Top of the trail
Diesel dependability married to roomy luxury will make SUV buyers take notice of the new Nissan X-Trail diesel.
Nissan’s third generation of the X-Trail brought a more functional, family focus while remaining a most capable light-duty off-road mid-size SUV.
Now a fuel-efficient diesel option has broadened its appeal. Like the petrol versions, the diesels come in 2WD and AWD, but there is no seven-seat option and AWD is only available with a 6spd manual transmission. The 2WD diesel, however, does have the choice of a CVT automatic or the manual gearbox.
We tested the top-of-the-range TL manual AWD diesel that is packed with standard features to justify its premium pricetag of $46,580 plus on-road costs. But it also means that in terms of safety it is now one of the best in the class. X-Trail has an excellent five-star ANCAP rating across the range, and the TL add the likes of lane departure warning, blind spot warning and moving object detection. Yet it only carries a temporary-use space-saver spare wheel.
On the road, X-Trail diesel is a solid rather than an exciting performer. Its 1.6L common-rail direct-injected turbo- diesel engine is smaller than most other diesels in the class but still delivers respectable power (96kW) and torque (320Nm). It is not your traditional low-speed, lugging diesel; the engine prefers a few revs and has a nice sweet-spot in the mid-range where the strong torque provides the type of flexibility you want for everyday driving. In the manual, you need to work it through the gears to keep the engine spinning in its mid rev range. But this is not too much of a chore as the gear shift has a positive action, although the long clutch pedal travel is noticeable.
While this diesel may not set any class standards in terms of performance, it’s no slouch, and fuel consumption is among the lowest in class; it’s official figure is a frugal 5.3L/100km (against a best of 7.9 in the petrol models). The need to work the gears does mean operating conditions and the way it is driven will affect its real-world fuel figure. Over our week of testing, we ranged from 6.2 to 8.7L/100km, with an overall average of 7.4L/100km.
The most appealing aspect of X-Trail overall is its practical size and well-laid-out, versatile cabin. Wide-opening doors and convenient seat height make getting in and out very easy. It’s surprisingly roomy for a vehicle of its size, and there’s a variety of flexible cargo options. In typical SUV fashion, the extra seat height delivers good visibility and a commanding driving position. Well-shaped front seats provide good comfort and support, while the dash layout has logically positioned switches and big, clear dials. There is a generous amount of leg room front and rear, and the TL’s sunroof doesn’t take away all that much head room.
The TL is classed as a five-seater, but the rear seat shaping dictates that, comfort-wise, it is at its best carrying up to four adults. It is a bench seat that has slide and recline functions, with a 40/20/40 split-fold layout. The smaller centre seat, which can also be folded down to form an arm-rest, is very firm and definitely not the most comfortable place to be for anything other than a short trip. Childseat tether points for the outer two positions are conveniently located on the rear of the seats while the centre position is in the roof. All X-Trails also have provision for ISOFIX childseats.
The diesel X-Trail may not be the quickest in the class, but despite having to change gears manually it is a relaxed and very easy vehicle to drive. The long-travel suspension, featuring Nissan’s Active Ride Control, comfortably copes with most road surfaces and delivers surefooted handling. As you would expect in this type of vehicle, however, there is a little body roll. The electric power steering has a light, very direct feel, with the load varying according to driving conditions. Some drivers may even find it a little too direct.
Nissan’s well proven all-mode 4X4-i system allows drivers to easily select between three modes: 2WD, auto AWD and a lock mode which splits the drive 50/50 front to rear at speeds below 40km/h. This makes X-Trail one of the more capable AWDs in the class for those venturing onto rough tracks but it’s still only a light-duty off-roader.
Service intervals for the diesel are the same as the petrol version, however capped price servicing costs for the diesel are higher.
Nissan X-Trail is a good vehicle in a competitive class, being well built, easy to drive, safe and with an excellent cabin layout. In AWD form, it is certainly one of the more capable cross-over models.
The 1.6L diesel option puts it among the best in terms of linking low fuel consumption with respectable performance. However, it is not going to outrun many of the larger-engined diesels in the class.
And the top-of-the-range TL’s price is hefty considering it’s only available in manual form.