If you like the thought of a crossover but still need something practical and capable, then this Nissan looks worth checking out.
The range as a whole provides a choice of two or four-wheel drive configurations, but doesn’t offer many options beneath the bonnet. Yes, you can talk to your dealer about a 163PS 1. 6-litre DIG-T turbocharged petrol engine, but hardly any buyers choose it, directed instead to a single diesel unit that’s smaller than you’d expect to find in a car of this sort. What do I mean by that? Well, just look at direct diesel competitors to this car: they all need powerplants of at least 2. 0-litres in size – and even then, are usually less than thrilling away from the lights. There’s cause for concern then, in Nissan’s decision to fit this car exclusively with a dCi unit of just 1. 6-litres. Particularly when you learn that it develops a decidedly conservative 130PS, a full 43PS less than the 2. 0-litre dCi engine used in this car’s direct predecessor.
On the road, this is less of an issue than it is on the spec sheet. As the engineers rightly point out, this downsized powerplant puts out just as much pulling power - 320Nm of torque - as its 2. 0-litre predecessor did, yet is 20% more efficient and comparably quick, 62mph from rest occupying around 11s en route to around 117mph.
By now, you'll probably have figured out what's going on with this third generation X-Trail model. In brief, it's trying to blend the sleek and stylish lines of a modern crossover with the robust appeal of a typical SUV. In place of the bluff, squared-off shape of the previous generation version, this MK3 model looks sleeker, hints of the popular Qashqai and luxurious Murano mixed with a dipping roofline, deeply sculpted flanks and a rising waistline.
Move inside here at the rear and first impressions are good. The rear doors open widely to over 80-degrees for easier access and at first glance, the cabin looks as spacious as the cold statistics promise.
Passengers in the centre of the car who don’t need to worry about third row folk can kick back and stretch out. The extra 60mm of length between the wheels that this car enjoys over its Qashqai stablemate enables it to offer class-leading standards of legroom that’s further aided by these deeply sculpted front seat backs.
And up front? Well, back at the turn of the century in the original first generation version of this car, Nissan’s designers went all quirky, with centrally-mounted dials, a proudly protruding centre stack and weird seat fabrics. Since then, the brand has learnt a few lessons about buyers in this segment: they may like to make a little bit of a statement when it comes to exterior styling, but when it comes to the interior, conservative quality tends to be the preferred approach. So that’s exactly what’s served up in this X-Trial, with most of the design and functionality borrowed from its Qashqai stablemate.
This biggest step forward when it comes to cost of ownership has come with the replacement of the previous model’s 2. 0-litre 173PS diesel with this car’s smaller, less powerful 1. 6-litre 130PS dCi unit. As a result, 57. 6mpg on the combined cycle is now possible from a 2WD model, along with 129g/km of CO2.
This third generation X-Trail offers much more than its predecessors ever could. Class-leading levels of space and efficiency, more appealing looks, plenty of hi-tech and, crucially, the option of seven seats for those wanting it. That last feature gives this car something most compact lifestyle soft roaders can’t offer – and those that can tend to be more expensive and pricier to run.
Perhaps most importantly, there’s an element of desirability in this MK3 model X-Trail that was missing from its predecessors. All of which might indeed mean that if you’re looking for a car of this kind, ‘X’ may very well mark the spot.