Nissan X-Trail

Endearing wagon with altitude refreshed

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE MEMORY can be a funny thing. Midway through driving Nissanís largely cosmetic X-Trail nip íní tuck, the penny dropped as to why sales remain so solid. This is a good old-fashioned wagon on stilts, and many of us would make the connection with the Skylines, Bluebirds, 180Bs or 1600s we clambered into as kids.

Perhaps the angular silhouette subconsciously reassures us of good times past.

Employing the 2.5-litre petrol engine from the original T30 of 2001 is a throwback too, especially against more muscular directinjection and/or turbo competitors like VWís Tiguan.

Sure, thereís enough low-down torque for the driver to mercifully avoid exploring the upper reaches of the rev band via the whining artificially stepped CVT (as long as youíre not overtaking), but the lack of vitality and verve is a drag.

Speaking of which, this isnít the subtlest of facelifts, though by way of contrast, the cabinís more monochrome trim and newly double-stitched vinyl inserts elevate the ambience nicely.

Not much was needed actually, because the Nissanís pleasingly equipped interior remains airy, spacious and comfortable, defined by plush seats, an elementary driving position, a lovely new wheel, attractive instrumentation, exceptionally clear switchgear, simple controls and no shortage of storage. Hate that foot-operated park brake, though.

Moving to the back, if only the Nissans and Datsuns of yesteryear boasted a sliding and reclining split/fold bench, rear air-con outlets and elevated views. The cargo area is comparatively vast, and includes a reversible hosedown floor, as well as a third-row option on ST FWD. Additional sound deadening also quietens things down a bit.

However, just as with the petrol powertrains, thereís been no change to the steering, which is light and precise but could benefit from more feel and feedback, or to the strut front/multi-link rear suspension set-up. The latter varies from firmly controlled (ST/ST-L on 225/65R17s) to busy and occasionally unsettled (Ti/TL on 225/55R19s).

Still, AEB debuts across the range yet prices remain steady or have fallen depending on variant, and all score extra kit including adaptive cruise and an electric tailgate on Ti/TL.

And the diesel, delayed until September, grows to a promising 130kW/380Nm 2.0-litre with standard auto and AWD.

The upshot? As a family runabout the latest X-Trail ticks all the required boxes to stay near the top of the medium SUV class.

Nissanís able form with wagons does go way back, after all. he

Diesel delay

X-Trail TS diesel is here, but top-spec TL wonít arrive until September for production reasons. Both switch from the old 96kW/320Nm 1.6-litre to a 130kW/380Nm 2.0-litre four-pot turbo and bring for the first time in the series the desirable combination of automatic and all-wheel drive. Thatís where the up-spec diesel medium SUV market is, Nissan reckons, so big sales are forecast. The 2.0D CVT AWD should be a good thing too, in its gravel road control and composure, if the Ti CVT AWD petrol example we drove on the launch is anything to go by.

PLUS & MINUS

More safety kit; improved cabin; space; design; features; versatility Still lacks suspension and drivetrain finesse; ageing petrol engines