REVIEW DATE: 20 Sep 2007
Soft Roaders don't come much better than Nissan's revised X-TRAIL 2.5. Andy Enright tries it for size.
Some people have issues with cars like the Nissan X-TRAIL. They just don't understand them and question their relevance. Why bother with a 4x4 when they never travel off-road? It's a valid question and one that only a prospective buyer can properly answer. Still, if you really can muster the necessary justification, and want to buy one of the best, your search should extend no further than the Nissan X-TRAIL 2.5. That's right. A Nissan.
After all, Britain's leading off-road magazine '4x4' voted the X-TRAIL the best soft roader two years running, beating off rivals such as the Land Rover Freelander, the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. The 2.5-litre petrol model we feature here is supplied in two trim levels, SPORT and plush AVENTURA. It boasts an extra 28PS over the next most powerful petrol engine, the 2.0-litre, and represents the starting point for petrol X-TRAIL buyers who want the very latest intelligent version of Nissan's ALL-MODE 4x4 system known as ALL-MODE 4x4-i, incorporating Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Uphill Start Support (USS) and Downhill Drive Support (DDS).
New from the ground up, the latest X-TRAIL is slightly larger than before: its wheelbase has increased by 5mm to 2630mm, while overall length has risen by 175mm to 4630mm. Much of this extra length can be found in the luggage area, which has increased dramatically in size. With the rear seat in place, the original vehicle had a luggage area VDA measurement of 410 litres up to the lower edge of the rear window: in this latest X-TRAIL, the equivalent figure is 603 litres, an increase of 193 litres (including double deck trunk capacity). Fold the rear seats forward and this increases to 1773 litres.
This has been achieved by rerouting the exhaust silencer from its original transverse position under the boot floor to a north/south location alongside the rear wheel well. This has allowed the creation of an innovative double deck luggage area, with space for a sliding drawer under the floor where valuable items can be stored away from prying eyes. The drawer has partition walls that can be placed in a number of different positions or removed altogether as required. The floor and the drawer can both be removed to increase load space even further. As a result, the luggage area of this X-TRAIL is deeper and wider than the original and, even with the false floor in place, virtually as tall. With it removed, luggage height is increased by 127mm over the original.
"Refinement is better than any equivalent diesel you could imagine and fuel economy is far from crippling"
Like all X-TRAIL models, this version is equipped with Nissan's ALL-MODE 4x4 system. This normally operates in two-wheel drive only to minimise fuel consumption and transfers into four-wheel drive mode as and when the vehicle detects it is needed, or when All-MODE is manually selected by the driver. Both SPORT and AVENTURA models get an 'ALL-MODE 4x4-i' set-up, incorporating Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Uphill Start Support (USS) and Downhill Drive Support (DDS).
USS is a fully automatic system that activates on any slope that exceeds a 10 per cent incline, holding the vehicle on the brakes until the driver starts to move away. The system also works if the vehicle is reversing up an incline. DDS - operated via a switch on the centre console - operates when ALL-MODE is in lock mode. DDS uses the anti-lock brakes to maintain a descent speed of 5mph allowing the driver to concentrate on steering. Like USS, DDS also works when the vehicle is in reverse.
Though there are exterior styling changes with this latest generation model, more important are the improvements wrought inside. Nissan knew that to compete against rival products like Land Rover's Freelander2, the latest Honda CR-V and Toyota's MK3 RAV4, they would have to up their game in terms of cabin fitment and this they've certainly done. The rather icky plastics of the first generation car have been replaced with more soft touch finishes, metallic highlights and tonnes of auxiliary storage space.
Nissan claims an extra 50 litres of oddment stowage around the cabin with various bins, boxes cubby holes and cupholders never more than a few centimetres away. The designers have resisted the temptation to lever a useless pair of seats into the car's boot, the X-Trail remaining resolutely a five-seater only. It would have been thoughtful to have allowed the rear bench to slide to and fro, prioritising luggage or passenger space at will but perhaps that's a job for the 2010 facelift. As it stands, there's a rather neat 40/20/40 split system for the rear bench.
Road manners remain pretty near the top of the compact SUV tree, certainly far better than average. Roll is well suppressed and wind noise is also agreeably muted, although the tyres make an infernal din on poorly surfaced motorways. Off the beaten track, the Nissan still does reasonably well, although it lacks the fancy hill descent control of the Land Rover.
The 2.5-litre engine is carried over from the original X-TRAIL range and it produces some decent figures. The 169PS output is fair enough, but the 233Nm of torque gives the pleasantly muscular feel of a good diesel. Refinement is better than any equivalent diesel you could imagine and fuel economy is far from crippling. On the combined cycle, you only shave 1mpg from the 2.0-litre car's showing (and you're only 9mpg away from the diesel), the 2.5 returning a very creditable figure of 29.4mpg. Performance is transformed over the lesser petrol unit, the manual version sprinting to 60mph in less than 10 seconds and emissions are rated at 223g/km.
There's something very reassuring about knowing you've bought the best in class. True, Land Rover or Mitsubishi may have a genuine claim that their offerings are better when the going gets really tough, but for most of the people most of the time, the Nissan's the best bet. In 2.5-litre guise, the X-TRAIL makes a good deal more sense than at first expected, offering a decent hike in performance and equipment without drastic effect on either fuel economy nor retail price. It's good enough to make the rest of the chasing pack look a little leaden. If you must have a soft roader, this is one of those you need to try.
The results below show the top X-TRAIL deals on buyacar
|Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCi N-Tec 5dr 4WD [7 Seat] diesel station wagon|
|Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCi Tekna 5dr Xtronic diesel station wagon|
|Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 173 Tekna 5dr diesel station wagon|
|Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCi Acenta 5dr diesel station wagon|
|Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCi Tekna 5dr diesel station wagon|
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|For X-TRAIL 2.5|
|OVERALL||6.4 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||5|
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