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Nissan qashqai 1.6 diesel 4x4 test drive

Blink and you might think you’ve just seen another Nissan Qashqai. but the all-new and rather more stylish Nissan X-Trail is larger and has lots to offer in its own right.

First and foremost we’re talking practicality. The X-Trail knocks spots off rivals for boot space, and has class-leading passenger room.

The X-Trail’s Safety is peerless in the class too, thanks to an all-new Renault-Nissan vehicle architecture that supports some of the most advanced passive and active systems around. Excellent emissions and fuel economy help towards an affordable ownership experience.

The downsides? Limited engine options mean performance wouldn’t challenge a reluctant rice-pudding skin, and the driving experience isn’t designed to thrill either.

While never a hardcore off-roader, the Nissan X-Trail used to be quite utilitarian with a boxy squared-off body, and not many frills. The latest model rides the wave of fashionable crossovers, and the Nissan X-Trail for sale in dealers today is curvy, and altogether more sophisticated.

The new model feels much more like a car to drive, and there’s a richer feel to the X-Trail interior as it’s packed with new technology and much better quality.

OK, so some more conservative SUV enthusiasts may have been alienated by the X-Trail’s new approach, but for most people the changes have made the 4x4 a whole lot more appealing. Nissan’s strategy has been to broaden the appeal to a much wider family audience, in the style of the smaller Qashqai. It’s worked, and the X-Trail now looks much more competitive against rivals like the Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V. With a seven-seat option, the X-Trail also hopes to pinch sales from SUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe.

The extra row of seats means this X-Trail’s arrival spelled the demise of the Qashqai +2. That said, the X-Trail and latest Qashqai are both now built on the same platform, so perhaps the X-Trail is a replacement in all but name.

The shared platform goes by the name of the Renault-Nissan Common Module Family. So as well as providing the underpinnings for Nissan’s SUV’s, you won’t be surprised to hear it also forms the basis for the Qashqai-sized Kadjar crossover and next Renault Megane.

There was only one engine available at the X-Trail’s launch in 2014 - a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 128bhp and 320Nm. Late 2015 saw the arrival of a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol option, and with it a bit more power at the cost of fuel economy.

Front-wheel drive comes as standard, but diesel buyers can have 4WD with any of the four trim grades (Visa, Acenta, n-tec or Tekna) for £1,700. You can also specify your diesel 4WD X-Trail with either manual or auto transmissions.

The X-Trail’s all-wheel-drive set-up is an adaptive 4x4 system. It can be switched between fuel-saving front-wheel drive, an automatic mode, which only sends drive to the rear wheels under hard acceleration or in slippery conditions, or a 4x4 lock mode, which is ideal for the worst weather and off-road situations.

Nissan expects all-wheel-drive to account for only a small percentage of X-Trail sales and that should tell you all you need to know about this car’s road-biased, crossover metamorphosis.

Unlike the Qashqai which comes with a simple torsion beam rear axle in two-wheel drive guise and a multi-link set-up on the 4x4, all X-Trail models get the sophisticated multi-link rear suspension.

If the X-Trail has an Achilles Heel it’s the lacklustre performance – especially under load

The X-Trail is no entertainer, but it’s easy to drive for such a bulky machine, thanks to light steering, an unobtrusive six-speed manual gearbox (the Xtronic CVT auto is a £1,350 option) and a raft of safety tech.

Nissan wants to offer a commercially viable, fully autonomous car by 2020, and the X-Trail benefits from some of that burgeoning technology. ‘Active Trace Control’ constantly monitors your speed and steering input, adjusting your line through a corner if the car senses you’re going to run wide, rather than cutting in with juddering traction control once the car has lost grip.

Active Ride Control appears too, using subtle engine braking to reduce oscillations over particularly bumpy roads, or over urban speed humps. However, it’s not enough to disguise a fidgety ride on the 19-inch alloys fitted to n-tec and Tekna models.

On the road, the X-Trail gathers adequate pace with the diesel option, but given this car hints at tough-terrain ability and can be offered as a seven-seater, we’d sacrifice a little of that fuel-sipping attitude for some more load-lugging grunt. Key rivals offer larger 2.2-litre diesel engine options, which would be a welcome addition to the X-Trail range.

The 1.6-litre DIG-T turbocharged petrol isn’t any better either, and despite being more powerful, actually feels slower in-gear.

The 1.6 dCi engine develops 128bhp, and a decent 320Nm of torque – exactly the same torque figure as the old X-Trail’s 2.0-litre diesel, although power is down a bit. As a result, it’s just as punchy, but thanks to the smaller capacity, stop-start and a 90kg weight saving, the new X-Trial is 20% more efficient.

