NISSAN SA has added another string to its SUV bow in the form of the third generation X-Trail, which slots above the Qashqai in the company’s product portfolio.

The latter, which was launched a few weeks ago, wears the company’s new visage, which also underpins the Pulsar hatch (yet to be confirmed for SA) and will more than likely be seen on future models from the stable.

Enter the new X-Trail and the aforementioned design language continues with that chrome finished front grille, sharper headlights and a more pronounced bonnet. The side profile is characterised by the chrome embellished window sills and that upswept D-pillar similar to that found on its smaller sibling. The rear sports clear light clusters and is reminiscent of both the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX5.

The model cuts an impressive pose and, like the Qashqai, it is built on the company’s common modular family platform, which is a jointly developed Renault-Nissan alliance platform that will underpin a bevy of future models from the respective brands.

Overall the new model is 5mm longer, 30mm wider and has a 75mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor. This has resulted in a much bigger cabin, particularly in the rear quarters where legroom is particularly generous. The model has seen a 90kg weight reduction thanks to composite materials such as plastic for the tailgate.

In spite of the lower roof line by 5mm, ground clearance has increased by 6mm to 209mm. Boot space measures 135l in the seven-seater option and can be increased to 1,350l with both rows of rears seats folded flat. The five-seater variant offers 550l, which can be expanded to 1,405l.

Available as an option on SE and LE derivatives is the Techno Pack, which includes technology upgrades geared at improving vehicle enjoyment and providing additional safety. It comprises the NissanConnect system which incorporates satellite navigation on a seven-inch touchscreen, heated door mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels on SE models.

Another criticism is the lack of an automatic transmission in the top diesel model, which oddly only comes with a six-speed manual. That aside, the vehicle managed to negotiate a mild off-road course with aplomb, thanks to the company’s 4x4 system keeping traction duties in check.

"The SUV market is globally popular and with increasing gravitation towards crossover vehicles the new X-Trail fits perfectly above our Juke and Qashqai crossover ranges," says Graeme Birch, GM of marketing communications at Nissan SA.

Three trim levels in the form of XE, SE and LE are available while engines comprise two petrol and a diesel variant. The entry level 2.0 XE models are both powered by a 2.0l direct injection petrol engine pushing out 106kW at 6,000r/min and 200Nm at 4,400r/min. This can be specified in either five or seven seats, and exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox.

The more powerful 2.5l SE derivatives are available with Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), four-wheel drive and either five or seven seats. Power from this normally-aspirated engine, which is carried over from its predecessor, makes 126kW at 6,000r/min and 233Nm at 4,000r/min. Fuel consumption is said to be 8.3l/100km, while carbon emissions are pegged at 197g/km for both models.

At the top of the range sits the 1.6l dCi (turbodiesel) engine similar to that in the Qashqai which produces 96kW at 4,000r/min and 320Nm at 1,750r/min. It comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and can be specified with either two or four-wheel drive traction. Fuel economy is quoted at 5.3l/100km, while carbon emissions stand at 134g/km.

I managed to get behind the wheel of the 2.5l SE variant and while the vehicle’s interior is significantly bigger than its Qashqai sibling, there seems to be a great deal of similarity in both models. It does beg the question as to why one would purchase an X-Trail when the Qashqai will suffice, particularly in the instance of the five-seater variants. The combination of the CVT gearbox and normally-aspirated engine seems a rocky pairing as one needs to mash the throttle to the floorboards to get any form of meaningful momentum. There is also the incessant drone from the engine which detracts from the overall package that is refined and largely devoid of wind and road noise.

Another criticism is the lack of an automatic transmission in the top diesel model, which oddly only comes with a six-speed manual. That aside, the vehicle managed to negotiate a mild off-road course with aplomb, thanks to the company’s 4x4 system keeping traction duties in check.

The X-Trail offers practicality should you opt for the seven-seater model; however, if you are looking at a five-seater crossover then the Qashqai will suffice.

Pricing:

2.0XE manual R327,700

2.0XE manual seven-seater R334,100

2.5 SE Xtronic 4WD R364,200

2.5SE Xtronic 4WD seven-seater R370,600

1.6 dCi XE manual R351,000

1.6 dCi XE manual seven-seater R357,400

1.6 dCi SE manual 4WD R388,300

1.6 dCi LE manual AWD R473,600.

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Tue Dec 06 04:49:39 SAST 2016