2008 Nissan X-Trail TS dCi Review & Road Test
X-Trail certainly suits the urban jungle
Cargo area, safety, drivability, fuel efficiency
Sluggish performance, handbrake position
I may not have a crocodile named Boris to shove in the back of my X-Trail, but I do have two kids, which, some might say draw their similarities. As a soccer mum by definition, it is only right that I take Nissan’s latest addition to the X-Trail family for a spin around the suburbs because let’s face it, these days you’ll see far more SUVs in the soccer stadium car park than tearing up the dunes in Australia’s outback.
While, personally I choose to buck the trend and drive a station wagon, after my date with the X-Trail TS, I can see the appeal of the urban SUV. Space, superior visibility and the feeling that you own the road are I’m sure some of the leading reasons so many ‘mums’ drive this type of car.
The new diesel-powered Nissan 4WD clearly has family living in mind; it is very functional. Let’s start at the back, as all families need space and the clever boot design of the X-Trail is definitely one of its best attributes. The two large floor panels are completely removable and washable, making it easy to get rid of the evidence of whatever was smeared everywhere from the pram wheels as there is ample space for the pram and associated paraphernalia.
Underneath the floor panels is a drawer with compartments, a great spot for stashing all those little things that seem to be forever floating around in the boot. One drawer comes as standard and a second can be added.
It makes packing for a holiday an ease as frequently accessed items can be put in the drawers meaning you don’t have to constantly unpack the boot for that one item. I can imagine the boot design would also be a dream for the caravaner, the fisherman, or for the big 4WD trip when all the mud can be hosed straight off.
The child seat anchors are located across the base of the rear seat-back which is a feature not often seen in 4WDs. Their location means the child seat anchor straps don't cut across rear visibility.
Overall visibility in the X-Trail is quite good with large windows and windscreen. The big side mirrors help cover blind spots and of course being that bit higher also helps to see the road ahead. The step up to the Diesel TL (and the petrol Ti) bring with it a sunroof to further embrace the sunshine.
The height of the X-Trail is perfectly proportioned for city driving. It isn’t as high as many other 4WDs that see you taking a leap of faith or reaching for the step ladder, it is low enough for young children to get in and out unaided and lifting children in and out is no problem. It is still high enough to easily clear speed humps and successfully provide that 4WD feel. However, serious off-roading may be a challenge with only 200mm ground clearance.
Inside, the rear legroom is a bit squashy for three adults but for children it is no problem. The rear seats can be folded down to further amplify cargo space. The chrome door handles that come standard are easy to find and well-positioned. Two cup holders slide out from below the rear centrally mounted air-conditioning vents, which is a handy addition.
In the front, the X-Trail has its pros and cons. I found it most irritating that the hand brake is positioned next to the passenger seat; it had me constantly grasping for where I thought it was and usually missing. The front interior light is cleverly designed where you only need to push the actual light for it to come on, eliminating the in-the-dark-fumble for the light switch.
The interior appearance of the TS is quite humble but I like it, when you get in you know it is a 4WD, Nissan aren’t trying to pretty it up with all manner of finishes. The TS model comes with cloth seat trim as does the ST and ST-L, the Ti and TL models both have leather.
The six-stacker CD player has reasonably good quality sound and the steering wheel carries all the necessary controls at the drivers’ fingertips. The air-conditioning is quiet and effective however I found the controls mounted too low, which meant I was taking my eyes off the road for longer than I had intended finding the right buttons to push.
Front cup holders are positioned above the air-conditioning vents, which works to keep your drink cool, a nice bonus. Those holders also have closeable lids, which is great if you want to stash your spare change, but a hindrance to the standard coffee cup. The power windows and mirrors make life easy too.
There are plenty of storage spaces in the front also, most notably the roomy glove box and the dash-top storage box which comfortably fits several pairs of sunnies, family essentials with children. However, the same can’t be said for the small console which irritatingly doesn’t fit a standard CD case.
The instrument cluster is easily readable although I prefer my fuel gauge to be more prominent. In the X-Trail the fuel gauge is part of a LED display that also provides the outside temperature and a drive computer with all the usual figures you can flip through with the use of the steering wheel mounted information button.
Now let’s move onto the business end, the driving. For a 4WD, the manageability of this car was, to me, surprisingly easy. The steering is quite tight and has no ‘truck-like’ feel. The X-Trail sticks to the road and I definitely felt safe in the car. It does, however, carry some turbo-lag in take-off from the lights and such, especially in regular auto mode, you can however get the revs up by taking control of the six-speed box in manual mode.
Also in the auto mode, I could feel the car needing to dig deep to find the bit extra to tackle hills. Overall, it felt a little sluggish, but I could tell the pulling power was there should it be boat, caravan or trailer, you just need to keep on top of things by shifting gear yourself.
City driving aside, the X-Trail provides great stability on unsealed roads and rough terrain. As soon as it hits gravel, the X-Trail knows what it was built to do and I felt in control of the car at all times, there was no slipping or loss of traction. The ride is very smooth with the MacPherson struts (front) and the Parallel Multi-Link Strut (rear) taking the sharpness out of any bumps, in fact, during the off road stint I took the X-trail on, both kids remained soundly asleep!
Nissan’s ‘All-Mode 4x4i’ is very easy to use, even for the 4WD beginner. The rotatable knob gives three options, 2WD mode, ‘AUTO’ 4x4 mode which, as the name suggests, automatically distributes engine torque between the front and rear axles, and the third option is ‘LOCK’ for specific off-road use. It also has hill descent control and hill start assist.
While I’m not sure I could justify the cost of running a diesel engine versus the additional purchase price and fuel cost in the current climate, it is an economical car, getting down to 7.4L/100km on the open road and not going over 7.6-litres in peak hour traffic.
As with a lot of diesels, the X-Trail takes a bit of initial firing up, the key needs to be held on before it rumbles into action, which for me, as a petrol engine driver by day, took some getting use to. The X-Trail is offered in both petrol and diesel so buyers can have their choice. The ST, ST-L and Ti all have a 2.5-litre petrol engine and both the TS and the TL carry the 2.0-litre turbo diesel version.
I like the look of the X-Trail, it looks like a car that was built to do a job, move a family, go off-road or, if you like, even take your pet crocodile for a spin. Parking wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected and towards the end of the week-long test drive, I was brave enough to move in from the far end of the carpark and take on the parents parks amid the prams and trolleys, and to my surprise, without casualty. Most importantly, it passes the drive-thru test with flying colours.
I always felt safety was a priority in the X-Trail. It won’t disengage out of Park until the driver’s foot is firmly on the brake, ESP, ABS braking combined with dual front airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags gave me the confidence I expect behind the wheel. This, I believe, is another drawcard to this class of car for the ‘mum market’.
So, after a week with the X-Trail and a glimpse into the life of an SUV-driving suburban soccer mum, I can definitely see the appeal and the X-Trail certainly suits the urban jungle.
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