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?

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…

What car would Jeremy Corbyn drive to Downing Street?

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So if I was picking an SUV for Jeremy Corbyn to drive it would be the Nissan X-Trail. Not too flash, very workmanlike and room for six colleagues from the Shadow Cabinet (OK, four because that third row of seats in tiny).

Nissan also has strong links to Britain with their Sunderland plant, plus he needs to boost his ‘British’ credentials doesn’t he?

 

I can see Cameron in a Range Rover but Corbyn? No, he definitely an X-Trail man, Except his would be in a gaudy shade of red, rather than the rust colour of our test vehicle this week.

I somehow doubt Corbyn will still be leader the next time Labour is in Downing Street. Maybe Corbyn would turn up on his bike and ditch cars altogether. We’ll have to wait and see..

The Nissan X-Trail is no longer a box on wheels – at last it has some cache

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The original X-Trail was something of a box on wheels. It was utilitarian on the inside and less than exciting to drive. People bought them in vast numbers because the Nissan was cheap and came with plenty of standard equipment.

Our latest version may not boast German standards of trim quality and image cache but it does represent a huge leap forward from the previous generation model.

This is especially true on the inside. The dashboard finally looks like it was designed to please the eye – rather than something made out of leftover parts from another vehicle in the Nissan range.

And while the seats are not clad in leather (even in our top spec n-tec model) they are supremely comfortable. Soft but somehow supportive in all the right places.

The Nissan X-Trail’s third row of seats is really for kids only

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Perhaps England would be better playing rugby sevens? Incredible how our national squad can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against a team riddled with injuries. Well done Wales.

With this in mind and with England’s chances of beating Australia looking less than 50-50 next Saturday, maybe team sponsors Land Rover will pull out – leaving the door open for another four-wheel sponsor to slip in?

The X-Trail has seven seats, it might do our over confident players good to sample the delights of a Nissan, rather than the more upmarket Land Rover brand. I think I’d enjoy watching seven, 15 stone-plus men trying to squeeze inside an X-Trail too.

That third row pair of seats is really only for occasional kids – otherwise consider this SUV best used as a very roomy and comfortable five-seater.

 

Would you be happy to pay £30,000 to own a Nissan X-Trail?

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The Nissan X-Trail may be styled like a premium brand machine but some of the trim comes from the bargain basement.

The long list of standard kit on this top spec model is impressive. The panoramic sunroof, auto headlights, sophisticated sat nav system – on paper it reads like a £30k car.

But the problem is the X-Trail doesn’t ‘feel’ premium. The seat materials, steering wheel, button and dials just aren’t that pleasant to the touch.

I can’t fault the X-Trail for practicality, It’s spacious, comfortable and I’m averaging 36mpg in the everyday slog.

Somehow though, I can’t imagine ever paying £30k for the privilege of driving it. Opt for the £23,000 entry model and it starts to make sense…

Is that a BMW X3? No is the latest Nissan X-Trail

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You have to look twice with the X-Trail. Unlike the pig ugly Juke, the family-orientated Nissan is starting to look more German than a BMW.

It’s surely no coincidence that the latest X-Trail has gone all curvy and upright like BMW’s X crossovers. Just add in a funky bronze colour like our test car and suddenly it even has an air of premium motor about it.

Underneath it’s a different story. The X-Trail shares the same platform as the Qashqai (a name I still have to look up every time I write it).

And while it’s some 90kg lighter than the old X-Trail, that 1.6 diesel engine means performance is left wanting. A petrol model is coming but really, you won’t be buying this SUV for on-road thrills.

Still, first impressions matter and I find the X-Trail easy on the eye. More from inside the cabin tomorrow…

The Nissan X-Trail is good at most things but just lacks a bit of character

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Whatever you think of the styling and the lacklustre drive, the X-Trail is a good car. It’s what you might call a safe bet – a car that will do everything you ask of it and then some.

You can spec it up to seven seats, add different layers of trim, or just settle back in the basic two-wheel drive model and feel good about spend your £23k bundle.

What it does lack is character. The old version was shaped like a brick but at least you wouldn’t lose it in a car park full of other SUVs.

Which also means potential buyers can look at models like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage and find little to choose between them. It might just come down to how it looks – and that’s where the X-Trail no longer has an edge…

 

On test, the new Nissan X-Trail is more refined than you might imagine…

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Nissan’s 129bhp diesel engine sounds a little agricultural under acceleration – perhaps one of the pitfalls of using a more efficient 1.6 unit, rather than a 2.0.

At least the soundtrack fades when you get the X-Trail on a motorway and the cabin feels more refined than you might imagine.

Around town, the engine is sluggish and there is no sudden rush of acceleration like in most turbo vehicles. The power comes smoothly and with light steering, the X-Trail is easy to manoeuvre.

And because the Nissan is more economical than some key rivals, that will be more than enough to tempt cash conscious buyers in its direction…

Don’t expect to squeeze two adults in the back of the X-Trail unless they are members of the Chinese State Circus

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While other SUVs are better and cheaper to drive, the X-Trail can boast a roomy cabin which is uber flexible. There is also the option of seven seats too.

Just don’t expect to squeeze two adults in the rear set – not unless they are members of the Chinese State Circus. Leg room is very tight.

In fact, you could argue that the X-Trail’s stablemate, the cheaper and slightly smaller Qashqai, does pretty much the same job and costs less.

And in this age of technology at our fingertips, where we can get perfectly good sat nav on a mobile phone, why do you have to spec the X-Trail up to a higher level just to get an in-car system?