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The Top Gear car review:Nissan X-Trail
What is it like on the road?
No changes here, so everything we’ve said about how the X-Trail drives in the past remains true. This isn’t the kind of car you while away days dreaming about driving up the Furka Pass. But that’s absolutely right for a family car, and broadly speaking the X-Trail nails its brief. The suspension is set up for a soft, supple ride, and this is a car that’s comfortable on even really beaten up road surfaces. And one which will indulge in light off-roading even with just front-wheel drive, as it soaks up ruts that would beach smaller crossovers.
Nissan’s love of tech means the chassis isn’t soggy – there’s a system that nips at the brakes during corners and over big bumps, to sharpen the car’s responses – but the inescapable fact is that this is a more agricultural car to drive than many, if not all of its competitors. But it is proabbly the best off-road.
On the road, most people won’t need 4WD. Keep the X-Trail’s selectable dial in 2WD and it never feels short of grip. Even if you genuinely go off-road or tow stuff you might not need it. 2WD mode, decent tyres and judicious use of the throttle are enough to see the X-Trail scrabble up surprisingly steep, gravel slopes. Keeping your tyres in check is a more effective and cheaper way of avoiding trouble when winter lands than optioning all-wheel drive.
The volume-selling engine is the 1.6-litre diesel, which is a mixed blessing. It’s coarse under acceleration, with a very narrow power band, but once settled it’s not too bad. There’s enough clout to get you from A to B, but never the sense the engine is particularly happy taking you there. A recent addition to the range is a 1.6 turbo petrol, which has less economy, but more refinement. Petrols don’t really work in cars of this size or type, but it does the job if you’re not planning on doing many long journeys.
Which is why the 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which was weirdly added to the line-up just before the X was facelifted, is pick of the range. Enough torque to feel borderline brisk when the car is empty of kids and belongings, but less refined than the equivalent engine from, say, the VW Group. Its character is pure turbodiesel – not much excitement below 2,000rpm, and a reasonable heap of noise once you wind it far past 3,000 – but the engine is punchy enough between those points to make it perfectly pleasant to use, so long as you don’t ask too much of it.
The manual gearbox is reasonably slick and allows you to keep the engine in its most effective rev range, while the optional automatic is a CVT rather than a traditional auto. For keen drivers this is rarely good news. But if you’re buying an X-Trail for entirely sensible purposes, it might just suit you.