’s strong suits. At least, on the outside. It comes with oodles of euro charm. I like its same-but-different approach to the Clio’s styling formula. The light fittings and grille insert are familiar but toughened up a little with SUV-specific flair. LED light fittings look the business, with their blue tinge contrasting the car’s orange and black, and the way the DRLs clasp the lower vents and echo into the bodywork is oh-so satisfying.
The black bumpers that ride over the wheelarches and expand around the sides of the car are a nice touch. Contrast chrome and silver plastics are applied tastefully. I’m not as keen on the rear of this car as I am on the front, but everything remains proportional, and the little spoiler that runs off the roof rounds the package out nicely.
Inside, things aren’t as great. It looks okay from a distance, as you’re hopping in, but once you’re there its easy to see this car’s flaws.
You’re confronted with this huge expanse of dashboard reaching out to the front of the car, void of any particular aesthetic treatment, and a swathe of boring, grey, hollow plastics off-set by chromes and silvers that look okay, but are not great to touch.
The dash cluster has a big chunky look, the same as the Clio, but it's still on an off-putting angle, with old-school, chunky red dials. The leather trim on the steering wheel is nice but doesn’t make up for the switchgear, which all feels a little more Fisher-Price than Fisher&Paykel.
Is there really an excuse for dials, switches and even a gearknob that have far too much movement in them, even when locked in position? It feels lazy. Those who have driven this car’s Korean and Japanese rivals will be accustomed to superior interior finishes by now.
I have to say, this criticism does not apply to the Captur’s seats, which are finished in a lovely, plush leather trim. They have good side-bolstering and a commanding position with great visibility. The same applies to the second row.
Nissan refers to its X-Trail as the "Swiss-army knife of our range - the one-size-fits-all, family proof car", and so expect a useable, versatile cabin irrespective of whether you opt for a five or seven seater.
All trim levels offer two up-front cupholders and room for bottles in the doors, along with a USB connection and a 12 volt charge point in the centre console, and a second power source in the centre bin. The dials in the driver's binnacle are analogue, but they're separated by a digital screen that displays all the usual trip data.
The backseat (or second row) is hugely spacious for human-sized riders, even if you opt to go three across. But the aircon vents have no temperature controls and there's no power or USB connections points on offer. There is, however, room in the doors for bottles, and two extra cupholders hidden in the pull down divider that separates the rear seats.
Things do feel a bit squished in third row for the seven seat models, though, with the back row definitely reserved for children. It's tight in head and legroom, and adults (with the possible exception of Tattoo from Fantasy Island) will find the going tough.
Five seat models offer 565 litres of storage with the second row of seats in place, swelling to 945 litres with the second row folded flat. Opt for a seven seater, and you'll get a paltry 135 litres with all seating rows in place, growing to 445 litres with the third row folded flat, and maxing out at 825 litres with everything flattened.
Those front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of room, but what’s up with the French and neglecting cabin storage? The Captur is a bit better in this regard compared to the Peugeot 208 I had the week before – which had poor excuses for cupholders and next to nothing in the doorcards – but still, it trails behind its rivals.
Front passengers get small cupholders in each door, a trench under the climate controls, a glovebox and a centre top-box tethered to the driver’s seat, which has possibly the smallest storage area inside it I’ve ever seen. You can fit maybe a slim wallet in there. I was a little frustrated by the clunky manual front-seat controls, which were hard to reach and operate. The Intens is a top-spec model, at least give the driver electric sliding adjust.
In the back you’ll get the same great seats as you do in the front, but rear passengers get even less useful bottle holders in the doors, some netting on the back of the front seats, and a neat trench in the middle that even has a 12V power supply, at the cost of legroom for the middle passenger.
There are no air vents back there, either. Legroom is okay for an SUV this size, but nothing impressive, while headroom was more than ample for my 182cm tall frame, despite the sunroof eating some of the ceiling.
Boot space comes in at a fairly decent 377L – comparing well to the 350L of the Fiat 500X, but not so well to the 410L boot of the Peugeot 2008. The Captur’s rear load space has a removable floor, so you can either boost the space to 455L, or a have flat floor with the second row folded flat, your choice.
In that second-row-down configuration, the Captur grants 1235L of space.
While Renault has made some significant improvements to its multimedia offering in the last few years, I found the Intens’ native system a bit clunky to use, and without the option for Apple CarPlay I was stuck with it.
Price and features
Good news for X-Trail shoppers: Series II prices, right across the board, are either identical to, or down slightly on, the 2016 sticker prices.
The range still kicks off with the petrol-powered ST - $27,990-$30,490, depending on your engine choice, $31,990 for the seven seater and $32,490 as a five seat, four-wheel drive (4WD), before climbing to the ST-L ($36,590 for the five-seater, $38,090 for the seven-seater, and $38,590 for the five seat-only 4WD version) before topping out with the 4WD-only Ti ($44,290).
