Give me a projector, a single board computer, a smartwatch and I am in heaven. Reviewing tech stuff is what I do before breakfast. It’s understandable then that my colleagues – Flash and Someone – insist that the car, now a part of our daily lives for 130 years, is a display of technological refinement I should be particularly interested in.
Of course, they would say that, given that one of them is an actual, proven racing driver and the other one… okay, speaks for a living, but is just as exemplary at reviewing cars with lots of zeroes in its price tag.
So when it came to testing the humble Nissan X-Trail, they were not particularly excited. As Someone promptly educated me, we have a cycle of at least six years before getting a new event’s invitation to some exotic place. What does change in the meantime and how do I get a measure with basically no previous experience in the segment?
All these factors made this the perfect time for me to go on and tell you what’s to know about this masterpiece from Japan.
1) The basics
I’ll admit the SUV segment remains a mystery to me. Versatile, sturdier, bigger and higher, although heavier, of course, and not necessarily safer on the road, the SUVs are undeniably gaining market share very fast, lead nonetheless by the small-sized models.
If you ask me, I would not recognize a Porsche from a Volkswagen, nor am I able to tell you where I would prefer a SUV – other than if you are living on a remote mountain or an isolated desert and you run an agricultural family business.
Hence, did the due diligence on the car, I discovered that these vehicles were made for war-related purposes and evolved later into the commercial market to meet the need of freedom over the inconsistent public services. Riding the off-road on a pavemented road doesn’t seem the best idea but allows you to get through the non-covered areas without second thoughts.
Back to Nissan, the first version of the X-Trail hit the market in 2000, a time when you could count the key players on one hand. Along with the huge investment of
2) Look and feel
The biggest surprise comes from the luxurious-feeling that materials and design give me so unexpectedly. Maybe because I still have in mind the Indiana Jones’ type of vehicle when I think to off-road or it’s only due to my total disinterest in car and consequent lack of experience, but sitting in the cockpit feels nice. Heated seats, cooling glass-holder, electric folding door mirrors, full sunroof, and the alloy wheels are all welcomed details that give the X-Trail a premium look and feel.
Nissan went for an aggressive look which brings up a sportier soul, with an evident chrome touch running below the doors on both sides. I like particularly the front-end look, that becomes more modern and with the “new-tech” styles given by the full LED lights, used both in the front and rear, the fog lights smartly integrated into the bumper and the alternate use of glossy and plastic materials. The back bumper has also evolved although it maintained the X-Trail classic look, as far as I can tell from pictures.
3) How do you seat in it?
I get the same positive vibes exploring the car internally. Seats look great in the leather version and the colors selection allow a decent number of options that go along with the external modern design. The comfort of the driving seat is refinished by a new sports-like steering wheel, which is thicker than before allowing for better grip. It blows my mind realizing that the funny shape actually helps you enter the driving position easier: small details that immediately change the approach I have to the car and the company.
The HUD display is clear and there’s more upper space visible through the steering wheel (17% larger according to Nissan). Options are straight-forward, featuring turn-by-turn directions,
The captive display in the middle integrates nicely with the soft cutout of the dashboard. Despite the many efforts on the hardware’s technology, I still find the software lacking in usage and there’s a ton of wasted real estate on the screen: all the interactions are basically controlled by the physical buttons, so what’s the point of the touchscreen?
*raising my shoulders while opening my arms wide, palms up*
4) It’s surprisingly roomy
Spaces are well-thought all around the cabin. It’s 2019 and there is no thought on where one should place his device. No wireless charging space or even enough surface to leave my iPhone to rest on. To be fair, there are only a few vehicles featuring this kind of detail, but given the attention reserved in other areas, I was expecting something more.
The seven-seater version will presumably be more appealing to families looking for an out-of-the-ordinary weekend, possibly avoiding queuing at mall’s entrances or get stuck for the day in the all-new and already seen amusement park: nature is calling and Nissan is asnwering. Personally though, I am much more attracted by the five-seater version that features a very clever spacing option, allowing you to create a shelf or a box in your trunk .
5) Does it integrate technology?
