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Nissan X-trail 2.0 Sport

Nissan

Review

THE last few weeks have taught me two fundamental truths about cars. The first is that there is not a car on earth, including Michael Schumacher's Formula One Ferrari, that is fast enough to drive one's wife to hospital when she is in labour.

The second is that there is not a vehicle on earth, short of a Chieftain tank, safe enough to drive one's beloved firstborn home from the hospital.

My automotive companion for these watershed moments has been the Nissan X-trail, and together we've got along famously during the two most important journeys I've ever driven.

Nissan's mid-sized off-roader is certainly no racer, and in 2.0-litre petrol guise what it gains in refinement over the diesel it more than loses in torque.

Pulling away from a roundabout in third gear is a sluggish affair, 70mph feels fast enough on the motorway, and the roll induced by the car's high centre of gravity encourages judicious braking to well below 60mph for bends and curves on favourite A roads.

On the plus side, the car's height makes access extremely easy, an important consideration for my wife in the weeks either side of giving birth, and securing a baby in the back seat involves no awkward bending.

Furthermore, the high seating position delivers the same enhanced view of the road ahead as an MPV, which I find useful when driving and calming when stuck in a jam.

Where the X-trail scores over MPVs is its feeling of robust-ness. I know all cars go through rigorous crash and safety tests, and there are lightweight cars that still provide exemplary driver and passenger protection, but sometimes it is reassuring to feel a certain 'butch' solidity in a car, via a heavy door clunk, square-jawed bonnet and chunky steering wheel, and the X-trail has all these qualities.

Our test X-trail also offers a particularly well-designed cabin, with a clear instrument binnacle in the centre of the dashboard, easy to use radio (and more complicated multi-feed CD-player), huge sunroof, and two ingenious mini-missile silos for chilling cans of drinks. Perhaps they could be converted to warm bottles of milk?

The flexibility of the rear-seat configuration is first class. The split rear seats fold truly flat and the backs make for a large and easy to clean surface.

The marketing pictures will no doubt show muddy mountain bikes in the back (and there is space), but I'd wager that the lifestyle of more customers involves muddy prams and buggies well before muddy bikes.

The X-trail runs in two-wheel drive mode for most of the time. Four-wheel drive is available on demand by pressing the 'auto' button on the dashboard that engages all four wheels when the car feels it necessary, while there is also a differential lock setting if you need maximum traction to tow a caravan across a muddy field.

The result is that in two-wheel drive mode there is not the fuel consumption penalty of a car running in four-wheel drive all the time.

So all in all I'm glad I've driven the X-trail during the last two weeks, but I do have one concern. If I am driving a 4x4 of this size when my son is just 24 hours old, how big a car will I need for his first school run?

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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