Driven - November 2017

Updated Nissan X-Trail First Drive.

The mid-size compact SUV is fast becoming the most popular choice for most people, and for good reason. You get sedan-like space and ease of parking cocktailed with SUV practicality and versatility. This recipe gives you the perfect family vehicle for shuttling the kids to school during the week, as well as the weekend family getaway. The Nissan X-Trail has been a favourite for many, even though it looked like it was straight out of a Lego set at the turn of the century. That car, paired with “mom and dad jeans” created the makings of a perfect Parkhurst family back then.

Fast forward to 2014, the jeans as well as the Lego set were traded in for a PS3 and fitted jeans from Country Road. The X-Trail was now a good-looking car with sharp edges and a more rounded off shape. Was Nissan going to make a mess of this with its update of its third generation X-Trail? Fortunately, the greeting that we got of the new car, on a VERY windy and cloudy Port Elizabeth morning was an improvement on the fitted jeans. You get a nip and tucked front end complemented by LED daytime running lights with the optional Intelligent headlights. The rear too sees some lighting changes which are in tune with 2017.

The first vehicle that we drove was the 1.6 dCI Tekna 4WD version with a healthy 320Nm of torque and 96kW. This engine is mated to an easy to operate manual 6 speed gearbox. In a sea of automatics, CVTs, DCTs, PDC, 123s and so forth, it was refreshing to operate a vehicle with an H-Pattern. Especially in a quiet town, on country roads where K53 and clutch control isn’t on the top of the to-do list. Stick the same car in Johannesburg traffic however and I may have felt different about it. The top of the range Tekna specification vehicle has all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a vehicle of this class. For instance, one gets the aforementioned Intelligent Auto lights, Climate control with dual control. You also get Intelligent Around View Monitor, a 7” touch screen with Nissan Connect apps and navigation, Intelligent lane Intervention, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Front Collision Warning and Cross Traffic Warning. As you can see this vehicle is intelligent!

Expecting the vehicle to be on the slightly sluggish side, we set off and I immediately introduced my right foot to the go pedal, which passed on my greetings to the firewall. The Introduction was short as I immediately had to ease off the pedal as the wave of torque came to the rescue and carried the new X-Trail comfortably without having to chase the diesel red line. The steering is also good, translating what the tarmac has to say with ease and you never feel that you are lost in translation with the front end of the vehicle. (What is that beep?) The suspension handles undulations in a fine manner, as well as broken tarmac without a threat to your fillings. Long trips with the family will no doubt be a breeze. Ergonomically, the X-Trail does well with placement of obvious control and you don’t find yourself wondering where items and functions are. (There’s that beep again, where is it coming from?)

After a vehicle swop, I found myself behind the wheel of the 126 kW, 233Nm 2.5 Petrol CVT version. Now, I’ve never been a fan of the CVT gearbox as I find it doesn’t suite my driving style. I’m simply don’t like how every CVT sounds like the engine is going to explode when you accelerate. A conventional automatic would have done a fantastic job, in my opinion. (There is that beep again!) You definitely feel the reduction in torque from the diesel to the petrol but this isn’t a racecar and as a kiddy friendly vehicle, it has enough power to see to Hannah and all her Barbie’s. (The Beep!) Eventually I had to stop and find this darn noise. Turns out, it’s the Intelligent lane Intervention. Each time it detects that you’re going off course, it beeps at you – something I picked up hours into our journey. Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought…

Our first drive impression of the updated X-Trail is one that was very positive. We would definitely take the diesel with the manual gearbox as our top pick. Pricing is very good and starts at R369 000 for the petrol version. A 90 000 km/3-year service plan is standard as well as the 6 year/150 000 km warranty. We look forward to spending more time with the car and put it through some real family tests, babies and all.