AR cameras have become an industry standard in the last years, and now we can benefit from the Japanese group’s investment on Intelligent Mobility. The parking system finally takes advantage of the whole central screen with a sort-of bird’s eye view. Together with the back mirror, it leaves no blind spots or room for mistakes. The view sections will highlight when the motion-sensor captures any moving object, helping you prioritize your maneuvers.
The ProPilot system allows a decent level of autonomous drive, it is smart for sure, as the name let you think. Intelligent cruise control handles the deceleration and speed when the car in front comes below the minimum
6) You get more driver-assist tech than you might expect…
Talking about sensors, you will have to realize while driving how and when the intelligent driving system kicks in. The trace control helps you keep your trajectory, straight or curved line: happened a couple of times that the car started slowing down while entering a long curve without any vehicle in front of me. Intelligent ride control will break just before approaching a bumper or an inclined road, to reduce that up-and-down bouncing motion that usually happens.
The new AFS (Adaptive Front Lighting System) launched on all newer models reacts to steering inputs, speed, and outer light condition, illuminating smartly the side with less visibility. I find it particularly helpful on routes with low light or during some night drives.
7) It doesn’t always feel like a SUV
While Europe and US have access to different models (including the 1.6-litre version), the model I drove was the four-wheel drive ‘SL’ trim, which features the ‘new’ 2.5-litre four-cylinder for 2019, an engine capable of delivering 169HP to move almost 2,000kg. Acceleration feels sportier than I expected.
On the road it’s fast. Or faster than I was expecting from a SUV. With a decent performance, averaging 12L/100Km even when driven in the city’s traffic, it still won’t allow you enjoyable fast slalom while cruising around secondary roads or traffic jams. Acceleration from the start is slow and I can sense the weight. Get it started and I forgot the weight difference from my daily drive and let the cruise control take over. A solid and almost without vibrations experience on the highway keeps the comfort level very high and I can’t let this go unnoticed, as it took me the whole weekend from the city to the suburbans areas making me forget about traffic jams and long distances.
8) It was designed for offroad
The X-Trail is smaller and lower than other SUV. “Thank you, captain Obvious”, you may think. But that is something to consider if you want to use it primarily for off roads adventures. It may not serve the best experience, such as Toyota or Nissan’s bigger brothers.
I enter the off-road trail and quickly reach the open sands. I notice that my initial insecure accelerations aren’t getting me stuck in any of the camel’s grazing area. Even as a rookie offroader, you can have your dose of adrenaline without compromising too much on safety but I won’t push it up and down the hills too much.
The Intelligent 4×4 option can be activated with the flick of a switch and there is a dedicated setup for the downhill drives. I was feeling unsure in the beginning as the system claims to switch automatically when needed. After five minutes there was no sign of 4WD setup, so I forced the setting in. Immediately, the soapy feeling on the sand started and I got more confidence sliding meter after meter.
For a non-retainer of the dune-bashing scene, I’m having a lot of fun. Much more than the dog anyway, that was bounced left and right with no pity.
On the inclined slope, the reduced weight needs to sacrifice comfort for excitement. Nevertheless, it took us in and out of the desert without any major difficulty.
At a selling price of $35,200 USD, it’s almost impossible not to compare the X-Trail with Mitsubishi’s and Volkswagen’s alternatives like the Outlander or the Tiguan. It has several nice touches, starting from the tailgate sensor, the mirror LCD screen, well performance over consumes and the wide color selections.
Yes, you can get the basic model for $25,000 USD but isn’t the trade-off getting unconvincing at this point?
10) Value for money
Despite the lack of connectivity and interface software for Smartphones, Nissan sells pretty nicely the idea of family adventure in a compact SUV that will not come short on expectations. I could see the family trip happening in the vibration-less cockpit, the sweet integration of large spaces to host some friends or stopping at IKEA on the way back.
The nicest touches, other than the fun memories of the dunes, are the intelligent driving options that, on top of the luxury level design, are effectively reducing stress while driving. The attention to detail put into the X-Trail bring the car at the same level of more expensive alternatives, enhancing the safety features.
Along with the high level of comfort, the technologies added from Nissan really make the difference in terms of experience. It becomes worth to look into this crossover and it probably pavement the road to raise the interest in future models and different segments too.
At this price, I can definitely declare it a serious player if you are considering SUV for your family’s daily drive or as the second car for your weekend improvisations