Nissan back on track with latest X-Trail

BADGE snobbery is a truly a terrible thing to witness. In automotive terms, badge snobbery is a situation whereby a person knows they could easily save a bunch of money on a car which will serve their every need, but cannot do so because said car’s perceived status would not fit their idea of their own social standing.

I came across a vivid example of the phenomenon some years back when, after reviewing the excellent original Nissan X-Trail and telling readers it was a fair match when compared with many more expensive 4x4s, but even more of an attractive purchase when you balanced ability and price.

A guy I know rang me to ask if I was serious and when assured I was, he went out and test drove the X-Trail. Having asked him to let me know how he got on, the man duly reported back to say he was hugely impressed by the Nissan, but there was no way on earth he’d buy one. Why? Well, because it was a Nissan.

Having been the driver of a German SUV/4x4, the man admitted he would not be seen dead in public driving anything perceived to be of a lesser status. He simply couldn’t allow other people’s impression of him be watered down by the choice of vehicle he drove — even if he would have saved himself a packet in the process.

Strange, isn’t it, how we can allow basic instinct and commonsense be over-ruled by a fear that our peers might think less of us simply by virtue of the wheels we drive. Then again, that’s badge snobbery for you.

The original X-Trail was something of a curious concept back in 2001 when it was originally seen: a 4x4 SUV with a definite mix of both urban and utilitarian about it. It was definitely a family car, but one for families that needed to tow boats, or horseboxes — or both. A lantern-jawed sort of thing with styling designed by someone who had never heard of a curve, it was all right angles and straight lines.

Nissan back on track with latest X-Trail

But it worked and it was popular with a wide variety of people who mixed and matched work and lifestyle needs and wanted a car that was rugged yet comfortable. Indeed it was a template for the Crossover generation of cars which would follow and that fact was nearly the death of it.

Ironically, for all its’ strengths and popularity, it was nearly made extinct by Nissan itself when the Japanese company came up with the remarkably successful Qashqai — the original of the modern Crossover species. Even more curiously, perhaps, was the fact Nissan itself did not know Qashqai would be the world-beater it turned out to be.

I know I’m out of step with many in my belief that Qashqai is something of a marketing cod, but the punters love it and it sells by the shed-load. The thing is that people like the idea of a 4x4, but have neither the need for one or the extra cash to do so. Instead Nissan gave them an excellent family hatchback with a 4x4 demeanour to it. Result: millions of sales.

In doing so, they very nearly killed of the X-Trail. But having had their ideas people sit back and think about things, Nissan realised the success of the Qashqai could actually be a boon to the X-Trail, if they tricked around with the original concept. And that is what they have done.

The Qashqai+2 machine was the seven seat variant of the original car, but Nissan has now decided the X-Trail will be the car for people who need the extra seating capacity as the MkII Qashqai will be made with only five seats. All versions of the X-Trail now come with a seven seat option.

In many ways the X-Trail has grown up too as it is now a much bigger prospect than heretofore and it is also a much more appealing machine to cast one’s eye upon as the design department have come up with a much more curvy and less straightforward look. However, the car has lost some of its’ original character as Nissan has decided to ditch the all wheel drive idea, making it an option only on upper grades of the model.

Nissan back on track with latest X-Trail

So what we now have here is a car which sits at the head of Nissan’s Crossover model line-up and will duke it out with such as the Honda C-RV, the Toyota RAV 4, the Ford Kuga, the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorento in the marketplace. In common with most of these, the 4x4 thing is optional, so Nissan’s decision making has been validated.

And what of it? Despite being nothing like its predecessor, it is actually a fine thing indeed and one which I really liked. It is big, imposing, terribly practical, well-specified, drives well and is economic too. It is also right in the ball park — price-wise — with the majority of its’ rivals.

Powered by a 1.6 litre four pot turbodiesel, it produces a decent enough 130 bhp and an impressive 320 Nm of torque. The engine will propel it to a top speed of 180 kph and will achieve the 0-100 kph dash in 10.5 seconds, while also returning some 4.9 l/100 km (57 mpg) over the combined cycle. That is not a bad set of figures.

On the road its’ abilities reflect the fact it is based on the Qashqai platform and that means the essentials of a good drive are all in place. It rides well, handles really well on secondary roads and will consume motorway miles with ease. Overall grip levels are good and the absence of four wheel drive will only be felt by the truly committed.

It is a thoroughly decent car and one which will provide many happy, comfortable and economic hours of motoring.

It may be there will be those who will lose out on its many charms because they could not contemplate being seen driving one, but for those who care not one whit for such nonsense, this is a car to put on your wish list.

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COLLEY'S VERDICT

****

The Cost:

From €30,950 — €34,200 as tested.

The Engine:

A simple but effective 1.6 turbodiesel which posts some very impressive figures.

The Specification:

Decent kit levels from entry model and it won’t exactly break the bank to add stuff.

The Overall Verdict:

Moved away from the original X-Trail concept, but still a fine car indeed.


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