Nissan X Factor

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Are we heading for a future where people will only be buying SUV’s?  Sure seems that way, with the sector now accounting for one in three new passenger vehicle purchases.  Sales in the area have tripled in a decade.  Nissan is fast becoming an SUV specialist, with every other sale being of a high-riding vehicle.  SUV’s should be thought of as the modern family estate.  And in that vein, the boxy shape of Nissan’s compact X-Trail is now past history, and the new third-generation variant, a global offering for the first time, is modern, sassy, and resembles a shrunken Pathfinder, both exhibiting the new Nissan family nose.

Now that the new X-Trail’s here, more rounded, more modern, but more anonymous, it’s easier to understand the quirky appeal of the former X-Trail. It may not have been classically elegant, but it was unique, looked like it was
good for getting its paws dirty, and it seemed voluminous in the way box-shaped things are.  The new X-Trail stands out less.  Slightly different taillights were the giveaway.

nissan x trail 2015 interior

Points of difference

The X-Trail is the only seven-seater available for a price point that begins with a three; in the Outlander seven-seaters kick off at $47,490. That alone is a prime selling point as many growing families are looking for that seven-seat versatility. In the X-Trail the thirdrow seats are accessed by pulling them up out of a boot floor recess in one easy movement. They’re for children mind, but middle-row sliding seats make them more versatile. And for a supreme point of difference, how’s about scratch-resistant paint? Nissan has been working on Scratch Shield for some
time. The top coat has an elastic resin added that heals light scratches within a few of days, depending on temperature.  After five years, Nissan reckons on there being five-fold fewer light scratches evident.

Three levels and more

There are three spec levels, ST, ST-L (for leather) and Ti. Only the base model comes as a seven-seater, and it’s front-wheel drive only. A five-seat 4WD ST is also offered, at $42,490, and the higher spec models are all configured
thus. The ST-L with leather trim costs $47,290 and the top Ti rounds out the range at $53,290. The totally new shape makes the new third-generation X-Trail quite a different proposition visually, with its prominent front wheel arches, borrowing a cue from the Mazda opposition. There’s been as much of a change inside as well, and it’s much less agricultural than its hard plasticky predecessor.

Familiar engine but new chassis

Superficially there’s lots new but there’s also some familiar features to the new T32 X-Trail. The engine is essentially carryover, though has been tweaked, principally for efficiency, with a claimed 40 per cent reduction in operating friction. There’s a new variable air intake system, the addition of variable valve timing to the exhaust cam, and with taller gearing fuel efficiency from the CVT-only powertrain is said to have improved by around 10 percent, at 8.1L/100km for the front driver and 8.3L/100km for the on-demand AWD variants. Power and torque are little changed, at 125kW and 226Nm. There’s no diesel alternative henceforth because so few bought the old one. The transmission is an updated version of the existing CVT, the power processed through the same part-time 4WD system as before (with 2WD, auto and locked 4WD settings). Underpinning X-Trail is the Alliance’s new Common Module Platform, also beneath the incoming second-generation Qashqai.

Of comfort and CVTs

The absorbent seats, similar in design to Altima’s, supple suspension and low level of road rumble make the X-Trail a pleasant distance partner. Not that it’s any quicker than its forebear, but the X-Tronic CVT seems to get smarter with each iteration. Work the engine and the gearbox automatically goes into a pseudomanual mode, upshifting through eight steps. No version has wheel paddles but there’s a manual sequential lever position if you want to shift gears yourself. X-Trail is rated to drag braked trailers weighing up to 1500kg. Techie types will appreciate the NissanConnect upgrade to X-Trail which lifts comms into the 21st century, while practical sorts will like the fact that all three dimensions expand, albeit by small amounts. The wheelbase is the biggest beneficiary, up 75mm. Ground clearance is 210mm, 15mm down but with a 4WD lock setting X-Trail should still be good for some offroading, though approach and departure angles have both decreased.

nissan x trail 2015 back

Gear organiser

Luggage space with five seats in use is 550L, expanding to 1520L after split folding the middle row of seats, but of equal importance is a rethink on the luggage space itself.  If you’ve no rear seat passengers, the middle row seats don’t necessarily need to be folded away for extra gear space. Merely move them right forward on their runners and there’s more room in the luggage bay. This is not your normal boxy trunk either; an innovative, Divide-N-Hide storage system in the fi ve-seater machines provides 18 adjustable variations between the cargo and occupant areas. The rear part of the floor can be latched vertically to divide up the boot space, and there are three fl oor heights.  It’s a handier system than the former drawer set-up.

And on board gear abounds

Buyers of the base ST may only get manual aircon, but there’s pushbutton start up, daytime running lights, a rear view camera and a new driver assist display. ST-L adds leather accents and seat heating, sat nav, an around-view monitor, dual zone climate air and powered lumbar support. Opting for Ti adds a powered tailgate which can be activated by a hand swipe, 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, an intelligent key, sunroof and safety features like lane departure warning, moving object detection and blind spot monitoring. Nissan reckons ST-L will be the big seller long term, with around 100 per month for the range expected.

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