We’ve also driven the new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit, but while its 160bhp figure is a little healthier than the diesel, it doesn’t feel any quicker in a straight line. That is mainly due to the inferior torque figure, which can make it feel a bit sluggish when you put your foot down.

That said, it does slice almost a second off the diesel’s 0-62mph time, bringing it down to 9.7 seconds from 10.5 seconds. Maximum speed for the diesel is 117mph, which compares to the new petrol’s 124mph.

It’s also worth noting that opting for the 4x4 drivetrain takes the edge off the performance of the diesel engine further – 0-62mph drops to 11 secs, although top speed (116mph) is barely affected.

We’ll never know how it affects the petrol performance, because Nissan won’t let you specify a 4x4 X-Trail with petrol power.

Downsizing pays dividends for diesel economy and emissions, and the 1.6 petrol isn’t bad either

Downsizing from the old model’s 2.0-litre to the new 1.6-litre diesel power-plant pays dividends at the pumps for the X-Trail, which can return a claimed 57.6mpg in its most efficient two-wheel drive manual form. That only drops a little to 53.3mpg for the all-wheel drive model, although this is expected to be the minority seller as far as UK-bound X-Trails are concerned.

CO2 emissions from 129g/km mean the new X-Trail is four tax bands cheaper than the version it replaces, at least in 2WD form. It’s now in band D and will cost £110 per year, although ticking the 4WD box doesn’t only shade performance and economy, it also bumps CO2 emissions up to 143g/km and that takes you to band F and a £145 annual road tax bill.

The 1.6-litre petrol engine is not quite as frugal, delivering fuel economy of 44.1mpg in two-wheel drive configuration. Its VED band is also F, thanks to C02 output of 145g/km.

Relatively low power output and performance, plus a broad spread of safety equipment means the X-Trail is competitive on the insurance front. In fact, the new X-Trail has dropped around 10 insurance groups compared to the old model, which all adds up to cheaper running costs.

Petrol and diesel engine-models fall into groups 19 and 20, depending on spec – that’s not much higher than the smaller Qashqai which covers bands 14 to 17. By comparison, the more powerful Honda CR-V starts at band 27.

The new X-Trail’s extra ‘audience-appeal’ should pay dividends at resale time too. Indications suggest it could benefit from an estimated nine per cent increase in residual values versus the old model. That could be a killer blow against the X-Trail’s rivals from Kia and Hyundai, which traditionally depreciate more rapidly due to their perceived inferior badge credentials.

Take a passing glance at the Nissan X-Trail and you might initially mistake it for its little brother, the Qashqai. However, while the corporate nose is largely the same as the Qashqai’s, the X-Trail’s rounded rear is significantly different.

This ‘Qashqai XL’ styling creates a clear link between the two cars, and is clearly aimed at pulling in buyers easily won over by a sharper new suit. Nonetheless Nissan has given the X-Trail its own LED running light ‘signature’ at the front, while the bold wheelarches are supposed to hint at Nissan’s rugged 4x4 heritage.

Equipment levels even on the entry-level X-Trail Visia models are high, with cruise control, aircon and Bluetooth connectivity. But they also come on small 17-inch alloys, and the car looks much more purposeful and well-proportioned in higher-spec n-tec or Tekna guises.

These more generously equipped versions wear 19-inch rims and feature a wealth of toys inside - just remember that the ride quality will deteriorate on the bigger wheels.

One up from Visia is the Acenta, which adds such goodies as a panoramic sunroof, auto headlamps and wipers, privacy glass and dual-zone air-con. The Acenta+ spec level adds lane departure warning, auto-dipping lights and Nissan Connect seven-inch touchscreen system with DAB and a reversing camera.

N-tec brings 19ins wheels, a one-touch tailgate and surround view cameras, while the flagship Tekna spec adds self-parking and powered leather seats to the X-Trail’s lavish kitbag – but by then you’re talking about a £30k+ spend.

Owners of the old X-Trail won’t recognise the new one from the inside, but Qashqai owners will feel right at home. The layout is identical to the Qashqai’s, exhibiting quality soft-touch materials and excellent fit and finish.

On X-Trail Teknas, the dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch touchscreen interface, called ‘NissanConnect’.

As well as controlling all the usual navigation and entertainment commands, it allows occupants to access their social media accounts on the move, and makes parking a doddle with the ‘Around View Monitor’ camera system.

This uses cameras in the nose, tailgate and both door mirrors to create a birds-eye view of the X-Trail. The display is a little fuzzy, but it’s a handy back-up feature for urban driving. Visia and Acenta models have a more basic five inch touchscreen.

