Long-term test (Update 3): Nissan X-Trail 1,6 dCi 4x4 LE
The X-Trail proved without question its long-distance ability by visiting Tzaneen in northern Limpopo and Namibia’s Swakopmund earlier this year. During the past month, however, the Nissan’s wings have been clipped and it has mostly fulfilled the role of commuter. Bulky SUVs can be cumbersome in town, but I find the X-Trail easy to manoeuvre and no more taxing to drive than a C-segment sedan.
There are two small bugbears, though. Firstly, it is difficult to modulate the clutch on pull-away, an irritation confirmed by other CAR staffers. The peaky 1,6-litre turbodiesel tends to either stall or spin the front wheels when the drivetrain is in the 2WD setting.
Secondly, I find the surround-view camera display on the infotainment screen very fuzzy, which knocks your confidence when executing tight parking manoeuvres. Incidentally, this feature forms part of the optional Techno that also includes an electrically operated tailgate, panoramic sunroof and seven-inch infotainment screen.
Although I’ve criticised the X-Trail’s off-road capabilities before, I can highly recommend it for dirt-road driving duties. On a recent visit to Groote Post Vineyards, I set the drivetrain mode in auto, sending power to the rear wheels, and the X-Trail felt surefooted and comfortable on the gravel road leading to the farm.
The sliding rear bench is very useful to free up more space in the boot. Fold the rear bench forward, however, and the utility space becomes vast, useful when a certain colleague with the surname Steenkamp used the X-Trail during his recent house move.
After 10 months
Mileage now: 19 467 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 7,69
We like: dirt-road ability
We don’t like: difficult clutch control on pull-away
Long-term test (Update 2): Nissan X-Trail 1,6 dCi 4x4 LE
The white, oval ZA sticker on the back of a car is a mark of distinction and it was time for the X-Trail to earn its badge of honour on a trip to Namibia.
Fitting all the necessary family equipment, gear and bedding for a week’s stay into a vehicle can be a headache-inducing challenge, even for a Tetris champion, but at least the Nissan offers one of the largest cabins and boots in the segment. I added a Thule roof box to supplement the luggage space when it looked unlikely that I’d be able to make everything fit.
As found on a previous long-distance trip to Tzaneen, the X-Trail is an accomplished cruiser and, during eight days and 4 500 km, it rarely felt tiring driving Nissan’s compact SUV. What’s more, the average fuel consumption settled on an excellent 7,2 L/100 km. Following a short stay in Windhoek, we headed west to Swakopmund, which is surrounded by enticing sand dunes. I couldn’t resist the urge to play… The tyre pressures were soon lowered to one bar, the allwheel- drive system locked and the traction control switched off.
Driving up the first couple of dunes presented no problem, but my fun was quickly halted when a warning light lit up in the instrument cluster: “All Wheel Drive System overheat – please switch off the engine.”
We were stuck and had no choice but to wait for the system to cool down before attempting the drive home. Half an hour later, the warning disappeared and the Nissan extracted itself from the claws of the soft sand.
Unfortunately, the experience did nothing to allay the impression that the X-Trail is very much a soft-roader.
After 7 months
Mileage now: 17 534 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 7,71 litres/100 km
We like: space, long-distance comfort, frugal turbodiesel engine
We don’t like: overheating of AWD system during dune driving
Long-term test (Update 1): Nissan X-Trail 1,6 dCi 4x4 LE
It was time to put the towbar of the X-trail to work and Jurgens kindly loaned me a Fleetline caravan for my annual family holiday to the South Coast. The caravan is fitted with many modern conveniences like a microwave, 210 litre fridge freezer, running water and a gas stove to name a few. but the Gross Vehicle Mass figure of 1 300 kg (when fully loaded) had me worried. Will the Nissan falter or excel at the challenge?
The towing experience
Hooking up was easy and only a few extra revs were needed to get going when pulling away (more revs and clutch slip on inclines owing to the high first gear). Once on the move the X-trial revelled at the opportunity and it was easy to stick to 110km/h on the motorways – mostly in fifth gear with fourth gear only employed when overtaking slower traffic or scaling a gradient.
The first real challenge was Sir Lowry’s pass but again the Nissan was easily able to stick to the 80 km/h speed limit employing third gear to keep the engine speed in the optimum torque band. The 320 N.m of torque means the 1,6-littre turbodiesel punches above its weight.
The combination felt completely stable and I had enough confidence to steer the vehicle cross the yellow line to allow faster traffic to pass safely. The indicated fuel consumption for the entire return trip of 800 km came to 10 L/100 km which is excellent.
