Sean Carson | December 2014
Buyers of big off-roaders don’t seem to want the practical, utilitarian offerings cars like the old Nissan X-Trail delivered. Which is why for this latest 2014 version, the Japanese firm has chosen to ape its record-breaking Qashqai crossover bestseller and opt for sleek and suave styling.
It’s not ditched the upright, boxy look on a whim, though. Market research and sales of the Qashqai have proved that this is what customers want. And with the £31,895 X-Trail Tekna 1.6 dCi 130 Xtronic automatic model tested here, that’s the most luxurious expression of what they’ll get.
The 2014 Nissan X-Trail effectively takes the place of the old Qashqai+2 seven-seater, offering two extra chairs for big families or those lifestyle types who will value the extra space for ‘rad’ things like surf boards and mountain bikes.
With the sharp Nissan family grin carried over from the Qashqai, the resemblance is strong and the styling has transferred well to the bigger car. The same goes for the interior and the powertrains.
What’s the Nissan X-Trail like to drive?
The X-Trail is soft and comfortable, with a punchy 130hp 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine and a smooth gearbox. It drives much like a big Qashqai, albeit with a slightly choppier ride and the extra mass over that car dulling reactions.
Performance is adequate, with the dash from rest to 62mph completed in 11.4 seconds accompanied by a diesely thrash if you really rev the engine – the X-Trail is more comfortable at more moderate speeds.
With the Constantly Variable Transmission CVT automatic gearbox – engineered especially to feel like a regular auto with six phantom ratio ‘steps’ – cruising is what the big Nissan does really rather well. Even if the ’box is a bit sluggish to respond in some situations.
As large seven-seat SUVs go, this is easily a match for its sub-premium sector rivals from Hyundai and Kia. Clever features such as Nissan’s Chassis Control package – comprising Active Engine Brake, Active Trace Control and Active Ride Control – means the car helps you on the way into, round and out of corners if you’re going a touch too hot.
It works as well, and you can feel the 1,600kg SUV subtly digging in and turning harder, although it’ll still wallow around if you get silly with your entry speed.
Ride quality on the whole is good, although the back end can feel a bit bouncy on narrow country lanes. However, as a school run car and a motorway cruiser the X-Trail carries off its brief with the same competent approach as the Qashqai.
Is the Nissan X-Trail still a proper 4×4?
The quick answer is sort of. The long answer is more complicated. With only two-wheel drive, cars like our test vehicle will likely never go roaming off-road, but clever chassis electronics should still help with a wet, grassy gradient at a point-to-point.
Four-wheel drive is available and the towing limit is two tonnes, so with a 550-litre boot with the third row of seats folded – which moves, incidentally, for more rear legroom – there’s enough space and practicality to put it almost on a par with its predecessor.
Add to that it’s more comfortable, will return a claimed 55.4mpg combined with 135g/km CO2, is much more stylish and pretty much just as functional as the old X-Trail – as well as better to drive on-road, where it’ll likely spend most of its time – and Nissan’s new formula for the third-generation car looks to be a resounding success.
Only 40% of buyers will opt for the seven-seat version tested here, believes Nissan, but at £700 this option adds an extra twist of versatility. All buyers will benefit from the functional and intuitive 7.0-inch colour touchscreen multimedia system that the Tekna trim level features.
At £31,895 for seven seats, an automatic gearbox and metallic paint, it is rather a lot of money to spend when you could pick up a tidy second-hand Land Rover Discovery with a smoother engine for not much more, but the suite of safety kit (around view cameras, lane departure warning and autonomous braking system) does have its charms.
As do other standard-fit features, such as a powered tailgate (even if it is painfully slow), park assist, automatic headlights and wipers, Bluetooth, cruise control, heated leather seats and a panoramic roof that floods the cabin with light.
MR verdict: Nissan X-Trail (2014)
Some fans of the old X-Trail might bemoan the direction Nissan has taken with the new car. But you can’t stop progress – and that’s exactly what this 2014 third-generation model represents.
It’s cleaner, slicker, smarter, better to drive and cheaper to run than the old car, which puts it right at the heart of the large and seven-seat SUV sector. It’s not quite replicated the success of the latest Qashqai, but it’s a strong effort by Nissan all the same – and one buyers should definitely consider next to the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.
However, at the best part of £32k, a more premium used Land Rover is equally as attractive.
Specification: Nissan X-Trail Tekna 1.6 dCi 130 Xtronic
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: Xtronic CVT transmission
Price (as tested): £31,895
Torque: 236lb ft
0-62mph: 11.4 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
MPG: 55.4 combined