Nissan considers it a bold move, some might consider it foolhardy given the escalation in the price of diesel fuel, but the addition of a willing 2.0-litre diesel engine to the Nissan X-Trail compact SUV is mostly just a good thing.
- David Twomey
The X-Trail is a strong part of Nissan’s sales success, accounting for nearly 12,500 sales last year, and currently posting about 800 sales a month for the company.
General manager marketing, Ross Booth, says he expects the diesel X-trail to add about 30 per cent to those sales – at least – so the contribution that this newest member of the X-Trail family should make the Nissan is not inconsiderable.
X-Trail comes under strong sales pressure from Honda CR-V, Subararu Forester and Toyotata Rav4, all of who top it in the sales stakes, and we suspect in the future from the only other diesel player in this segment, the VW Tiguan, which has high sales ambitions once its gets unlimited supply from early next year.
The Nissan X-Trail dCi TS diesel is priced from $36,990 for the six-speed manual model, and $38,990 for the six-speed automatic.
The premium X-Trail dCi TL diesel is priced from $39,990 for the six-speed manual version and $41,990 respectively for the six-speed automatic.
Having spent a day driving both six-speed manual and six-speed automatic versions on the road and over some reasonably challenging forest tracks around Canberra, we can say that both cars acquit themselves quite well, although as the manual version has 17Kw more power than the automatic, it does feel a much punchier drive.
Nissan calls the 4WD system All Mode 4x4-I and it is exceptionally easy to operate. Controlled via a large two-position, three-mode rotary knob situated behind the gear lever on the centre console, the system allows the driver to choose between front-wheel drive or fully automatic four-wheel drive: the ‘AUTO’ setting is the default mode, while the third ‘LOCK’ setting is for use off-road.
Two further features of the new All Mode 4x4-i are Uphill Start Support (USS) and Downhill Drive support (DDS).
That said, when it came to the off-road section of our drive, both cars performed very well and were reasonably capable, despite a large up and over hump at one stage managing to remove a section of the under body protection – a gentle reminder that these are ‘soft-roaders’ and they just don’t have the ground clearance, not ramp-over angles of serious four-wheel drives.
With MacPherson strut suspension at the front, and a multi-link system at the rear, the Nissan X-Trail offers a more refined, comfortable ride, while efficiency and handling are assisted by the adoption of electric power steering.
The natural habitat of the X-Trail is much more likely to be the speed humps of suburban roads and the challenges of negotiating the supermarket car park, and these challenges it is sure to handle much better.
There are a myriad of storage options in the X-Trail, from cooled drink holders in the dash to clever slide-out second level bins under the rear cargo floor.
But what about the big change, that engine, well we can say from the start that not only is it a much cheaper option than from some manufacturers at just a $1000 premium over the petrol models, but it does a pretty good job to boot.
The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, is essentially a Renault engine- Nissan people prefer to call it an ‘alliance engine’ - that has already seen service in a number of vehicles and has been available in the European version of the X-Trail.
It delivers impressive performance thanks to its powerful and torquey characteristics, but at the same time it is smooth, refined and environmentally-friendly, with CO2 exhaust emissions rated as low as 198g/km.
The engine sets a high standard in the compact SUV segment and offers a standard Diesel Particulate Filter and is Euro 4 compliant.
It is available in two guises, the 110kW version mated to a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox, and the 127kW version, mated to a six-speed manual.
In 110kW guise, peak power is available at 4000rpm, with peak torque of 320Nm arriving at just 2000rpm.
In 127kW manual transmission guise, peak power arrives at 3750rpm and peak torque of 360Nm is reached at 2000rpm.
The two different power outputs are necessary apparently because the automatic does not have a transmission cooler and cannot handle the higher power outputs of the 127Kw engine.
It’s a bit of a shame really as the more powerful engine feels a lot more responsive and while the majority of buyers will opt for the automatic transmission they will have to accept the lower power output.
Space inside is generous and the 4/20/40 folding rear seats means that load lugging space can be expanded to a maximum of 1773 litres.
Seating, and its luxurious leather in the top-spec TL, is for five, but the truth is that four adults are the maximum you would want to carry, although three children or teenagers across the back seat would be fine, provided you didn’t test their patience for a long period of time.
Standard in all new X-TRAIL models are a trip computer, exterior temperature gauge, cruise control, height-adjustable driver’s seat, air conditioning, power windows, keyless entry, 12-volt cargo area power outlet, cargo area tie-down hooks and roof rails.
And the X-Trail TL model has what must come close to being the largest sunroof in any car - covering 0.59m2, it incorporates automatic closing.
Nissan’s diesel-powered X-Trail is a worthwhile addition to the range that’s well priced, is a first amongst its competitors and is certain to appeal to a good number of compact SUV buyers who are looking for an alternative fuel option.