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The Nissan X-Trail is the Japanese company's top-selling model in Australia, which makes sense when you consider our market's ever-increasing demands for SUVs big and small.
With the option of five or seven seats, petrol or diesel, front- or all-wheel drive, the X-Trail seemingly offers every combination you can think of, which must be why it continues to sell over 1000 units a month despite stiff competition from the five-seat only Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4.
For the 2017 model-year, the X-Trail has received a number of revisions to keep it competitive in the booming medium SUV segment, including a classier look inside and out and the availability of driver assistance technologies like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control – the former is standard across the entire range.
Other changes include a new D-shaped steering wheel – which in this tester's opinion looks far more premium – and upgraded interior trims, namely on the main touch points, giving the X-Trail a more upmarket feel.
CarAdvice attended the launch drive in Apollo Bay, Victoria, where we were able to sample both the base ST two-wheel drive equipped with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), along with the top-spec Ti, exclusively available with all-wheel drive and the CVT.
The X-Trail's cabin is a pretty comfortable place to be too, with an open and airy-feeling cabin, supportive seats, and a simplistic centre fascia layout – though the little 5.0-inch non-touchscreen infotainment screen standard on ST models seems pretty ancient compared to systems offered by competitors.
Standard kit across the range includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, alloy wheels, LED daytime-running lights and tail-lights, body-coloured electric folding mirrors, intelligent key with push-button start, cruise control, ISOFIX anchor points on the outer second row seats, a limited-slip differential, hill-start assist and six airbags.
Other than the new steering wheel and upgraded cabin trims, however, there's little distinguishing the new X-Trail's interior from the old one – which for the most part is really no bad thing. Interior space is up there with the best in the class, offering a healthy 565 litres of boot space behind the second row, expanding to 945 litres with the second row folded flat – the small latter figure is likely due to the measurement system used, i.e. capacity up to the windowline as opposed to up to the roof.
For seven-seat models, there's 445 litres of space behind the second row and 135 litres behind the third row. Maximum volume with both rear benches folded in three-row versions of the X-Trail is again a lower-than-expected 825 litres – though again, this is a measurement to the windowline and not the roof.
Second row passengers are treated to heaps of head- and legroom, making the X-Trail perfect for families with small kids and growing teens.
Braked towing capacity for petrol models is 1500kg, while turbo-diesel versions (TS arriving in June, TL in September) up that figure to 1650kg.
The driving route consisted of numerous country roads and highways along Victoria's south-west coast, including several stretches of the beautiful Great Ocean Road, along with a couple of muddy gravel trails.
Our first leg was spent with the entry-level ST two-wheel drive CVT, which starts at $30,490 (all prices plus on-road costs) with the standard five seats, or $31,990 with the optional third row.
All automatic petrol versions of the X-Trail are fitted with a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine, which develops 126kW of power 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4400rpm.
While the outputs seem pretty meek when taking into account the X-Trail's size and some of the turbocharged units offered in rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan, the base X-Trail has pretty reasonable urge off the line, thanks to the smart CVT which keeps you in the power band when you need it.
The petrol engine burbles and sounds eager to rev when you call it on, then settles back into silence once at speed – barely ticking over 2000rpm on the freeway.
Also, despite the damp conditions throughout the day, the two-wheel drive X-Trail never felt like it was short of grip when accelerating hard or when heading into higher-speed corners.
On a short stretch of gravel road, the base model again impressed with its sure-footedness and stability on loose surfaces. The 210mm of ground clearance is up there for the class, though don't expect to tackle serious off-road trails like you could with the boxy previous-generation model.
It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though, there's noticeable tyre roar over rougher surfaces and the lower plastics on the dash and doors are hard and scratchy – which lowers interior refinement and perceptions of quality. The interior does, however, feel solidly built despite our tester developing a slight rattle from the driver's upper seatbelt holder.
The second leg of driving was tackled in the top-spec Ti all-wheel drive, which features all-wheel drive and the same 2.5-litre petrol as the base model.
Extra equipment on the Ti includes heated mirrors, adaptive auto-levelling LED headlights, automatic wipers, a heated steering wheel, heated front and (outer) rear seats, six-way power-adjustable driver's seat and four-way power-adjustable passenger's seat, dual-zone climate control, an eight-speaker Bose audio system, motion-activated electric tailgate, power tilt and slide moonroof and 19-inch alloy wheels.
In addition to the autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning offered across the range, the Ti picks up the 360-degree camera system with moving object detection, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert standard on the mid-grade ST-L, while also adding lane departure warning, intelligent lane intervention, pedestrian detection for the AEB system along with intelligent adaptive cruise control.
New for 2017 is also a tan leather interior option that is reserved for the Ti and diesel TL only.
Despite having the same outputs, the Ti felt noticeably more lethargic and heavy compared to the ST, and the engine also got quite thrashy under hard acceleration – something the front-wheel driven ST did not. However, once at speed the engine noise settled.
Part of it could be down to the weight difference, which is between 54kg and 104kg depending on whether the ST is a five- or seven-seat model.
The ride was also a tad firmer and less forgiving on the larger 19-inch alloy wheels of the range-topper (the ST has 17s as standard), though it felt gripper in the corners and slightly more planted – likely due to the extra traction of the all-wheel drive system.
On a longer stretch of wet gravel road, the X-Trail was plenty stable and never felt short of grip, though the ride was upset by larger potholes which transmitted loud thuds into the cabin.
Like the ST, there was a bit of tyre roar, while the ride picked up a few more imperfections in the road, but the Ti remained pretty comfortable over the near-200km leg of mixed driving conditions.
While Nissan says there were no significant engineering changes to the 2017 X-Trail range, it does appear that there have beens slight improvements to the suspension tune and sound deadening based on the time spent with both models.
Fuel consumption was pretty good for both models too, we stayed in the low 8.0L/100km bracket in the front-wheel drive ST and the low 9.0s in the all-wheel drive Ti – both during a mix of highway, country back roads, hilly mountain routes, and gravel tracks.
In terms of ownership, the X-Trail continues with Nissan's three year, 100,000km warranty with six years or 120,000km of capped-price servicing – whichever comes first. Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 10,000km.
The base ST manual averages $320 per visit for the first 12 visits, while 2.5-litre models – whether two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive – averages at a little over $321 per service for the first 120,000km.
As an overall package, the X-Trail retains the attributes that make it a favourite amongst family buyers – it's comfortable, affordable, and spacious to boot (pun intended).
Our advice would be to buy an ST or ST-L with seven seats, as both those models offer the X-Trail's most convincing configuration in terms of value and practicality, while also reducing the number of direct rivals considering only the Mitsubishi Outlander offers seven seats in this segment.
If you really like the idea of a higher-spec X-Trail, for now you're better off waiting until September for the new 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, which will offer much better pulling power and fuel consumption compared to the current 2.5L petrol.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the 2017 Nissan X-Trail below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.