Nissan has been making quite the song and dance about this ‘new’ X-Trail. Turn on the television and you will see a commercial. Pick up a magazine and you will see an advertisement. Attend the regional launch in Beirut and you will see dancers on stage dressed as fluffy white clouds (don’t ask) and get to meet the very lovely Miss Lebanon (not telling) and it all seems an extravagant and disproportionate amount of fanfare for what boils down to being a midlife facelift and refresh of a mid-size crossover that debuted back in 2013.
However, like most things in life, a little bit of context is required to truly comprehend the importance of this vehicle for the Nissan Jidōsha Kabushiki-gaisha. The X-Trail isn’t just any SUV fighting for sales sumo-style with its competitors in a lucrative segment. No, the X-Trail is the current champ and the world’s best-selling SUV with over 835,000 units sold globally during the last financial year according to Nissan. That’s a lot of X-Trail and Nissan obviously wants to keep serving them up to hungry buyers over the next few years which explains the midlife refresh and — admittedly to a lesser extent — dancers dressed up as fluffy white clouds. And while NisMoCo. may have approached this refresh with an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude, there’s admittedly a bit more going on than the new “dynamic” chrome side moulding the press release highlights.
This is a ‘numbers game’ car for Nissan that doesn’t put a foot wrong. It matches the competition in most areas while exceeding expectations in others.
The exterior has been given a contemporary tweak with redesigned front and rear bumpers, chrome detailing with contrasting gloss black plastics and a wider ‘V-motion’ grille which now houses a curious holographic representation of the Nissan logo rather than a traditional badge. While these stylistic changes will differentiate zenki and kouki models and help to promote ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ sales, it’s a relief to see that Keisuke Otsuki’s original design of the third generation X-Trail hasn’t been tampered with too much. The X-Trail is a rarity in its segment as it manages to appeal to both younger and older buyers due to a successful blend of modern maturity and funky design. And them funky kids can now option their X-Trail with funky new colours including Orange, Palatial Ruby and Gold Beige. A new Dark Brown is also available for the older, more reserved and less funky buyer.
The interior’s refresh consists of a new ‘D’ shaped flat-bottom steering wheel, redesigned armrest storage unit, gloss black air vents and a leather pad either side of the centre console to prevent knee bang. And, for lovers of luxurious leather, you can now option a new tan-coloured hide. It’s all very comfortable, nicely constructed
with a definite improvement in material choices while practicality has also increased with a few extra litres of storage capacity and the option of five or seven-seat versions. That said, Nissan has played it safe with
interior aesthetics and the design on the inside is still a little more reserved and conservative than the bold exterior.
But what every ‘new’ car must possess these days is all the new gadgetry and Nissan is pushing its driver assistance technology/Intelligent Mobility Features on the X-Trail. Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Intelligent Emergency Braking now offer visual, audible and even physical intervention (for I-EB) and visual safety is improved with the addition of Intelligent Around View Mirror — a virtual 360-degree bird’s-eye view — and Intelligent Rear View Mirror which offers an LCD display of a wider rearward view from a camera unobstructed by interior or C-pillars. A less convincing new tech is the Auto Hold Switch which holds the vehicle “in a stationary position for up to two minutes and works on hills facing up or down” to allow the driver “to take their foot off the brake and reduce fatigue.” Personally, I think this is another example of an engineer answering a question that nobody has ever asked and the answer was an Auto Hold Switch. But fatigue averted. Hurrah!
As always, the ‘new’ X-Trail will be offered in front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive variants but there’s only one engine option that will be offered in the Middle East. Thankfully, its Nissan’s QR25DE which is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit and not any of the petrol-squeamish lesser options. It isn’t exactly a powerhouse of an engine with 169 horsepower, but its 233Nm of torque do an adequate job of moving its mass about without much fuss. Out on the road the only genuine criticism that can be levelled at the ‘new’ X-Trail in daily driver mode relates to noise rather than actual ability. There’s a distinct audible wind noise at motorway speeds and engine noise penetration into the cabin is noticeable. But worse than all of these is the infuriating whine of the Xtronic CVT which is the only option of transmission we are getting here. Granted, this is a pet hate of every motoring journalist, petrolhead or car connoisseur and isn’t really that noticeable under normal driving conditions but is when you are hooning it a bit. However, according to Nissan’s research, the masses actually prefer a CVT. And this is kind of the key to the X-Trail’s success and why this ‘new’ X-Trail will most likely go on to sell shedloads. It isn’t trying at all to appeal to a niche market.
This is a ‘numbers game’ car for Nissan that doesn’t put a foot wrong. It matches the competition in most areas while exceeding expectations in others. It’s a complex algorithm by Nissan to calculate a function and bring it in at a price point which is competitive in the segment. That might not be a very sexy way to sell cars from the marque that brought us the GT-R but it’s proven to be a winning formula to shift a lot of X-Trail units. And Nissan is sticking to it with just enough tweaks, tech and design flourishes to continue being on top without pricing itself into a different bracket. The ‘new’ X-Trail is exactly no more nor no less than what it has to be to maintain its leading market position and, especially in base model mode, offers a lot of car at a competitive price. Personally, I wouldn’t bet against it being the best selling crossover in its class for the next few years. Especially with those new funky colours.