With a facelifted version of the Nissan Qashqai already in dealers, it’ll come as no surprise to see that its platform-sharing bigger brother, the X-Trail, has been given the same treatment. We’ve driven the refreshed Skoda Kodiaq rival for the first time to see whether the updates go far enough.
It’ll be the Kodiaq (crowned Best Large SUV at our New Car Awards 2017) that will give the new X-Trail its biggest headache. But there’s more competition in both mainstream and premium sectors, with cars like the Hyundai Santa Fe, new Mazda CX-5 and Land Rover Discovery Sport all vying for your cash. Still, more than 750,000 X-Trails (including Rogue-badged US versions) found homes last year, making it, Nissan claims, the world’s most popular SUV.
Clearly, there’s no need to mess with the recipe too much, then. In fact, visual changes to the new X-Trail need pointing out to be noticed. The front grille is wider, the bumpers have been revised and there are new LED tail-lights. New wheel designs also feature, as do chrome side mouldings.
Nissan’s biggest boast about the interior is a new steering wheel, which tells you all you need to know about the extent of the changes. Fresh materials on the centre console and gloss black air vent surrounds add a little extra appeal, and quilted leather on top-spec Tekna cars gives a classier feel. In isolation, the X-Trail’s cabin seems fairly well made with lots of soft-touch materials, but even these improvements can’t match the polish of the Kodiaq.
The infotainment system also looks dated, with less-than-crisp graphics, despite Nissan’s changes to the menu design. There’s still no option of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, either. At least the built-in system is quick and easy to use, thanks to shortcut buttons for various features. All cars now get DAB as standard, while Tekna models feature a Bose stereo.
Sadly, the most notable tech upgrade – Nissan’s ProPILOT autonomous driving set-up – won’t appear until 2018. Still, safety kit includes rear cross-traffic alert and a new auto braking system with pedestrian detection.
Practicality remains a strength, cementing the X-Trail’s family appeal. Passengers in the middle row have plenty of leg and decent headroom, and a 60:40-split sliding second row lets you free up more knee space for the optional rearmost seats. But they’re still only suitable for children. In five-seat cars, Nissan has squeezed out an extra 15 litres of boot space, bringing the total to 565 litres.
On the road, there are no changes. That means safe-but-soft handling, and an easy driving experience – bar a clunky manual gearbox. The X-Trail doesn’t feel as bulky as cars like the Ford Edge, but it can’t match the best SUVs’ body control or steering accuracy.
The ride is good, however, with only our car’s 19-inch wheels causing the odd sharp bump. Refinement is a mixed bag, with road noise well isolated but some wind rustle at speed. The 1.6 diesel will be fast enough for most, although the pricier 2.0-litre offers useful extra punch if you often carry heavier loads. It’s just loud and clattery if pushed.
Our one concern is with the price. At over £33,000 once you’ve specced seven seats, this Tekna model is about £2,000 more than an SE L-spec 2.0 TDI 4x4 Kodiaq. Monthly payments will help with that, but mid-spec models are definitely better value.
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