- Update #1: Welcome to the family
- Update #2: Bound for South Australia
- Update #3: Suburban bliss
- Update #4: The not-so-softroader
Update #1: Welcome to the family
By Glenn Butler
Published May 23, 2019
I’ll come clean: I once owned a Nissan X-Trail. I was one of the 71,193 Australians who bought a first generation Nissan X-Trail (2001-08). I was attracted to the X-Trail’s ability to go off-road, and secondly because the cargo area had rubber instead of carpet which made my dog’s fur easier to deal with.Beyond that, I was prepared to compromise on elements like on-road driveability, ride comfort and manoeuvrability.
So when we I learned were evaluating the current Nissan X-Trail for a long term test, I wanted to see if its on-road manners had improved over the last ten years, and whether the car’s ruggedness had been retained or diluted.
So far, so good. The 2019 Nissan X-Trail is considerably bigger than my 2005 model, so it’s a lot more spacious and comfortable, which makes it easier to live with. Up front, the driver’s seat and steering wheel are both multi-adjustable, and I’ve had no problem finding a good driving position.
I’m a bit confused as to why Nissan has gone for a foot-operated parking brake when a button would do the job just as well.
The infotainment system has all the features I’d expect of this price tag, but the graphics are starting to look a bit dated. This is an area where cars have leapt ahead in recent years, and the X-Trail is falling behind.
I’m also not a fan of the touchscreen’s demand that I agree to the safety message every time I get in the car, before being able to do anything.
The second row of seat has loads of legroom for passengers, and headroom too.
It’s also realistic for three adults, thanks to the X-Trail’s generous width, and air-conditioning vents in that row are a nod to comfort. Getting in and out of the X-Trail’s big door openings is easy, and the doors are relatively light for their size.
As for the cargo area. I was a fan of my old model’s rubber mat (easy dog hair removal, y’see), but must admit the carpet has a more premium look and feel. I’m sure Nissan has a rubber mat on the accessories list (will report back on that later).
I’m liking the big boot, and the split floor which can be used as a partition to secure smaller loads. The Ti model’s electric tailgate is another handy convenience.
In day-to-day driving the Nissan X-Trail Ti is a very easy machine to drive. This model’s 2.5-litre petrol engine feels responsive and energetic, and pairs well with Nissan’s very smooth Continuously Variable Transmission.
The engine’s stop-start functionality is a bit too eager to stop before the vehicle has actually come to a stop, and sometimes slow to start again. But it is saving fuel, so perhaps that lethargy is worth it in the long run. We will see.
No complaints about the X-Trail’s suspension, beyond the fact it’s set quite soft to absorb bumps which means the body leans a bit in corners. This may be a ‘Sports’ Utility Vehicle, but it’s definitely designed for utility over sports, so I’m fine with the suspension favouring ride quality instead of dynamics.
FIND OUT MORE: 2019 Nissan X-Trail Range Review
All in all, the new Nissan X-Trail has made a good first impression on me, and it’s certainly come a long way in the refinement and practicality stakes since my mid-2000s original. I suspect this new model won’t match the old one for off-road capability, but we’ll save that test for a later instalment.
Update #2: Bound for South Australia
By David Bonnici
Published June 2, 2019
I must admit the Nissan X-Trail wouldn’t be my first choice as an urban SUV. Even with the Ti spec’s creature comforts it still doesn’t feel quite as refined as some of its fresher rivals, like say the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester or the quirky Peugeot 3008.
On the plus side its lesser refinement translates to a sense of ruggedness that makes it great choice for families whose lifestyle involves plenty of country driving. I soon realise this after turning off the Western Freeway near Ballarat to take a more enjoyable route toward Dunkeld for a culinary detour on the way to South Australia’s Coorong region.
On the motorway, the top-spec X-Trail Ti’s 19-inch wheels generated considerable road noise on coarser surfaces and its active cruise control had trouble settling on the selected speed, which I reckon was due to it sensing cars in adjoining lanes on gentle curves.
