26 September 2023

A New Hybrid Drive

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By Paul Gover.

Most people only think of one thing when they hear the word hybrid – Toyota.

There are other hybrids, other types of hybrids, and other approaches to the hybrid world, including the latest efforts by Nissan.

But don’t go looking for a prominent HYBRID badge on the latest X-Trail, or the upcoming – delivery has been slightly delayed – Qashqai.

To distance itself from Toyota, and to try and carve a Nissan niche in the SUV space, it is instead going with e-POWER.

Actually, to give the hybrid X-Trail its full name, it’s called the e-POWER with e-4ORCE.

The starting price is $54,190 and, like the non-hybrid models in the X-Trail line-up, it’s an all-new body and mechanical package.

Nissan has intentionally positioned the e-POWER model as a flagship, partly to disguise the pricing but also to ensure buyers have something enticing to compare with the Toyota RAV4 hybrid.

Toyota’s petrol-electric star is a runaway success and the waiting list currently sits at more than 12 months.

Nissan’s pricing is fine for a mid-sized family hybrid but, because it’s only available in the tastier Ti and Ti-L grades with all-wheel drive where a basic front-drive X-Trail is priced from $40,445, the price is a significant step up.

Still, the e-POWER car is refined and quick, very quiet at highway speeds, and promises economy as good as 6.1 litres/100km.

Explaining the difference between the Nissan and Toyota hybrids is not quick or easy – Mr Google is best for techno types – but the X-Trail has a ’series’ hybrid package where Toyota goes ‘parallel’.

The real difference is e-POWER only used electricity to turn the wheels, with a small combustion engine on board to charge the small battery beneath the front-passenger seat and to supply a constant supply of electrons.

Nissan claims its system is simpler, more spritely from a standing start, and – because the three-cylinder petrol engine is usually unnecessary until you hit 100km/h – quieter.

Then again, Toyota makes impressive claims and even BMW – which had a range-extender hybrid in its baby i3 electric car – says its ideas are best.

For Aussie families, the best thing about the X-Trail is the car itself.

Nissan has done a fantastic job to revise, update and reinvent all of its family SUVs and that means the fourth-generation X-Trail ticks all the right boxes. The seats are comfy, the information system has a giant screen with the latest wireless Apple CarPlay, the aircon is fantastic for summer heatwaves, and there is plenty of space in the boot.

On the hybrid front, the X-Trail is very quiet, with only an occasional intrusion from the three-cylinder petrol motor, and my test produced 6.3 litres/100km economy on a long run in all sorts of conditions.

Hybrid packages like Nissan’s e-POWER system will become more and more common in coming years, most likely even on the best-selling one-tonne pick-ups that dominate showrooms, and the X-Trail is definitely a car to recommend.

Nissan X-Trail e-POWER with 3-4ORCE

Position: family-sized SUV hybrid

Price: from $54,190

Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder hybrid petrol

Power: 150kW/330Nm

Transmission: single speed, all-wheel drive

Plus: impressive package, hybrid drive

Minus: not cheap

THE TICK: another new Nissan stand-out.

Score: 8.5/10

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