Nissan's popular X-Trail has always boxed clever. Despite a new look, Damien O'Carroll discovers it still does

The X-Trail has been good for Nissan both locally and globally, with the chunky, squared-off SUV being the third best selling vehicle globally for Nissan since it was introduced, while here in New Zealand it has been the No4 selling vehicle for Nissan NZ for the last 25 years.

Since the launch of the second generation model in 2007, Nissan has sold 4000 X-Trails locally and, despite the fact it is starting to get on a bit, it is still sitting in sixth place in its segment up against much newer competition, such as the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander.

While the old maxim says "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", for the all-new model Nissan has chosen to utterly ignore this and add a brand new ingredient to the X-Trail mix that changes it rather dramatically, and that new ingredient is curves.

That's right, as you will have no doubt already noticed from the accompanying pictures, the square, boxy look that distinguished the X-Trail from its curvier competition has been dumped entirely for the new car.


This does make sense when looked at from a corporate identity point of view - the boxy X-Trail stood out from the rest of the heavily curved and chromed Nissan range like a porcupine at a nudist colony. But no longer.

Rather than angles, curves are the order of things for the X-Trail, with a big smiley grille on the front that is reminiscent of both the new Pathfinder and the Murano in terms of chromed grins.

The X-Trail is more restrained in terms of chrome, however, and much sleeker than the somewhat clumsy-looking Pathfinder, which leaves it more in the vein of the attractive Mazda CX-5.

Which is certainly no bad thing.

But while the new looks do make sense, do make the X-Trail look like it is related to the rest of the Nissan SUV family rather than being the red-headed stepchild and most certainly do look good, the loss of the blatant angularity of the old car is a bit of a let down. The X-Trail stood out from the curvy masses. And looked like it meant business. Even if that business was just to be stubbornly different from the crowd.

The new X-Trail has also shifted the goalposts a bit in terms of where it sits in the grand scheme of things.

Gone is the diesel-engined variant and in comes a seven seat variant instead.

All X-trails now come with a carried over 125kW/226Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine hooked up to a continuously variable transmission.

The range kicks off with the entry level ST in two guises: a 2WD seven-seater and a 4WD five-seater.

Impressively specced with 17-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, power adjustable door mirrors, a reversing camera, keyless entry with push button start, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a rear roof spoiler, cruise control and hill-start assist, the ST starts at $39,990 for the 2WD/7-seat model and $42,490 for the 4WD/5-seat model. The ST-L drops in at $47,290 and adds front fog lamps, roof rails, rear privacy glass, a 7-inch touch screen that acts as the display for the Around View camera system and satellite navigation, leather accented seats, a leather steering wheel and shift knob, power adjustable and heated front seats and dual zone climate control.

The TI tops the range at $53,290 and brings 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail lights, an electric tailgate, auto levelling headlights, rain sensing wipers, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and moving object detection.

All X-Trails also come standard with Nissan's new "Scratch Shield" paint that features a special clearcoat that is not only more scratch resistant, it will also heal small scratches when left in the sun for a number of days. However, this only works if the scratch is in the clearcoat.

While it has most emphatically lost its boxiness, the X-Trail definitely hasn't lost its other major feature - its comfort.

The old car was superbly comfortable, with front seats that were almost like armchairs. The latest version doesn't have quite the same seats - the new ones are less voluptuous and all-enveloping but offer improved lateral support - but the ride quality is still superb. And not at the expense of handling either, it has to be noted.

While the ride is comfortable, body roll is kept to a minimum (in SUV terms) and the X-Trail can be punted through a corner with a fair amount of eagerness.

Thrash it like the red-headed stepchild it used to be and mild understeer is eventually revealed and severe provocation is needed to make the stability control light so much as flicker.

However, while it is adept at attacking, the X-Trail still shines the most when it is cruising at open road speeds.

Here it is comfortable, extremely competent and largely unfussed by whatever atrocities local roading contractors care to throw at it. The X-Trail may not have its quirky square ways going for it anymore, but there is still certainly more than enough to make it a very strong competitor in a super-competitive segment.