But on the meandering C296 heading south-west of Ballarat, Nissan’s globally popular mid-sized SUV seems to be in its happy place. The 2.5-litre petrol engine is more than adequate for negotiating hills or overtaking, and the suspension handled road imperfections well and lapped up bends.
This is by no means the most direct way to South Australia’s Coorong region, but we had decided to book a night at Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel, one of Australia’s premiere gourmet travel destinations – you can read more about our experience here.
Well-fed and watered, we wake to the sound of native bird life and prepared for the next leg of our journey.
As with a suitcase, you can never repack a car as neatly as before you departed. We do tend to over pack but our luggage and extras including folding chairs and shopping bags filled with supplies were easily swallowed by the X-Trail’s capacious 565-litre boot, which is one of the biggest in its class.
Being able to slide the rear seats forward to eke a few extra litres of stowage can definitely be an advantage.
All packed, we head west, staying on the Glenelg Highway, which ultimately ends up at Mount Gambier, but turned on to the C198 at Casterton. The X-Trail is averaging about 9.0 litres/100km by this point.
One good thing about South Australian rural highways is the 110km/h speed, limit even on single lane roads. The terrain is pretty featureless, though, as we head toward Kingston SE on the coast, via the Princes Highway which meant bypassing Robe.
The active cruise control works better here, co-operating well with the CVT gearbox that manages to find the right revs when negotiating the odd hill or slowing down behind slower traffic – which isn’t always the case in city traffic.
A few hours into the journey and I still feel good without a hint of saddle soreness. The Ti’s heated, power-adjustable and leather upholstered seats aren’t plush, but they’re comfortable, supportive and afford a good driving position.
We head further north west along the Princes Highway, finally capturing a glimpse of the lagoons of the stunning Coorong National Park, which are separated from the Southern Ocean by a 130km strip of sand dunes.
We soon arrive our ultimate destination, Meningie whose west-facing position on the Lake Albert makes for stunning over-water sunsets made all the more alluring by birdlife, including the pelicans that are synonymous with the region.
We stay at the Lake Albert Motel across the road from the lakeside park. It’s fair to say this isn’t as salubrious as the Royal Mail, but it’s very clean and a bargain for under $100 per night considering the location.
Woken early by the pesky corellas, we headed along Nurrung Road that encircles all but the north eastern end of Lake Albert and ended up a Long Point, which juts into the glassy lagoon close enough to the dunes to hear the surf pounding on the other side.
The X-Trail is in its element on the white limestone dirt road that leads to the Point, which we had to ourselves for most of the time, apart from the fur seals that use the little jetty to nap and dry off.
That evening, we head south a short distance from Meningie to McCallum Point, which has access to the lagoon beaches. The X-Trail’s AWD system (that distributes up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels) allows for moderate off-roading that is sufficient enough to negotiate the wet sand with a bit more confidence than more road-focused SUVs.
The Coorong is a mecca for serious off-roaders, with great fishing and plenty of campsites, but most of the dirt roads in the area are negotiable by normal cars in dry conditions, making it the perfect place for those who like driving around to discover spectacular views.
And the X-Trail proves a great ride to do all this in. It’s still not my first choice of urban SUV, but having travelled in it this far makes me appreciate its strengths as an open-road tourer with enough power, space and off-road capability to let you and your family get to places many of its mid-sized rivals can’t.
Update #3 - Suburban bliss
By Tony O'Kane
My younger self would be aghast to hear this, but these days I'm finding myself gravitating towards cars that are comfortable rather than cars that are fast, loud and exciting. Ergo, I found myself happily slipping behind the wheel of our X-Trail long-termer rather than fighting my colleagues for the keys to BMW's oh-so-sexy M850i Coupe, which passed through our garage not that long ago.
