Nissan X-Trail (2017) review: Even more 4×4 for your money
When the Nissan X-Trail was first launched back at the beginning of the 2000s, the car market was a very different place. You had your family cars and you had your 4x4s and the term crossover had entirely different connotations. The X-Trail started something new: it was a beefy, boxy 4×4 but it was targeted as much at school-run duties as it was at active, outdoors use.
Fast forward 17 years and the 4×4 market has metamorphosed. Every manufacturer now has a full range of crossover vehicles in Russian doll sizes, and Nissan’s Qashqai is the most popular of the lot. The bigger Nissan X-Trail is still hugely popular, though, with global sales of 766,000 in 2016 making it “the world’s most popular SUV” and its extra size makes it a more practical choice for families than the Qashqai.
READ NEXT: Nissan Qashqai (2017) review – popular crossover gets a mild makeover[gallery:2]
Nissan X-Trail (2017) review: Interior, in-car tech and audio
As with anything this popular, it doesn’t make sense to rip up the rulebook and start over every few years; so the new 2017 X-Trail is an evolution of the previous model rather than a dramatic change.
That much is evident the moment you step inside the updated 2017 Nissan X-Trail. Despite a handful of upgrades, it’s a very familiar place to sit. Indeed, when I had the chance to drive the X-Trail for the first time it was alongside the new Qashqai and it shares so much of that model’s design DNA that the two are difficult to tell apart for anyone not in the know.
So what’s new inside? As with the Qashqai, the most obvious visual novelty is the new steering wheel, which now has a racy, flat-bottomed shape, a thicker rim and a smaller central hub to make it easier to see the instrument dials.[gallery:6]
Elsewhere, the top-grade Tekna trim now gets heated seats up front and in the second row, the leather seats have “enhanced quilting”, and boot capacity has been improved from 550 litres to 565 in the five-seat model (the seven seat model’s boot size remains at 445 litres), but it doesn’t look hugely different and the layout and popular seven-seat option remains in place.
There hasn’t been a huge step forwards in terms of what the X-Trail offers in its infotainment system, either. There’s a new optional eight-speaker Bose audio system, which I didn’t have the chance to listen to in my test X-Trail, but which sounds fantastic in the Nissan Qashqai and there’s now DAB radio across the range, too.
Otherwise, even with its slightly more “app-like” appearance, the infotainment system is beginning to show its age. The satnav works reasonably well but there’s little in the way of provision for smartphone users other than the usual hands-free phone and Bluetooth audio playback support. There’s no Android Auto or Apple Carplay option and the only built-in apps deliver Eurosport headlines, TripAdvisor suggestions and Google online search. Not the most useful array of software I’d venture.
On the plus side, the 2017 Nissan X-Trail’s infotainment system is at least easy to use and logically laid out – it’s just a shame there isn’t an awful lot to it.[gallery:11]
Nissan X-trail (2017) review: Driver assistance technologies
The new Nissan X-Trail paints a similar picture when it comes to driver assistance technologies, which Nissan made great play of at the launch. Dubbed ProPILOT, the system will be able to control steering, acceleration and braking on highways and while cruising at high speed; but it won’t be arriving for customers on the Nissan X-Trail until 2018.
For now, you’ll have to make do with the usual selection of helpful, but slightly less exciting, features, which include (depending on the model you purchase) automatic bay and parallel parking, 360-degree top-down camera view, road-sign recognition and lane-departure warnings.
The X-Trail’s hill-start assist feature has been improved with the new Stand Still Assist, which will hold the car still for three minutes before applying the parking brake automatically. The car’s “Intelligent Mobility” features have been enhanced as well, with pedestrian recognition adding to the car’s “Intelligent Emergency Braking” system and rear cross-traffic alert, which activates visual and audible alerts when the driver attempts to reverse when another vehicle is detected approaching from the side.[gallery:10]
Nissan X-Trail (2017) review: Engines, on-road and off-road drive
The Nissan X-Trail is available with a couple of different engines in front-wheel and four-wheel drive options and with manual and automatic CVT transmission. It’s effectively the same range as on the previous model X-Trail.
I drove the four-wheel-drive 2-litre 175bhp diesel with six-speed manual gearbox both on- and off-road and it behaved impeccably in all conditions. It’s a little noisy when the revs pick up and the long-throw manual gearbox means the gear change is a little agricultural in feel but handling is composed and assured as it always has been and body roll is surprisingly well-controlled around corners for such a large vehicle.[gallery:5]
On the road, it feels almost as agile and well-mannered as the smaller Qashqai and it took our off-road route – mainly gravelly fire roads with one steep and bumpy downhill technical section – comfortably in its stride.
With no complicated settings to worry about – a simple knob mounted in the centre-console allows you to switch between 2WD, auto mode (where power is sent to the rear wheels only in slippery conditions) and 4WD – this is not a car you can take on the harshest of off-road safaris but it’ll cope fine if you regularly drive reasonably long sections of unpaved road.
Nissan X-Trail (2017) review: Verdict
With prices starting at just over £23,000, the Nissan X-Trail 2017 delivers a for your money. It’s spacious, handles well, delivers effective off-roading capabilities and there’s a good selection of safety tech as well.
The slightly refined exterior design means it looks better than ever as well, although I do feel the slightly buggy rear brake light clusters could do with a makeover.
However, its infotainment system is in need of a spruce up – it looks old-fashioned and features are limited – and it’s disappointing that ProPILOT isn’t arriving until 2018, so buyers in search of the most cutting edge tech may want to cast their eyes towards the Skoda Kodiaq instead.
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