Take a good look at the Nissan X-Trail. Look like a speed demon to you? It may have the 370Z as a brother but let’s face it, the X-Trail leans towards comfortable, disciplined and tempered rather than the maverick.
Unfortunately, the traffic policeman I pointed that out to didn’t seem to bite, nodding patiently while still texting me my infringement (yes, that’s actually a thing).
Luckily the senior constable took pity on me, keeping the points to a minimum, although I prefer to consider it my fee for discussing the benefits of the X-Trail in comparison to a similar car from a top competitor that his Dad is looking at buying.
He also shared a delightful story about the X-Trail’s prowess during flood-like conditions in the Sunshine Coast hinterland a couple of years ago. The senior constable and his partner watched in awe as a farmer’s wife appeared in an X-Trail to help her husband who had bogged his flashy dual-cab ute. “If she pulls him out in that X-Trail, I am going out to buy one,” the senior constable’s partner said.
And that’s exactly what he did.
This Nissan X-Trail TL arrived here a touch later than the rest of the updated X-Trail range. It sits at the top of the pack with a new diesel engine and an impressive features list.
The X-Trail features a stylish version of the Nissan family grille, suitable flowing lines and snazzy-looking tail lights. The overall design may not be as eye-catching as some competitors, but it is no wallflower either using functionality well to enhance the value package.
This Nissan X-Trail is built in Japan, known for its workforce’s ability and attention to detail, and those accomplishments are evident in the interior finish. It is conservative, true, but the TL which sits at the top of the range, does hint at a premium feel with a leather-covered dash, a beautiful flat-bottomed steering wheel and switchgear that is difficult to fault.
The layout if good with the most used buttons and dials closer to hand and the screens are angled enough to escape the glare of the sun. It feels like there is oodles of room to stretch out in with the wider seats adding to that comfort with the doors opening wider to allow easy entry and exit.
Those in the back sit a bit higher making it easier for smaller kids to see out, while taller occupants are only slightly affected by the panoramic sunroof. The rear seats are on rails too, which means you can adjust according to your needs by stealing space from the boot.
There are two IsoFix points on the outer rear seats with three top tethers should you be carrying three youngsters. We found fitting a third in the middle was a bit of squash even though it was a booster so perhaps a seven-seater may be a better option. It is worth noting that the TL, a four-wheel-drive variant, does not come with a seven-seat option, you need the 2WD ST or ST-L for that.
The TL has clever storage options including the requisite cupholders and deep door bins. But there is also a very handy open compartment in front of the gear shifter which is deep and wide enough for phones, wallets and their ilk. At 565-litres, the boot is more than adequate for a small family, the squarish opening allowing it to carry far more than you think. There is some under-floor storage too which is always useful especially for wet surfing clothes, and a smaller shelf that can tilt up to protect the groceries from moving around.
Like its Ti petrol equivalent, the X-Trail TL is suitably equipped with the impressive features list including 19-inch alloys, rear tinted window, auto headlights and wipers, heated front and rear seats and heated steering wheel, motion-activated power tailgate that actually works, reverse camera, dual-zone climate control keyless entry and start and satellite navigation.
The X-Trail features a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen which is pretty simple to navigate but does feel rather dated. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as yet but Bluetooth connectivity is good as is the audio quality of phone calls. There is an eight-speaker stereo with digital radio as well as a USB and Auxillary ports for compatible devices.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine replaces the 1.6-litre unit that did duty in the previous model. It delivers more power and torque 130kW / 380Nm than the outgoing model but is now paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that often feels like it hinders performance rather than supporting it.
The X-Trail TL is filled with all those advanced safety features that buyers are now looking for including lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and forward collision warning. The TL does have cruise control but unlike the Ti it is not active. The five-star ANCAP rating also comes courtesy of six airbags, stability and traction control and forward autonomous emergency braking.
OK, so let’s start by saying that X-Trail is super easy to drive – surefooted, willing, capable and apparently fast too. The steering is light but accurate, the ride itself is comfortable and all-round visibility is good.
It dismisses most bumps quite easily, there is minimal road or cabin noise and it hides that usual diesel clatter on startup quite well. On the highway, the TL is hard to fault, a smooth cruiser, a good over-taker and with enough presence to keep you feeling safe.
The CVT is often a noticeable annoyance at lower speeds or around town, however, as it is quick to downshift when the full torque kicks in (2200rpm). This cross-purposes operation means that you have that frustrating moment of nothing before you have to urge the accelerator again and force the car to rebalance.
The higher clearance makes the X-Trail useful on secondary and rudimentary roads too. I would hardly ask you to consider it in the 4WD mould as you would a Patrol for example, but it is happy enough to dash along when conditions may scupper some rivals.
We found the X-Trail fairly economical on the hip pocket during our week in the seat. Combination driving produced figures that ranged between 6.9L/100km and 8.9L/100km with an average of 7.8L/100km. Nissan offers the X-Trail with a 3 years/100,000km warranty which misses the mark a bit in comparison to competitors, with service intervals at 12 months or 10,000km. There is a capped-price serving program for the first 12 services.
Look, I shouldn’t like the X-Trail TL given my brush with the law while driving it – but I do. It is easy to drive, easy on the eye, spacious, flexible and filled with safety features and modern niceties. It does a lot of things right both on the bitumen and on secondary roads and a boost in popularity will not be a surprise.
Nissan X-Trail TL pricing and specifications:
Price: from $47,790
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Output: 130kW and 380Nm
Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic
Fuel: 6.1L/100km (ADR Combined)
Warranty: 3 years/100,000 kilometres
Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP
What we liked:
What we didn’t:
CVT can be annoying
Lack of real grunt