Dave Harding • Some 21,192 examples of the Nissan X-Trail were sold in 2018, making it the company's best seller for the year. Indeed, thirty-seven per cent of Nissan's total sales can be attributed to this vehicle, so it’s an important model for the brand here in Australia and illustrates our thirst for SUVs.
In the medium-SUV segment, the X-Trail’s annual sales are only around 1000 units off the segment leader, Toyota’s RAV4. As such, it’s imperative that Nissan gets this car right – without it, the carmaker would be struggling. So, is Nissan on the right trail?
My first impressions of the Ti variant were that this car looks great. Sometimes Japanese designers can get carried away and deliver a vehicle full of sharp edges and angles that look more like classroom origami than an automobile, but the designers at Nissan have balanced this one beautifully. The Marine Blue duco is smart and stands out without looking garish.
Another exterior feature that drew my attention was the front badge. As with many other models these days, it’s not actually a traditional front grille badge, but a plastic plate. Obviously a future trend (to hide AEB and radar sensors apparently), this one has a subtle holographic effect and looks okay, unlike the Hyundai version that seems like it’s been printed on an ice-cream container lid.
Mind you, there are already some owners complaining in forums about dirt and rainwater being stuck behind it and that it's hard to clean.
Behind the wheel, you’re treated to some good leather seats with plenty of support – not spongy and not too firm. Both front and rear rows are heated, which when enduring 37 straight days of temps over 30°C in Brisbane isn’t of much use, but would no doubt be a welcome feature during winter in the southern states. A decent driving position is attainable with both reach and tilt steering adjustment. Overall, there’s a good feeling of space thanks to the generous headroom.
Around the driver, the ergonomics are pretty good, with everything you need in reach and the standard Japanese design feature of a million and one buttons on the steering wheel. Some of the screen graphics and styling are a tad dated but unoffensive.
The 7.0-inch colour touch screen's quality could be a little better in this day and age, but at least when you drive with your headlights on during the day (like I do), you can still maintain full brightness so it can be read even with sunglasses on (some manufacturers should take note).
I haven’t cranked up the Bose sound system yet, but judging by the subwoofer in the spare tyre well, it would have some bone-shaking ability for those who like it loud – or want to drown out the kids calling for McDonald's in the back seat. You get the standard phone connectivity and Bluetooth streaming that is the norm these days in most modern cars, but there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which I’ve recently become accustomed to.
After 650km of driving both highway and around the city, I’ve only managed to average 10.6L/100km (8.3L/100km claimed) in the fuel-economy stakes, which, mainly unladen, isn’t really that good for a car of this size. But considering I picked it up with only 13km on the clock, I’ll reserve judgement in this area until it’s run in properly.
On the road is a generally pleasurable experience. The steering is light and responsive to cater to the market, and the four-cylinder 2.5-litre petrol engine seems to deliver the claimed 126kW and 226Nm of torque when pushed. That said, Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission seems to hunt for the right (programmed) 'gear' when faced with an incline or downhill run.
And while Nissan claims it “helps you ensure exceptional fuel economy, along with amazingly smooth power delivery”, I struggled to find what the brochure copywriter was referring to – as previously mentioned.
Of more concern was the ECO mode designed for even better fuel economy. I found that all it really seemed to do was retard acceleration and no further fuel savings were noted (again, hopefully this improves in time).
Around the city, the X-Trail is a breeze to park without incident thanks to the Intelligent Around-View, which gives you a virtual composite 360-degree bird's eye view of the car that I love – especially helpful in preventing rashing the 19-inch alloys. Rear park assist is disappointingly an option, which at this price should be standard.
In my short time with this vehicle, my only other concern was receiving a false-positive from the AEB when entering down a steep car park ramp. The system thought I was headed for an object and jammed on the brakes, and would not release until I had come to a complete stop. This would have been a major headache if someone were on my tail on the same ramp.
I haven’t had a chance to take it off-road yet, but I'm looking forward to testing out its credentials soon. I imagine it shouldn’t have too much trouble on a simple beach drive, but I’d be reluctant to attempt much more than that unless I replace the road-biased P225/55R19 all-season tyres.