Amidst all the sharp angles and voluptuous curves sashaying forth from the likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-7 and Kia Sportage, Nissan’s X-Trail stands out for its solid (stolid?), angular styling and no-nonsense engineering bias. Car enthusiasts will likely pass on the X-Trail for its lack of visual panache, but as a triathlete and coach who’s on the go 7 days a week loading up my car with bikes, bags, baby, wifey, and nanny there are a lot of things to like about the Nissan.
For starters, the boxy shape won’t win any points for style but makes up for it with a lot of head- and legroom; more so than you’d get in a Tucson, CX-7, or even the Honda CR-V. I’d even hazard a guess that the backseat is roomier than Nissan’s old Cefiro, and the final arbiter of rear seat comfort is my 16-month old son. With the reclining seatback I was able to lie back and put my kid to sleep as my wife took the helm and marveled at the X-Trail’s reassuring mass. The all-independent suspension delivers a plush ride that doesn’t cause rear seat passengers to bounce up and down over the suspension towers.
With a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine and a Continuously Variable Transmission, power delivery is smooth and linear all the way to the redline. However, there’s no need to rev the engine hard as there’s a lot of grunt delivered quietly at the lower ranges. Peak torque is 172 lb.ft at 4,400 rpm, but it pulls strongly just off idle such that it’s possible to get up to cruising range with a light foot on the gas and never higher than 2,500 rpm on the tachometer.
The electrically assisted steering is nicely weighted and provides adequate feedback, and combined with the plush suspension the X-Trail would make for a nice cross country touring wagon. The front seats are just as comfortable as the back, with quality fabric upholstery and manual seat adjustments that get you into that “just right” driving position.
Comfort aside, the X-Trail’s cargo versatility is impressive for a market categorized by Been There Done That packaging tricks. The rear seat is split 60:40 (BTDT) and there’s a tonneau cover (ditto). Here’s where it gets interesting: tumble the rear seat bottoms, fold down the seatbacks and you get a flat load floor. Been There Done That? Well, the backside of the rear seatbacks is a hard plastic. Combined with the plastic load floor of the basic cargo area you get a nice, hard surface that’s easily washable and one you wouldn’t mind getting scratched or soiled over time.
But wait, there’s more! Lift the cargo floor and more surprises are revealed. A drawer-type compartment provides a secret space for long-but-not-so-bulky items, with thoughtful touches like removable walls so you can further segment your stuff. If you’re the type who drools at all those plastic boxes of all sizes at Shopwise and True Value, you’ll love the cargo area of the X-Trail. During my test weekend I couldn’t resist loading up the X-Trail with bike, floor pump, gym bags, stroller and other assorted items and it swallowed them all.
Yet despite the X-Trail’s willingness to get down and dirty, it’s hard not to be similarly impressed with the quality fit and finish. The dashboard now has a conventional instrument panel layout (and is all the better for it), still bookended by useful bottle/cupholders with integrated A/C vents for a cooling effect. Soft plastics are used wherever the eyes and fingers roam in the cabin, with perforated inner door panels and a quality moquette headliner. Naturally, Nissan couldn’t resist carving up the dash for all available space, so there’s a lidded compartment on top and a huge glove compartment that can swallow an iPad. The interior of the X-Trail is just such a nice place to be in the longer you drive it. It doesn’t scream trendy or avant garde; just practical, sensible, and quality materials all throughout. I have the same sentiment for the exterior. Yes, it’s boxy. Yes, it was penned with a T-square and not much else. But so is another marque that was so endearing during its boxy days: Volvo.
After taking all these things into consideration, the X-Trail strikes me as the Swiss Army Knife of compact SUVs: the look is so familiar as to be called “timeless”, but it performs well and brims with features for the buyer looking for an active lifestyle vehicle.
Specification: 2010 Nissan X-Trail 2.5l 2WD
Engine: Inline four cylinder, 2488 cc, dohc 16-valve, fuel injected gasoline, Continuously Variable Transmission with 6-speed manual mode, front-wheel drive
Max power: 170 hp @ 6000 rpm
Max torque: 125.38 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): NA
Top Speed: NA
Fuel Mileage: 8.3 km/l
Price as tested: PhP 1,350,000.00
+: Quality fit and finish. Roomy and versatile interior. Plush ride. Smooth powertrain.
-: Looks so familiar…
C! Rating: 9.0/10