NISSAN is meeting the challenge of the redesigned Mazda CX-5 with the facelifted X-Trail, bringing a range of cosmetic updates inside and out, AEB across the range, a bigger diesel with AWD auto, and more standard features.
WHAT IS IT
The X-Trail is Nissan’s bestseller, thanks to chunky good looks, a large and spacious cabin, light controls, a choice of engines and hard-fought durability. The Series II facelift serves to enhance that with extra safety and features, including an all-new 2.0-litre diesel with auto AWD.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The booming medium SUV segment has been revitalised lately with the redesigned Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5, changing the order of things lately. We’ve long rated the X-Trail for its combination of value, packaging, comfort and durability, but how does the stalwart now fare in this new age in facelifted Series II guise?
Ford Escape, Haval H6, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Renault Koleos, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan
THE WHEELS VERDICT:
NISSAN’S facelifted X-Trail is on the money by offering increased standard safety features like the newly-arrived AEB Autonomous Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning, enhancing an already likeable medium SUV package.
The makeover sees a bolder nose and minor alterations to the tail-lights and trim to give it all a more contemporary look, but there have been no modifications to the ageing 2.5-litre petrol engine and that’s a shame because while it is muscular and responsive, its efficiency and refinement are falling behind newcomers like the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Meanwhile the ride remains firm, especially on bigger-wheeled versions.
Still, with a new (and larger) diesel AWD auto out in September, the X-Trail still has plenty of promise. And it remains a proven, practical and likeable family medium SUV.
More safety, improved cabin, space, ease, design, features, versatility
Still lacks suspension and mechanical finesse, ageing petrol engines
THE WHEELS REVIEW
MEMORY is a funny thing.
Midway through driving Nissan’s largely cosmetic X-Trail nip ‘n tuck, the penny dropped as to why sales remain so solid. This is a good old-fashioned wagon on stilts. Which many of us would connect with clambering up into Skylines, Bluebirds, 180Bs or 1600s as kids. Does the familiar rectangular silhouette subconsciously reassure of good times gone by?
Employing the same brawny but boisterous 2.5-litre petrol engine from the original T30 of 2001 is certainly also a throwback, especially against more muscular direct-injection and/or turbo competitors like Volkswagen’s Tiguan.
Sure, there’s enough low-down torque for the driver to mercifully avoid exploring the artificially-stepped CVT’s whiney upper-band width (except when overtaking), so the X-Trail is a rapid and responsive old thing, but this lump’s lack of vitality and verve is a drag.
Speaking of which, this isn’t the subtlest of facelifts either (did the Les Girls make-up department apply the black lipstick and lush coat of chrome around the grille sans spectacles?), though in contrast, the cabin’s more monochrome trim and newly double-stitched vinyl inserts elevate the ambience decidedly.
Not much was needed actually, because the Nissan’s pleasingly-equipped interior prevails as an airy, spacious and comfortable environment, defined by plush seats, an elementary driving position, lovely new wheel, attractive instrumentation, exceptionally clear switchgear, simple controls and endless storage. Hate that foot-operated park brake though.
Moving on to the back, if only yesteryear’s 200Bs and Bluebirds boasted a sliding and reclining split/fold bench, rear vent outlets and elevated views.
The cargo area is comparatively vast, a cinch to load, and includes a reversible hose-down floor, as well as a third-row option on ST FWD. Finally, more sound deadening is fitted to further quieten things down.
However, as with the petrol powertrains, there’s been no change to the steering, which is light and precise but could offer more feel and feedback, or MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension set-up. The latter varies from firmly controlled (ST/ST-L on 225/65R17s) to busy and occasionally unsettled (Ti/TL on 225/55R19s).
Still, AEB Autonomous Emergency Braking debuts across the range yet prices remain still or have fallen depending on variant, and all score extra kit, including adaptive-cruise and motion-sensing electric tailgate on Ti/TL. And the diesel, delayed until September, grows to a promising 130kW/380Nm 2.0-litre with standard auto and AWD.
Upshot? As a family runabout the latest X-Trail ticks all the required boxes to stay near the top of the medium-SUV class. Nissan’s able form with wagons does go way back, after all.
Model: Nissan X-Trail ST-L 2WD
Engine: 2488cc 4-cyl, dohc, 16v
Max power: 126kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 226Nm @ 4400rpm
Transmission: CVT automatic
Weight: 1458kg (tare)
Fuel economy: 7.9L/100km
On sale: Now