Motoring Review - Nissan X-Trail

FACTS AT A GLANCE CAR Nissan X-Trail range PRICES �18,795-�26,720 INSURANCE GROUP 9-13 (est) CO2 EMISSIONS 203-230g/km PERFORMANCE (2.0DCI 173) 0-60 9.7s Max Speed 124mph FUEL CONSUMPTION (2.0DCI 173) 38.2...

To be honest, there wasn't a lot wrong with the first generation Nissan X-Trail. It just started to feel a bit old and a bit plasticky compared to the freshest faces on the compact 4x4 block. However, this latest car is of a noticeably higher quality and retains the old car's admirable versatility.

Nissan pulled out all the stops with the 2001 X-Trail and brought a vehicle to market that was palpably the best compact 4x4 money could buy.The trouble was nobody seemed to believe it. Undeterred by this brutal blanking, Nissan is back with an improved X-Trail, hoping once again to tempt you from your Land Rovers, Hondas and Toyotas.

The old X-Trail was always one of the tautest-handling small 4x4s around thanks to a very well-engineered suspension system that served up a ride and handling compromise that has only been bettered in this class by the Toyota RAV4 and, at more rarefied prices, the BMW X3.Thankfully little has changed in that regard. As well as a pair of petrol engines there's a 148 bhp diesel and a powerful 171 bhp diesel that will reach 60mph in less than ten seconds and top 124mph where conditions allow.

The X-Trail is also very competent off road, Nissan's designers are rightly proud of All-Mode 4x4-1, an intelligent four-wheel drive system that reduces understeer and gives this ostensibly front-wheel drive car some real capability, predicting when the front wheels are slipping and directing drive to the rears with lightning response. A rotary knob lets you choose either fuelsaving front-wheel drive, automatic fourwheel drive with a variable torque split between the front and rear axles, and a mode with the centre differential fully locked to help you crawl out of the mire.

Hill descent control, a hill holder function, ESP stability control and individually braked wheels acting the role of axle differentials only add to its off-road ability.

The one thing I'm not too sure about with this generation X-Trail is the front lights, which brings to mind the compound eye of some pesky bug. Existing X-Trail owners cited the styling as one of the key factors they were most happy with and Nissan has wisely chosen not to mess with the formula too much.

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It's still recognisably an X-Trail but the edges have been chamfered here and softened there to give it a more modern look. Largely it works. The cabin shows the biggest changes - the plastics of the first generation car have been replaced with more soft touch finishes, metallic highlights and lots of auxiliary storage space. Nissan claims an extra 50 litres of oddment stowage around the cabin with various bins, boxes, cubby holes and cupholders never more than a few centimetres away.

Nissan has also resisted the temptation to lever a useless pair of seats into the car's boot, the X-Trail remaining resolutely a five-seater only. It would have been thoughtful to have allowed the rear bench to slide to and fro, prioritising luggage or passenger space at will but perhaps that's a job for the 2010 facelift.

As it stands, there's a rather neat 40/20/40 split system for the rear bench. Rather oddly, the X-Trail could find itself rather lost in Nissan's vast line-up of all-wheel drive vehicles. Drive past a Nissan dealership and peer through the plate glass and instead of being confronted with a 'big one' and a 'little one', as always used to be the case, there's now a wide selection to choose from. The X-Trail is only the starting point to a line up that also encompasses Patrol, Pathfinder, Navara and Murano models.

The X-Trail looks good on paper next to its immediate rivals when it comes to standard equipment provision but then it always did.What's particularly impressive this time round is that all the 'bells and whistles' have been well integrated rather than appearing as hasty additions. Always good value for money, the X-Trail once more campaigns in the mid ranges of the compact 4x4 sector, the only difference being that in recent years the budget cars have really upped their game.

Nissan sold 50,000 X-Trails in the UK during its first six years on sale, ,which is a respectable result if not ground-breaking. By contrast, Honda sold over 15,000 CR-Vs in 2006 alone, and this was deemed a low figure for them, many customers waiting for the all-new car to arrive. Depreciation on the X-Trail has been average, with diesel models doing slightly better, retaining around 49 or 50 per cent after three years and there's no reason why the latest model shouldn't match or better those scores.

Economy, even of the punchiest 171 bhp diesel engine is respectable, this version managing a combined figure of 38.2 mph while emitting 198 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre. The 65- gallon tank affords the 2.0 litre DCVI 173 model a very wide range indeed. Economy is helped enormously by the mfact that you don't need to run the vehicle in power-sapping all-wheel drive mode all the time, the intelligent 4x4 system reverting to front wheel drive when possible. Insurance and on-going running costs for the X-Trail have always been reasonable.

Currency is a vital commodity for a small 4x4. The old Nissan X-Trail was, for a time, the brightest and best compact 4x4 it was possible to buy but the market moved beneath it and almost overnight it felt old. It was like seeing a prize-fighter ageing before your very eyes.With the latest X-Trail, it's as if the old contender has been rejuvenated and given another shot at the title.

Better built, dynamically even more able but perhaps not as good looking as it was in its first flush of youth, the XTrail will do well but possibly not as well as it deserves to. Let's call it a points win for the time being.

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