By Karl Peskett.
“The world’s best selling SUV” is a title that every manufacturer would love to use in their marketing. So Nissan, with its X-Trail (which is the Rogue in the U.S.), has a leg up on the competition, being able to declare that its midsize SUV is a global sales success.
The secret isn’t such a secret, though. Build a reliable, spacious, gadget-filled crossover and sell it for a reasonable price. Package it in a body that looks good and you have a recipe for the world’s best selling SUV.
But is it really the best SUV you can buy for the money? Well, in terms of space, it gets pretty close. Here we have a five seat version that offers beautiful seats (with heated leather trim for both front and back), plenty of leg room, a good sized boot and can fit five adults, though it’s certainly more comfortable with four.
Compared with the CX-5, Tiguan, Outlander, Equinox, Tuscon and others, the X-Trail acquits itself well. The boot also has a hidden floor where you lift up a panel and even more space presents itself.
It’s well stocked with gear, too. On test we had the X-Trail Ti, which is the top of the line petrol all-wheel-drive version. In this you get gorgeous 19-inch wheels, an on-demand and lockable all-wheel-drive system, sunroof, cornering headlights, blind spot assist, lane departure warning, autonomous braking, dual-zone climate control, active cruise, Bose stereo, sat-nav, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, electric front seats, hill descent control and plenty of other inclusions.
Effectively, it’s set up with just about everything you’re going to need or want. About the only thing we could think would be a good addition is an inductive charging pad somewhere. Other than that, what else do you need?
In fact, without the wheels, sunroof and cornering lights, most people would be happy with the ST-L version. And not everyone needs AWD, either, so that’s a saving of around eight grand. Which means there’s an X-Trail version to suit most budgets. Another trick in the company’s arsenal to capture as many buyers as possible.
The Ti model is quite lovely, though. Even with those massive wheels, the ride just isn’t overly firm, nor does it crash through potholes or other bad surfaces – a complete turnaround from the Qashqai’s poor ride. Maybe it’s the extra weight, or the longer wheelbase, but whatever the formula is, the suspension engineers have got it right with this one.
Not so impressive is the drivetrain. Not that it’s woeful, but when you’ve got four people in the car, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol (126kW and 226Nm) really needs some help from a turbocharger to bump up its torque. It’s not what you’d call rapid.
Nissan has chosen to use a continuously variable transmission which also blunts progress, and that hurts it a little off road. With these big wheels, the switch to AWD might be easy, but they need a lot of air let out of them to get the ideal amount of traction, but that risks rolling a tyre off the rim. Having an engine that doesn’t spin up quickly because of the gearbox means it can get itself bogged quicker than if the wheels churned through a lot faster. Best stick to dirt and gravel, then.
On the road the steering is a little numb, but it points and shoots reasonably accurately, the brake pedal gives you a positive feel and the whole package isn’t necessarily about the drive experience, but more about the package.
When you consider the same vehicle in America costs the equivalent of $1000 more, we’re actually getting a pretty good deal. Say what you will about us being ripped off in Australia, the fact remains the X-Trail is cheaper here. Whether that means you’ll want one is an entirely different story.
The competition is stiff, and some of it is very, very good indeed, but for a midsize SUV, the X-Trail offers the space, practicality and kit that most people are looking for. Perhaps that’s why a lot of people, worldwide, are buying one.