There are still two diesel-powered options on offer (both of which are pencilled in for a mid-year or later arrival), the $35,490 TS, and $47,290 TL.
The ST and TS trims arrive with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, along with powered mirrors, automatic headlights and some splashes of chrome, including the door handles. Inside, expect cloth seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, push-button start and climate control. A tiny-looking 5.0-inch touchscreen is mounted in the dash, which is paired with a six-speaker stereo, but there's no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on offer anywhere in the range.
Stepping up to the ST-L trim and you'll add fog lights, roof rails and heated mirrors outside, while your seats are now leather-trimmed, and heated in the front. You'll also score dual-zone climate control and a powered driver's seat. Your entertainment options are now controlled through a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen, which is sat nav equipped.
The top-spec Ti (or TL, if you've opted for a diesel), gains 19-inch alloys, adaptive headlights and a sunroof outside, along with a boot that opens automatically when you wave your foot under it. Inside, you'll find a heated steering wheel, along with heated seats in the second row. You get a better stereo, too, now an eight-speaker Bose unit.
The Captur comes with some great features, some not-so great features, and a few notable omissions. Let’s have a look.
Our Intens is the top of a two-variant range. Coming in at $29,990 (MSRP), you’ll get 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with Android Auto, but oddly no Apple CarPlay…), built-in sat-nav, auto LED lights front and rear with cornering fog lights, a fixed panoramic sunroof, leather-trimmed seats, with heated front ones, leather-trimmed steering wheel, 360-degree parking sensors, a reversing camera, ‘park assist’ auto parking, keyless entry with push-start, single-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
Not a bad set of equipment, but it’s also hardly a top-spec CX-3 or Hyundai Kona, which come with much more, albeit at a marginally higher price. It would be nice to at least see the inclusion of power-adjustable front seats.
Also, it’s incredibly confusing that this car doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay. It’s hardly excusable when it does come with Android Auto and, get this, the base model Zen gets a slightly different media system that does support Apple CarPlay at the cost of ‘enhanced’ built-in sat nav. Weird.
In its favour, the style items that the Captur comes with look fantastic. The two-tone colour scheme is standard on every car, even at Zen level (you can option a solid scheme if you really want) and the 17-inch alloys and little design touches on the exterior really add to this car’s appeal. Our car’s ‘Atacama Orange’ scheme is a $1000 option. The leather seat trim is excellent and well above average for this segment.
For the same money as the Captur Intens you can hop into similarly equipped and style focused euro rivals like the Fiat 500X Pop Star ($29,990) and Peugeot 2008 Allure ($29,990). The Volkswagen T-Roc and T-Cross are on their way to shake up this segment soon, so look out for those.
Engine & trans
There are two petrol engines on offer in the X-Trail range, with a revamped (and, on paper at least, significantly better) diesel engine scheduled to arrive closer to the middle of the year.
The smallest petrol - a 2.0-litre unit good for 106kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4400rpm - is available only in the base model ST, and can only be partnered with a six-speed manual sending its power to the front wheels. Which is bound to make it as popular as curdled milk.
The big seller, then, will be a solid 2.5-litre petrol unit that will produce 126kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4400rpm. It's partnered exclusively with a CVT auto, and can be had in two- or 4WD.
Finally, the late-to-the-party diesel is a fine-sounding 2.0-litre that will produce 130kW at 3750rpm and 380Nm at 2000rpm (significant increases on the outgoing 1.6-litre engine). It's also CVT only, and will only be offered in the 4WD configuration.
Nissan's holding out some hope for the diesel, too. Somewhere around 95 per cent of diesel sales in the segment are 4WDs partnered with an automatic transmission - a configuration missing from the current range.
In this incarnation, which Renault calls the ‘150 TCe’ – you’ll get 110kW/250Nm. This engine is leagues better than the slightly hopeless 88kW 1.2L engine that came before it and actually boosts the Captur’s outputs way ahead of its euro competition.
The Intens drives the front wheels only via a six-speed ‘EDC’ dual-clutch automatic transmission, which I wasn’t a fan of. Find out why in the driving segment of this review.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine sips 8.2L/100km on the claimed/combined cycle, while emitting 190 grams per kilometre of C02. The bigger, 2.5-litre petrol is actually more efficient, needing 7.9 litres (8.1 in seven-seat models) to go the same distance, emitting 183 grams (188 grams if you opt for the third row) per kilometre. Predictably, ticking the 4WD box hurts economy a little, increasing that number to 8.3 litres and 192 grams per kilometre.
The incoming diesel sips a mere 6.0 or 6.1L/100km, depending on the trim level, and emits 158g/km of C02.