At the campsite
Setting up camp meant driving down up a steep grass embankment and it was reassuring to select four-wheel drive to prevent unnecessary wheel spin on the slippery surface. The pop-up roof was easily erected and canvas vents helped with adequate ventilation.
In contrast the it took some time and effort to erect the vast tent supplied with the caravan as the modern pole arrangement does not click in to place at the joints but employs plastic push-in connectors which definitely makes it a two-person operation.
Once set up it was time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and lit the braai for the evening’s meal.
The Jurgens Fleetline is one of the most popular caravans at campsites and I can understand why. It is not too small for a family or too large to hamper manoeuvrability. The two double bed arrangement suited our family (two small children) as the kids were in favour of sharing. Teens would probably opt to rather sleep in the tent anyway.
The clever interior layout means that there are plenty of cabinets to store clothing and supplies for the stay. Two-stage LED lighting adds a modern touch and two sinks with running water are provided for.
In short it is as modern a camping experience you will get before booking a chalet. A sudden downpour one evening reminded us that we were still close to nature as the drops caressed the roof panel of the caravan. The Fleetline provided the perfect accommodation and retails for R230 600 - for more detail please visit: www.campworld.co.za.
The advantage of all-wheel drive in a softroader like the X-trail is that it instills confidence to explore further off the beaten track than one would risk with a front-wheel drive only SUV. This peace of mind allowed us spectacular views of Jongenfontein and surrounds during the day.
The X-trail fared well as long as the steep, rocky inclines are avoided. If Nissan lowered the first gear ratio of the vehicle then it will make the world’s difference and allow it to challenge the thinking of the traditional four-wheel drive establishment as more difficult obstacles would be conquered with ease.
The Nissan was never too far from the action during the holiday, shuttling us to the beach or providing transport to my favourite fishing locations. A splendid time was had by all and we returned to the city with rejuvenated spirits.
After 4 months
Mileage now: 8 340 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 6,99
We like: Space, long-distance comfort, towing ability
We don’t like: High first gear ratio
Long-term introduction: Nissan X-Trail 1,6 dCi 4×4 LE
The acronym JIT stands for “just in time” and refers to an efficient manufacturing process in which each vehicle part arrives at the production line just as it’s needed. The fire-truck red Nissan X-Trail also arrived just in time, in this case before we departed on a 5 000 km family trip. My requirements extend beyond timing, however, as I need a vehicle with sufficient cabin space for a family of four, long-distance comfort and off-road ability. Will the X-Trail fulfil these needs?
In LE spec and here fitted with the optional Techno Pack, the X-Trail has a plethora of convenience features including a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, four external surround-view cameras, lane-departure and blind-spot monitors, a sunroof and powered tailgate.
I completed the first leg of the trip, from Cape Town to Tzaneen, on my own as my family had flown north earlier. That gave me the opportunity to enjoy my favourite songs at elevated sound levels while appreciating the comfortable, relaxed drive at the national speed limit. Once I joined my family, luggage-carrying capability was put to the test. The sliding rear bench freed up additional boot room, as liberal amounts of legroom aren’t that important with infants. The X-Trail swallowed all four of us and the related paraphernalia, and we departed for Kruger National Park. The vehicle’s ample ground clearance allowed us to explore roads less travelled and the cabin remained comfortable despite the sweltering heat thanks to the capable climate-control system.
Back in Tzaneen, I decided to test the vehicle’s off-road capability and ventured into a forested area with undulating terrain. The 1,6-litre turbodiesel engine delivers 96 kW and 320 N.m of torque, figures that just fall short of those of its competitors sporting engines of 2,0-litre capacity and larger. And therein lies a problem; the smaller unit needs revs to produce its full amount of torque, which is not ideal in a technical off-road scenario. Combined with a high first gear (there is no low range), it meant a lot of clutch slipping (and stalling) to conquer tougher obstacles.
Turbo lag was also more evident on the way back to Cape Town owing to the X-Trail being fully loaded. But there is an upside: low fuel consumption. The trip computer showed an average diesel thirst of only 6,3 litres/100 km for the entire trip. The Nissan coped well with about 100 km worth of dirt-road driving between Loxton and Fraserburg in the Karoo and it was comforting to know a full-size spare is fitted.
After 1 month
Mileage now: 5 847 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 6,9 litres/100 km
We like: space, long-distance comfort, frugal consumption
We don’t like: lack of torque below 2 000 r/min