Nissan X-Trail. Big softie, like your cuddly Scottish unc

Like your favourite Scottish uncle who ate too many pies, the X-Trail suspension is set up for softies. The mundane ride tells you everything about the Nissan – it’s for everyday family stuff and not slepping up a mountain pass.

So you’re going to be comfortable on the Tarmac, just a bit bored once the school run ends. At least the new X-Trail has plenty of kit to keep the driver involved. Apart from the optional drone (£500), next year buyers can choose ProPilot to control the acceleration, braking and steering on some roads.

And if you are bored with driving in general, autonomous emergency braking will prevent a rear end shunt as you doze off (or you could just call an Uber – other taxi services available).

What the 2017 facelight can’t hide is that new X-Trail is pretty much the same as the old one underneath. The drivetrain hasn’t changed – the angular nose job, rear end tweaks and some LED lighting are the headline news.

That means the 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel units are still the same, rather dated units as before that lack the refinement of key rivals. The 2.0 is the pick of the pair but for once I’d say choose the CVT auto, as our manual six-speeder isn’t a smoothy.

Sensible car. But is that really you?

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New Nissan X-Trail – fancy facelift shows up

Nissan lovers will tell you the third generation X-Trail has been keeping legions of families happy since 2013. So a face-light was long overdue and here it is – in 2.0-litre diesel form.

Now, you will find the same engine in the sister Renault Koleos and its best say both vehicles work best with the CVT automatic gearbox than the manual. I found the six-speed in our test car clunky and feeling rather dated.

The infotainment screen is on the small side and low speed ride quality around town ain’t up to scratch. On a long distance cruise it’s considerably better.

At least this 2017 model looks considerably better, with a more angular face, LED rear lights and a smarter interior.

The big Nissan is massively popular because of its flexibility and practicality but don’t expect VW Group standards of finish. You get what you pay for and the X-Trail lacks that quality feel…

The laws of physics aren’t in the Nissan Juke’s favour…

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Tough not comparing the Nissan Nismo RS to a hot hatchback. It sits in such a niche market that only the likes of the Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi offer any like-for-like ability.

Car Couture doesn’t test Fords. Well, to be truthful they won’t loan us any of their motor cars when just about everybody else does. Being cynical, I’m sure that means the blue oval has something to hide. Hey ho.

Anyway, I’m told the Fiesta ST is a class-leader and having tested the Peugeot, I can imagine that both cars are considerably more dynamic than the Nissan – if only because the laws of physics  suggest taller SUVs don’t handle as well.

So why buy the Nissan – I can only suggest because it means you can see over the car in front nad, of course, you might feel ‘safer’ in a bigger car.

Which brings me back to yesterday’s post. Perhaps it’s time to stop testing SUVs…

The SUV argument has no basis – why are you buying them then?

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There’s no point trying to stop the flow of people opening their wallet to buy an SUV. And I Don’t just mean the Nissan Juke – all the masses of models that now flood our market.

Why buy a jacked up car that does everything a conventional hatchback does – as well as pay more for it, suffer worse handling and higher fuel bills?

It is, like Trump, a mystery of the modern age. When I ask people why they own an SUV, the usual answer is that they like sitting higher up on the road because it makes them feel safer.

This is, quite frankly, a load of nonsense. SUV are generally less safe because they have a higher centre of gravity and don’t handle as well as a conventional car.

There is no logical reason for buying a two-wheel drive SUV, unless you need extra ground clearance for some reason. Even then, smart driving should get you out of jail on that one.

So, while one could argue that the Nissan Juke is more of a sports car than an SUV, it is perhaps the only sports utility vehicle that is worthy of mention.

Let’s torque about steering in the Nissan Juke Nismo RS

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There’s more than a hint of old school madness about the Nismo RS. Like a lot of stuff from the 1980s, I’d rather forgotten what it was like to feel a steering wheel pulled from my fingers by lashings of torque steer.

Back then, we just accepted it. Nowadays, electronic wizardry has mostly ironed it out and made us all softies. So today it took a while for my brain to compute that what I was feeling through my hands was good, old fashioned torque steer.

It rather took me by surprise and demanded that I actually ‘drive’ the Juke rather than just steer it. The Nissan may be too tall and crossovery to stuff a Fiesta ST but my, it can give you some relatively cheap thrills at £22k.

Sad then, that no matter which way I look at the RS it’s still plain ugly. I keep sneaking a peek on the driveway in the hope that might change but it hasn’t. Sigh…

Naughty Nissan Nismo? The hot SUV-hatch has its charms

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Having just parted with the keys for an uber sensible XC90 T8, the naughty Nissan Nismo drives like a real hooligan.

Not in a Golf R type way but a hot SUV-hatchback is a whole new concept to me. It’s so small, high up and yet so nippy.

I still can’t get my eyes around the styling but at least the interior is a better place. The trim is covered in lashings of Alcantara, the seats are firm and supportive and the touchscreen sat nav works very well indeed.

It’s all designed to give a more driver-focussed appeal. A shame then that backseat space is so tight and the boot is even smaller…

Nissan Juke Nismo RS – the little SUV with squeezed nuts

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There’s a first time for everything – so what about the Juke? It pains me to spell such an aristocratic word with a ‘J’ rather than a ‘D’ but that’s progress, I suppose.

Juke was the first little car to be jacked up and turned into a pseudo SUV. It’s tons more ‘funky’ than a Ford Fiesta and like the Citroen C4 Cactus and Renault Captur, has helped create a blossoming new sector of the market.

Just to be clear from the start, the Juke isn’t the car for me. Why? Well, it looks like somebody has grabbed it by the testiculos and squeezed gently until the headlights have popped. Bonkers.

That said, I seem to pass dozens of Jukes on the motorway, so somebody is buying them. And this model is the sporty Nismo RS, with a butch bodykit and a bit more zing.

It’s practical, roomy (up front but not in the rear), offers good fuel economy and comes loaded with technology.

Will I warm to the little Nissan with squeezed nuts? More tomorrow…