Class-leading interior space, seven seats and a massive boot make the X-Trail hard to beat

On first impressions, the five-door X-Trail makes a great case for itself as a family car. It has more cabin space than any class rival and Nissan has effectively consolidated its crossover line-up by offering the X-Trail as a substitute for the old seven-seat Qashqai.

However, if you do want that third row of seats, the X-Trail only offers them as an option. It’s a costly £700 upgrade, even on the most expensive model, which seems a little stingy. We’d prefer it if the extra chairs were included as standard at the top of the range.

Still, the standard five-seat X-Trail offers lots of appealing practical touches, with unusually wide-opening doors, plenty of oddment space including a compartment with a lid between the seats and a useful glovebox. Then there’s that generous rear load area.

The new X-Trail is a full 100mm longer than before, as well as being wider and taller. That means it’s now one of the biggest cars in the medium-sized SUV class.

Its 4,640mm length compares to the 4,524mm of the Ford Kuga and 4,690mm of the Hyundai Sante Fe. but it’s slightly narrower than both at 1,820mm versus 1,838mm (Kuga) and 1,880 (Santa Fe). The X-Trail is tallest of the three at 1,710mm, but there’s not a lot to split them.

However, thanks to its all-new platform co-developed with Renault which features a 76mm wheelbase stretch versus the outgoing version, the X-Trail stands out as one of the most spacious SUVs inside.

The X-Trail has class-leading cabin space, including the most legroom in its class. The rows of seating are arranged in a tiered theatre-style system, where every row sits a little higher than the one in front, for better visibility. This doesn’t come at the expense of headroom, though, as there’s plenty of space in the back seats.

The rear doors open outward to more than 80 degrees, aiding access for passengers and for fixing child seats. The optional third row comprises a pair of flat-folding seats, but they are only big enough for children – despite the fact that the middle row slides fore and aft to make more space for the extra passengers or for luggage. There are a trio of seatbelts in the second row, and the outer seats have ISOFIX child seat mounts.

The X-Trail has a very spacious boot that knocks most rivals into a cocked hat. With the seats up it offers 550 litres, which is almost 150 litres more than the Ford Kuga can muster. The Hyundai Santa Fe just bests it with 585 litres.

Fold everything down flat though, and the X-Trail comes into its own with a whopping 1,982 litres cargo bay comparing very favourably with the 1,603 litre Kuga and 1,680 litre Santa Fe.

The X-Trail has some very neat practical touches too, like a boot floor that moves up and down to create horizontally-separated loading areas – in fact Nissan claims the versatile X-Trail has 18 different configurations for the load area.

The Nissan’s towing capacity is quoted as an impressive 2,000kgs, but given the relatively sluggish performance of the low capacity engines, we do wonder whether the car might struggle to pull such a load with ease.

Nissan Safety Shield gives the X-Trail an edge, but the new model’s reliability credentials are yet untested

This X-Trail is an all-new car, right down to its chassis, so there’s limited reliability data for the time being. Impressively, it’s ageing predecessor still managed a 56th place finish in our 2014 Driver Power Survey, and the areas owners criticised it most for - quality, handling, and running costs – have all been vastly improved for this new X-Trail.

Nissan itself finished 22nd in our best manufacturers tally, out of 34 total entrants, so there’s definitely room for improvement. If we are being picky, a few of the dashboard components and the door handles still feel a little cheap, but we can’t yet speak to their durability.

The new X-Trail has plenty of safety tech in its arsenal too, including liberal usage of high-strength steel in the bodyshell, plus the Nissan ‘Safety Shield’, which incorporates emergency city braking and lane-departure warning systems.

All of this meant a strong five-star Euro NCAP rating for safety in 2014, although the X-Trail’s ratings for both adult and child occupant safety came in marginally worse than the Toyota RAV-4 .

It’s fair to say that hi-spec X-Trails come with enough advanced safety bells and whistles to make the car about as safe as you could hope to be - in n-spec and Tekna trims, at least. Encouragingly, Nissan is also making option packs available so you can add some of the advanced features like lane-departure warning and traffic signal recognition to lesser Visia and Acenta models too.

All Nissans come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, which is about average for this class. If you want more cover, it’s worth remembering that the Hyundai Santa Fe comes with a five-year warranty and the Kia Sorento has a seven-year warranty.

Nissan offers fixed-price servicing that starts from £149 on petrol models and £159 on diesel cars. Major services are £219 for petrols and £249 for diesels, but overall the rates compare reasonably with mainstream rivals like the Ford Kuga.

Nissan has also introduced eVision, which allows technicians to video any faults they discover during service visits and email you with a clip explaining any work that’s required. X-Factor eat your heart out…

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