The Captur Intens with its new engine carries a claimed/combined fuel consumption number of 5.4L/100km. Usually I struggle to hit anything below six without hybrid-assistance tech, although it was worth a shot given that this Renault also has stop-start technology and hardly weighs anything.
After a week of driving, though, the best I could muster was 7.2L/100km. The Captur’s on-board computer has a ‘Trip Report’ feature, which gives you an eco-score and analyses your driving behaviour. It’s kind of neat. I’m sure if you made a game out of it you could get this number down closer to 6.0L/100km.
You’ll need to fill the Captur’s 45-litre tank with at least 95RON mid-grade petrol.
Nissan clearly reckons it's onto a good thing with its X-Trail, and so hasn't messed with the formula too much. Or at all, for that matter.
In fact, except for the new diesel engine that's yet to hit our shores, nothing's changed under the skin at all.
But that's maybe not such a bad thing. We spent the majority of our time in the top-spec Ti model, equipped with the bigger 2.5-litre petrol engine and 4WD, and it's a hugely likeable set-up, delivering its power in a constant stream, while its confident suspension irons out all but the worst bumps in the road, and manages to dispose of most corners without transforming the X-Trail into a rollicking high-seas tall ship.
It's confident off-road, too, tackling gravel tracks with ease, while the steering, though weirdly light, is nicely predictable. Nothing there that needed too much updating, then.
But the CVT auto, for us at least, is harrowingly close to a deal-breaker: a whining, whirring disruption that makes smooth progress difficult, instead making you feel like you're constantly ebbing and flowing, surging forward with every light prod of the accelerator.
Elsewhere, though, the X-Trail is spacious and comfortable, and always easy to manoeuvre. And, in the top-spec models at least, it feels polished and premium in the cabin, though some cheaper plastics have crept in below the passengers' line of sight.
Okay, so the new engine is great. The Captur has plenty of punch now, some might say almost too much punch, as stomping on the accelerator will result in wheelspin and aggressive torque steer, thanks to peak torque availability from just 1600rpm. Still, it’s a welcome experience to drive a Captur that doesn’t feel breathless.
What lets down the experience is the transmission. I was genuinely surprised to find that the Captur is now equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch, as for most of my drive week it behaved with the clumsiness of a single-clutch automated manual. I thought these transmissions were a thing of the past, but despite its modern dual-clutch moniker, it was far too easy to catch the Captur in the wrong gear or, worse still, searching for the right one for far too long.
Even when driving in a straight line, shifts seemed slow compared with contemporary VW dual clutches; you could feel the Captur’s frame lurch forward slightly as it worked its way through each gear in a rather mechanical fashion.
Aside from the transmission marring the experience, the rest of the Captur offers a decent drive experience. The suspension feels just right up front, giving the small SUV a compliant ride, although it was a little stiff with its simple torsion-bar rear. It was easy to get the back dancing around over road imperfections.
That being said, driver and passenger comfort were decent, no matter what you heard the rear suspension getting up to, partially thanks to those great seats.
Steering was fast, but almost too light in some situations, and noise intrusion in the cabin was at acceptable levels, with the engine making itself largely unknown.
It’s tough for the little French SUV because there are significantly more popular and very good rivals in Australia’s market compared to Europe’s.
Every X-Trail arrives with a commendable standard safety package, including six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain bags), along with a reversing camera and forward collision warning with AEB.
Spring for the ST-L trim, and you'll add blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a surround-view camera that detects motion, while the Ti or TL top-spec models score lane departure warning and pedestrian detection, while for reasons known only to Nissan, only the Ti gets Intelligent Lane Intervention, which will counter-steer if it senses you drifting out of the lane, along with active cruise control.
The X-Trail range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2014.
In terms of more advanced features, the Captur Intens gets Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and… that’s it.
You get the regular suite of electronic stability aids, a reversing camera, and just four airbags.
Despite that, three-cylinder versions of the Captur carried maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings from 2013. This four-cylinder model has yet to be tested, but it’s hard to see how it can get close to a five-star rating with no additional active safety.
The now-expected auto emergency braking (AEB), Rear-Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane departure warning (LDW), Lane Keep Assist (LKAS), and active cruise features are all missing, even from the options list.
The Captur has two ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the two outboard rear seats and three top-tether mounts across the second row.
The X-Trail is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 10,000km.
X-Trail falls under Nissan's menu-based servicing program, with owners able to verify what needs to be done and cost estimated ahead of each service.
Each of the three years the service cost is set at $349, with the addition of an air filter ($52) and a pollen filter ($60) every 24 months. That service cost is not terribly expensive, but also not cheap. You’re on your own after the three years of fixed pricing is up.