The Nissan X-trail is one of three such vehicles that offers a diesel with carbon dioxide emissions of 190g/km. The good news for Nissan is that one of the alternatives is a bit of a hairdresser's car Suzuki Vitara), while the other lacks the same level of interior space (Toyota Rav 4).
Both of them lack the Nissan's performance. Following a few exterior changes and some interior improvements Nissan also decided the 2.2-litre common rail diesel engine could do with some extra grunt.
So now the X-trail produces 136bhp and 232lb-ft of torque, and gains the dCi badge from Nissan's alliance partner Renault, although the engine is still Nissan's own work.
Perhaps it's because the dCi range has gained a reputation for being among the best modern diesels on the market.
Renault already supplies the Nissan Micra with diesel engines, so for consistency and the chance that some of the recognition will rub off on the Japanese manufacturer the whole Nissan common-rail diesel range is now badged dCi.
It is much improved in terms of speed – it easily has an advantage over cars including the RAV4 2.0 D-4D and Land Rover Freelander Td4, both of which offer 114bhp.
Nissan has also improved sound insulation after the original X-trail diesel was criticised for being noisy. Take a look under the bonnet and the underside has all sorts of material to try to stop noise intruding into the cabin.
It is partially successful – quieter than before but still not the quietest in this class. But, there is plenty onboard to take your mind off the engine noise at higher revs.
Leather is standard, as are heated and electrically adjustable front seats. There is a huge electric sunroof, and it has Nissan's excellent Birdview DVD satellite navigation – giving a 3D view of the driver's chosen route.
In fact there's pretty much everything you would expect for the £23,395 list price, and then some.
The X-trail's part-time four-wheel drive system has three settings. In two-wheel drive mode it operates only as a front-wheel drive car. Turn the dial to 'auto' and power is sent to the rear wheels as necessary, but the car will remain in front-wheel drive unless the system senses extra traction is needed.
The third setting locks the centre differential so all four wheel are locked into operation for heavy off-road use.
There is no low ratio setting for the transmission, but first and second gears are pretty short so could cope with moderate off-road work such as banks and inclines a couple of metres high.
However, the X-trail excels in its on-road performance. It handles more like an estate car than a traditional off-roader, but its high driving position gives a better view of the road ahead and is more reassuring for drivers.
The X-trail sets out to prove that fleets can run a trendy 4x4 sensibly with modest BIK tax and running costs more in line with traditional upper-medium cars. We will see if the Nissan succeeds over the next six months.
The manufacturer's view
A MINOR facelift at the end of last year has already boosted the Nissan X-trail's sales performance. Last year it was the fifth best-selling SUV in the UK, while year-to-date figures for 2004 put it in the number three position.
Dave Murfitt, national fleet sales director at Nissan, said: 'The X-trail has made big inroads into the user-chooser market for us and the recent revisions and in particular the power increase will serve to enhance its user-chooser appeal.
Performance is significantly improved and has taken what is an already popular car even more desirable.'
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (40% tax-payer): £192 per month
Power (bhp/rpm): 136/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 232/2,000
What we expect
HIGHLY commended in this year's Fleet News Awards against the likes of the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5, the X-trail scored well among the judging panel even though it competes in a different class of compact SUVs.
We expect it to be a popular car for weekends away with a spacious interior and hard-wearing luggage compartment. Chilled cup holders are a thoughtful touch, as is the enormous sunroof.
However, we really like the roof mounted 'safari lights', extending the scope of main beam headlamps for safer night driving whether on or off road.