This car is one of the new breed of soft-roaders that is currently wowing a growing band of user-choosers with an active lifestyle. And the X-trail certainly gained more than its fair share of admirers at Fleet News in the six months it was with us.
The last X-trail we had on test was a petrol-engined 2.0-litre Sport model and, while we all thought it was a pretty fine vehicle, it was obvious that a diesel powerplant suited this car better.
This new 2.2-litre variant comes equipped with a silky smooth Nissan diesel engine and pumps out a respectable 136bhp and 232lb-ft of torque. During its stint with us, the X-trail managed a respectable fuel economy figure of 38mpg.
When the car first arrived here in May, it was fresh from its highly-recommended nomination at the Fleet News Awards, having been beaten at the post in the best SUV sector by the Volvo XC90.
At the time, we expected the car to be popular at weekends as the various testers trooped off to indulge in their various hobbies. And we weren’t disappointed.
Who would have thought that our petite and fashion-conscious features editor, Adele Burton, would forsake her beloved girlie Renault Megane coupe-cabriolet and don wellies and a coat to go mud-plugging across the fields of Cornwall on a camping holiday, then come back raving about the car’s attributes?
We almost had to tie her to the desk before we could get the keys back so that somone else could have a turn.
I spent the past three months with the X-trail and have nothing but praise for its driveability.
I didn’t exactly get the car’s feet very dirty during my test stint but, whether driving on bumpy back roads or smooth motorways, the X-trail’s suspension seems to be set just right – not too hard and not too soft. And you’d be amazed at how much cargo can be loaded into the rear end with the seats folded down.
I managed to clear a huge amount of old junk from my garage the other week with no sweat and, with a plastic wipe-clean load area, no-one would ever guess that so much dirty rubbish had once been carried.
The X-trail hasn’t exactly been trouble free during our test period, however.
In June, with just 9,000 miles on the clock, an unmistakable whistle started up from under the bonnet that told us the turbocharger was playing up.
The unit was replaced with no fuss by our local Nissan dealer and, luckily, the work was done under warranty, as a replacement would normally cost around £1,500.
On the plus side, we all voted the car’s standard Birdview sat-nav system one of the best in the business.
The driver looks down on the road as if from a bird’s eye perspective and even I – the biggest Luddite in the industry – managed to use the unit without having to look in the handbook.
Another point of interest on this car is the set of extra headlights mounted on the front of the car’s roof bars.
They look hunky and separate our car from the bog standard models. A couple of the other testers say they are a useful extra when traversing country lanes at night.
I didn’t use them myself, but they struck me as a bit of a dangerous addition as they can be used while the car is travelling along the road.
I wasn’t tempted – honestly – but I can imagine some less scrupulous drivers using them to teach an erring oncoming driver a lesson.
So as we waved a sad farewell to our X-trail, we all voted the car a big hit. It isn’t exactly what you’d call cheap at £23,395, but just look at the standard spec sheets and you’ll find there is very little that has to be paid extra for.
Model: Nissan X-trail 2.2 dCi T-spec
Price (OTR) £23,395
CO2 emissions (g/km) 190
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 40% tax-payer £192 per month
Insurance group 11
Combined mpg 39.2
Test mpg 38.6
CAP Monitor residual value £8,575/37%
HSBC contract hire rate £443 per month
Final expenditure £180 (exc VAT) service
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles
WHAT THE TEAM THINKS...
THE Toyota RAV4’s excellent residual values and impressive fuel consumption will probably give it a slight edge in a pence-per-mile comparison and while the Land Rover Freelander has a desirable badge with an upmarket image, the X-trail would still be my choice. SUVs in this price bracket generally don’t come with this level of performance.
The X-trail’s 136bhp beats the Freelander and RAV4 (each on 114bhp) but is just about as frugal as the more compact RAV4 when it comes to fuel. The BMW X3 2.0d might be more powerful but prices start at £3,000 more than our high-spec X-trail, while Honda’s diesel CR-V doesn’t arrive until March 2005. And what other car at any price offers ‘safari lights’ as standard?
THANKS to two Cornish camping trips, I covered more miles in the X-trail than in any other test car. With a more than generous standard specification list, the best satellite navigation system I have come across and its frugal 2.2 dCi engine, the Nissan X-trail certainly gets my vote.