Nissan’s new X-Trail will garner lots of fans

001-off-my-wheelsBrian Joss –

SE is a practical and elegant Crossover

A few years ago I had a Nissan X-Trail for a long distance test. So we travelled on Route 62, for  a short break to Rhebok, a little enclave near the Groot Brak , a few kilometres from Mossel Bay and stayed at Aloe Eden (www.aloeeden.co.za), in a self catering apartment with a view over the bay where in season the whale watching is superb. At night we could hear the whales breaching and “talking to each other”.

On the way we stopped at Barrydale overnight and when we got to our destination there were side trips to Knysna, to Plett and to the excellent restaurant at Kurgan’s Village, a job creation project. And throughout the round trip from Milnerton the rugged, boxy X-Trail performed admirably and it did well in the small amount off-roading I did.

The new-look Nissan X-Trail: some design cues from the Qashqai. Picture: QuickPic
The new-look Nissan X-Trail: some design cues from the Qashqai. Picture: QuickPic

Now the third generation X-Trail has arrived in South Africa with eight models in the new line-up.  The test car was the Nissan X-Trail 2.5 SE Xtronic 4WD (7-seat) and what a change it is from the old SUV.  The Crossover looks a lot like the Qashqai (TESTED THE GREMLIN DATE) and comes with several new features and technology.  This time though , however, I drove the SE around the Mother City and environs on a quite  testing route and on Easter Monday I was one of the 42 000 cars going over Sir Lowry’s Pass into Somerset West and from above you could see the long snaking line of vehicles.

We headed for Franschhoek hoping to enjoy a coffee. However, we should have known that the town would have been packed out on a public holiday . And so it proved, parking was at a premium and what made it worse was the behaviour of a well-known tour bus operator: he had an empty vehicle and he had been in front of us for a long while, holding up the traffic behind him and driving like a Sunday-Monday driver, who didn’t seem to know where he was going. Suddenly, in Franschhoek, and without any indication, he made a U-turn to go back the way he came. Luckily the SE’s brakes proved their worth.

Then we went up Franschhoek Pass. which, writes Marion Whitehead , author of SA Mountain Passes: Poorts and Scenic Drives (Jacana), was commissioned by Lord Charles Somerset in 1822 and it was completed in 1825. Somerset also built the first stone arch bridge over a kloof called Jan Joubert’s gat and it is the oldest bridge still in use in South Africa, White writes. We drove over it and wondered about its history. Then I remembered reading about it in her book.

The view from the Pass is spectacular, the drive too is full of unexpected twists and turns and lots of sharp S-bends so you really have to keep your wits about you. But it was no problem for the SE which stuck to the road like Velcro, even when unintentionally my foot was a bit heavy on the throttle.

So upward and onward we drove then down to Grabouw and Elgin through Sir Lowry’s Pass and back home. The SE which is fitted with Nissan’s Xtronic, continuous variable transmission (CVT),  didn’t stutter or stumble, and missing was the usual CVT whine. As time was short I did not do any off -roading but all reports indicate it is as happy in the rough as its cousin was.

Ground clearance has increased by 6mm despite the height decreasing by 5mm. The X-Trail is 30mm wider than the model it replaces and the  wheelbase has been extended by 75mm which means more interior space.

The cabin is focused on the driver. There is a split level dashboard and all controls are ergonomically sited. The console features NissanConnect, an infotainment centre which includes a seven inch touch screen, SatNav and smartphone integration, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to operate it.

Another interesting feature is the EZ Flex seating configuration which is easy to operate. The second row has a folding mechanism to adjust legroom and the reclining back rests: in the seven-seater models the rear seats fold completely flat increasing load space from 135 litres to 1 310 litres.

Nissan’s 4×4 system provides three driving modes, which you can select though a rotary knob on the centre console: 2WD, Auto and 4WD Lock and the  system also features Active Brake Limited Slip.

The SE is powered by a naturally aspirated petrol engine and produces 126kW at 6 000rpm, with torque of 233 N.m peaking at 4 000rpm. It has plenty of oomph and you can overtake with ease, without putting yourself or other motorists in danger.

A light tap on the accelerator and the SE surges forward. Steering is responsive and the ride quality is excellent. The seats are comfortable and there is hardly any cabin noise.

As for fuel, it is surprisingly miserly for a 2.5 litre engine. Nissan claims figures of 8.3-litres/100 km on the petrol derivative. Mine weren’t too far off the mark and when I gave it back there was more than enough petrol to do the round trip again, and then some. Carbon emissions are 197 g/km for all models.

Standard safety equipment on all models includes six airbags, ABS (with EB and BAS), vehicle dynamic control and hill-start assist. The Nissan Safety Shield, which is part of the optional Techno Pack, includes an around view monitor, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

The Nissan X-Trail 2.5 SE Xtronic 4WD (7-seat) is a practical and elegant crossover SUV with all the nice-to-haves. Some of them come at a price. Although you can go driving in the bush It wouldn’t look out of place at the Mount Nelson.  I enjoyed driving  it and I predict that Nisan’s new X-Trail will be just as popular with fans as the old one was. Whether they choose the 1.6, the 2-litre or the 2.5-litre model.

(BULLET) The Nissan X-Trail 2.5 SE Xtronic 4WD (7) seat will set you back R370 600.  But check with your dealer for the latest price which includes a six-year or  150 000 km warranty and five-year or 90 000 km service plan.

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