Launched this week in Melbourne, the all-new Nissan X-Trail has brought most of what was good with it into a new body, along the way collecting the latest technology both in the car’s drivetrain and media experience.

Nissan call it “family proof” but the reality is that this car will appeal to a younger audience. It’s a bit like going to a hairdresser rather than a barber. And buyers have the choice of five seats or seven, depending on the model.

NissanX-Trail (2)X-Trail is an important model for Nissan in Australia. More than 140,000 models have been sold here since it was launched in 2001. There is another factor that underpins the importance: Nissan’s sales in Australia are dominated by its SUV and 4WD models. Passenger cars are in the minority with Patrol, Navara, Pathfinder, Dualis and X-Trail taking the lion’s share of sales. Add to that list the quirky new Juke and Nissan’s sales graph is decidedly unbalanced in favour of SUVs and 4WDs.

With X-Trail competing in the highly competitive medium SUV wagon segment, it is a vehicle that must put runs on the board, as it has done in the past. The new look X-Trail has some fierce competition from the likes of Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Holden Captiva and Toyota RAV4.

There is no doubt X-Trail has changed its personality profile. It was a capable soft-roader, but never a genuine 4WD. The fact that is higher, wider, and longer adds to the car’s family-friendly credentials as does the availability of a seven-seat variant.

NissanX-Trail (4)Although Nissan states the new X-Trail retains the same off-road ability, some key areas that affect off-road capacity such as ground clearance and approach / departure angles have all been reduced, which will impact on the tougher terrain that driver’s might want to traverse. With the quantum leap from box to beauty, the X-Trail is now clearly aimed at younger families.

One of the reasons for X-Trail’s past success was a deliberate by-product of the boxy shape: space and practicality. Nissan is eager to tell buyers this has not altered but, cargo space is down, by how much at this stage we do not know.

Styling is straight out of Nissan’s new corporate look for SUVs with muscular bulges over the wheel arches that give the vehicle form and character. Styling, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and to our eye this is an improvement from the old X-Trail, although it does appear there have been small compromises.

NissanX-Trail (6)POWERTRAINS
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is rated at 206 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque with the 2.5-litre four getting 126 kW and 226 Nm of torque. The larger engine is available across all three grades: ST, ST-L and Ti and only with the CVT transmission. However, for those who like their oil burners, a third engine will become available in the third quarter of 2014, a four-cylinder 1.6 litre turbo-diesel.

X-Trail’s towing capacity has dropped from 2000 kg to 1500 kg.

The new X-Trail features Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide storage system for five-seat variants. The system allows owners to basically carve up the cargo area into spaces that suit their needs or their family lifestyle. It’s not available on seven-seat variants as the third row of seats intrudes well into the cargo space.

NissanX-Trail (5)X-Trail is pushing the envelope in regard to the provision of seven seats. The layout all hinges on the fact the second row of seats can slide back and forward to facilitate passenger comfort – depending on the size of the passengers.

Firstly, a word of warning: the third row in X-Trail is strictly a kids-only affair. And then, they may still be uncomfortable for leg and foot room. Giving the third row extra foot room by sliding the second row forward means those in the second row lose their leg room. They in turn will want mum and dad to move the front seats forward! So families will have to compromise when six or seven seats are required.

NissanX-Trail (1)The interior features a workable design with excellent fit and finish. Chrome features, geometric metallic and piano black finishes add touches of class. The ST-L and Ti get leather-accented upholstery while the ST is finished in black fabric. Like many other makes

Nissan has gone for a minimalistic dash presentation which reduces driver distraction and has added features designed to make life simpler for the driver. It works, and works well. The base ST model has a five-inch LCD dash display while the ST-L and Ti get a seven-inch unit. All have reversing cameras. The rear doors open to 80 degrees to allow easy access to child safety seats.

Across the new X-Trail range the following equipment is standard: front, side and curtain bags, stability control, rear view camera, ABS brakes, EBD, BA, Active Ride control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, three child restraint anchorages, left and right ISOFIX.

NissanX-Trail (3)Also new to X-Trail are three driving performance enhancements, Active Ride Control, Active Engine Braking and Active Trace Control. ARC is handy off-road as it detects bumps and alters the damping to compensate, in theory flattening out the tracks to improve comfort levels. AEB works with the CVT to improve engine braking when stopping and cornering. ATC applies a braking force when cornering to reduce understeer, particularly on slippery roads. A rear view camera is standard across the X-Trail range.

X-Trail has NissanConnect smartphone connectivity, information and entertainment system. This uses Bluetooth to interface with media devices and includes telephone and audio streaming, Pandora and USB connection. A driver assist display is situated between the tachometer and speedometer and is operated using steering-wheel mounted controls to access functions including drive distribution between the front and rear wheels on AWD models.

ST-L and Ti models also gain an Around View Monitor via a wide-angle camera mounted near the number plate. This provides the driver with a 360 degree overhead view of the vehicle using four cameras around the car. This is technology usually found in luxury marques only. Further to that this rear end camera also facilitates lane departure warning, blind spot warning and Moving Object Detection for moving objects at the rear of the vehicle when reversing.

The entry-level X-Trail XT comes with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and six-speed manual gearshift was not available for the launch due to delivery issues, so we’ll need to wait to drive the $27,990 entry-level car.

We did get to test the 2.5-litre petrol 2WD ST-L and AWD Ti models. These come only with the CVT-M, the M being for manual shifter. The X-Trail does not include steering wheel paddles like many other CVT vehicles, but uses standard flick-shift across to engage the seven steps within the CVT.

This CVT is an upgraded version of the one on the old model X-Trail, with the inclusion of the manual shift option, plus further refinement. While the CVT has improved it is not as sharp as the CVT in rival Subaru Forester. However, drive the car in auto with a light right foot and the shifter is delightful and smooth. It will certainly fill the bill for most buyers, given the vehicle’s family orientation.

The 2.5-litre engine is willing enough, but noisy under fast acceleration. Driven hard the fuel bill will also increase accordingly. We found ourselves slurping 91RON standard unleaded at the rate of 12.1 litres/100 km after a 28 km off-road test of the Ti AWD.

X-Trail retains the AWD system called All Mode 4X4-i which is a user-friendly system that enables shifts between 2WD, auto mode and lock mode. Auto mode shifts to AWD automatically when slip is detected while you can lock the car in AWD for certain conditions like snow and mud. Our off-road test tracks outside Bendigo were typical of the forest tracks where an X-Trail might be expected to go. It handled the terrain with ease with excellent passenger comfort.

The complete 2014 Nissan X-Trail range is:
ST 2.0-litre petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $27,990 (manual)
ST 2.5-litre petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $30,490 (CVT)
ST 2.5-litre petrol 2WD five-door seven-seat wagon: $31,580 (CVT)
ST-L 2.5-litre petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $36,190 (CVT)
ST-L 2.5-litre petrol 2WD five-door seven-seat wagon: $37,190 (CVT)
ST 2.5-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $33,980 (CVT)
ST-L 2.5-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $39,080 (CVT)
Ti 2.5-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $44,680 (CVT)
Note: This price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for driveaway prices.

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