Now I did eventually steal some time in BMW's flagship two-door and it was an absolute blast, but did I regret preferencing the X-Trail over it? Not at all. Why? Because my life exists mostly in and around the suburbs, not on twisting coastal roads or race tracks. Often times, cars that are great fun on the latter just induce anxiety when driven within the former - especially when the price tag stretches deep into the triple digits.
And to be honest, I'm glad I spent a bit more time behind the X-Trail's wheel (which, I've got to say, I'm glad they remodeled as part of the X-Trail's facelift back in 2017 - the old one was just dorky and uncomfortable). Though it's one of the oldest cars in its segment, having launched globally six years ago, there's still an honest charm about Nissan's mid-size SUV that has enduring appeal. A lot of that, I reckon, comes down to how easy it is to drive.
Sure it's got a CVT, the most reviled of all automatic gearboxes, but it rarely has that hyperactive rubber-band feel that some CVTs suffer from. In the X-Trail, you simply slot it into Drive and it does everything it needs to do almost imperceptibly - and very quietly - in the background. You don't notice its ratio changes, and that's a good thing.
Its engine, meanwhile, may be lacking technological sophistication in the form of turbochargers or hybrid assistance, but it has more than enough poke for the day-to-day commute and/or school run. A little bit dull, but easy and fuss-free. Same too with the ride, which is plush enough to smooth out most road imperfections but never floaty or unstable.
Hardly an adventurous or cutting-edge machine from an engineering point of view, but it's definitely a good formula for a family wagon - no wonder it's Nissan Australia's most popular model. That said it's far from perfect: I'm not a fan of the amount of rock-hard plastics on its centre console, nor am I impressed with Nissan's infotainment suite. Infotainment is definitely one area where Nissan lags significantly behind the rest of the pack, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone who turns up their nose at an X-Trail when they see that dinky screen and antique interface.
Good thing, then, that the rest of the package is so competent.
Update #4 – The not-so-softroader
By Tony O'Kane
One would be forgiven for looking at the Nissan X-Trail and thinking it’s a bit of a pretender, a jacked-up faux-4x4 whose only claim to off-road prowess is its ability to deal with damp grass when dropping the kids off at footy practice.
But that’s not so. Earlier this year we shot an SUV-centric episode of WhichCar TV where we pitted a selection of vehicles from the compact end of that class to discover their strengths and weaknesses. The X-Trail wasn’t part of the gang in front of the camera, but it was very much there in a behind-the-scenes role as our primary camera vehicle – a role that it excelled at.
And on day one of that particular shoot, it showed us that it had more than a modicum of talent when the asphalt ran out. We went to the Werribee 4x4 Proving Ground for the off-road portion of our ‘SUV Auto Games’, which saw the genuinely rugged Suzuki Jimny and Subaru XV go head-to-head on a moderately challenging dirt, mud and rock trail – with a water crossing thrown in for good measure.
While you can see the Jimny and XV making light work of all that (well, except for the final challenge of an ultra-steep, ultra-slippery hill ascent), what you can’t see is the X-Trail being used for all of those car-to-car tracking shots. It traversed the exact same route as the Jimny and XV without ever getting stuck or being challenged for traction, except for one crucial difference – it did the route double the number of times as the Suzi and Subie.
And it did so with the tailgate up and a camera operator lashed into the luggage area. It also performed double the number of water crossings in a creek that was steadily getting deeper throughout the day, thanks to some upstream rain, with the torrent eventually rising well above the tops of the tyres.
Throughout all of this, the 4x4 mode switch was largely left in “auto”. Nissan’s electronics are apparently clever enough to figure out when the car’s being driven on dirt, adjusting the settings accordingly. More surprisingly, given it had a longer wheelbase and less ride height than the Jimny and XV respectively, it didn’t get hung up on dirt humps or rocks either.
While it’s obviously no rock-hopper, if you’re planning on doing some mild off-roading the X-Trail’s abilities will likely take you a lot further than you expect. It performance definitely won it the respect of the WhichCar video team.