METRO PLUS

On a familiar Trail

Reliable and comfortable The clutch action is easy, the brakes are well-weighted and the steering is direct, with little slack.  

TESTDRIVE Nissan’s all-new X Trail is an old world, middle-of-the-road, tough-as-nails SUV. SHAPUR KOTWALgives more details

The styling of this all-new X-Trail is so derivative; it’s easy to mistake it for the one currently on sale in India.

Nissan has stuck with the straight lines and boxy look because, unlike in India, the X-Trail enjoys an almost-cult-like status in other markets. Nissan has sold 800,000 first-generation X-Trails, not bad for a car originally conceived to appeal only to surfer-and-snowboard dudes.

A short refresher course for those of you unfamiliar with the character of the X-Trail. It’s a soft-roader, an SUV that’s built like a car, much like the Honda CR-V. That means no heavy-duty load-carrying ladder chassis and no off-road-centric suspension. Still, Nissan has given both the old and new car some amount of off-road hardware, so it’s not too far off from the ideal compromise. Good on tarmac and good off it. And that’s where the straight lines and hardcore 4x4 looks come from. Nissan wants to give the impression of this being an old world, middle-of-the-road, tough-as-nails SUV.

On this new X-Trail, the car-like suspension and chassis are shared with the new Qashqai crossover. And that means great agility and ease of driving. There is a fair amount of off-road gear too, generous ground clearance, plus the capability to manage most dirt tracks well.

So in what way is the new design different? To begin with, the multi-element headlights on this new X-Trail are triangular and much larger. The new car looks much more muscular and there is a kink in the base of the D-pillar as well. It is also slightly larger, but you’re hardly likely to notice that.

One sure-fire way to distinguish between the old car and the new one, however, is to take a peek inside the cabin. The instrument panel is no longer positioned in the centre of the dashboard as on the car currently available in India. It is now in the traditional place, behind the steering wheel. Then, the cabin feels larger, more spacious, and is fitted with higher-quality trim and plastics.

The front seats offer substantially more space, the rear seats are almost as comfortable as those in the Honda CR-V and there is more legroom at the back as well. The car abounds with storage space too — there are a number of well-designed boxes in the central console, cupholders are cleverly placed near the aircon vents and there are a couple of long ‘drawers’ under the floor in the boot.

Under the bonnet, there is a new motor, a 2.0 common-rail diesel that’s shared with Renault. This version puts out an impressive 150bhp. Fire it up and like many modern diesels today, it is smooth and relatively-noiseless except for a soft pitter-patter and occasionally whine from the fan. But otherwise it’s just the sort of diesel motor you want.

Out on Portuguese roads, there is very little lag from the motor and the six-speed manual box feels slick and light. Once past that bit of lag, the tug of the diesel is quite strong as well as gratifying. It breezes over country roads at an impressive rate and feels nice and perky in city traffic as well, with plenty of shove on hand for overtaking. It feels pretty quick.

It drives well too. The clutch action is easy, the brakes are well-weighted and the steering is direct, with very little slack. When cornered, the X-Trail rolls a bit initially, but quickly settles down on its anti-roll bars, maintaining that attitude throughout the corner. It’s not a dull and uninvolved drive but comparing it to the go-kart-like CR-V in terms of driving pleasure is pretty pointless. The Honda is leagues ahead.

What the X-Trail has however is a very pliant ride. The suspension is very absorbent over rough patches of road, big dips are easily soaked up and, even though it is soft, there is very little bounce. Overall, comfort levels are much improved over the current X-Trail.

Importantly, Nissan has kept the blend of on-and off-road ability intact. It has generous amount of ground clearance, differential locks that can be selected from the dial in front of the gear lever, a hill descent control system can be activated, and there is now a mode that will automatically select four-wheel drive.

Despite the fact that the X-Trail has no third row of seats and is only a five-seater, unlike the Captiva, the Chevy will have a strong diesel competitor once Nissan launches the new car here in India, sometime at the end of the year. It’s a car that drives well, has a refined and powerful diesel motor, is comfortable and promises Japanese car-reliability. And even though it may look familiar, this new version nonetheless has an edgy, funky charm.

TECHNICAL DATA

NEW NISSAN X-TRAIL

Price

Rs 20.5 lakh-Rs 25 lakh (est)

L/W/H4630/1785/1680mm

Wheelbase 2630mm

Turning circle 5.3m

Kerb weight 2170kg

Engine 4cyls, 1995cc, turbodiesel

Installation Front, longitudinal, four-wheel drive

Power 150bhp at 4000rpm

Torque32kgm at 2000rpm

Suspension(Front) MacPherson strut

(Rear) Independent multi-link

Gearbox 6-speed manual

Fuel tank 65 litres

Brakes (F/R)Ventilated discs

Tyres 215/65 R16