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Have you ever met up with an old friend after a long break and chatted away as if you last saw each other just yesterday? Well, this was the feeling I got when I jumped into the facelifted Nisan X-Trail 1,6 dCi 4x4 Tekna. The reason for this is that I spent a year and 20 000 km behind the wheel of the the previous version, creating some frankly unforgettable family memories (watch a video wrap-up of my adventures here).

So, what is new?

Well, not a lot, to be honest. But Nissan has managed to give the X-Trail a fresh look on the outside by adding a new front grille, more modern headlamps and stylish 19-inch alloys. Inside, the steering wheel has also been updated and there have been small changes made to the facia, door panels and leather seats. The result is a cabin that feels more upmarket than I remember.

The good memories

Stepping inside, one soon realises that this is one of the larger vehicles in the overly crowded SUV segment. Rear legroom is plentiful as is space in the boot. If a holiday adventure requires more loading space, then the rear bench can slide to increase load capacity at the expense of rear legroom.

The driving position is excellent, with plenty of soft-touch areas serving to increase overall comfort levels. The supple ride (to the detriment of some dynamic ability) and good cabin insulation endow the X-Trail with true distance-devouring potential, both on- and off-road.

The 1,6-litre turbodiesel powertrain is smaller in capacity than most engines used in rival products, but punches above its weight. It has sufficient oomph once in the meaty part of the torque band and rewards with excellent fuel consumption. A weekend's worth of driving returned an excellent figure of 6,3 L/100 km.

The X-Trail comes with plenty of safety features and the infotainment system, while slightly outdated, is easy to use.

The quirks

As with any individual in a friendship, there are some personality traits that can lead to irritation. One is the fact that the top-of-the-range turbodiesel 4x4 variant does not come with the seven-seat option available on other derivatives.

I furthermore found the turbodiesel engine to be quite peaky, which, in combination with a tall first gear, makes stalling a very real possibility when pulling away. This is also a limiting factor when attempting any semi-serious 4x4 driving, although to be fair this Nissan already falls squarely in the “soft-roader” category.

Summary

I feel that the updated Nissan X-Trail still offers excellent value for money and should be on any family-minded buyer's shortlist. But my advice would be to opt for the 4x2 turbodiesel version (which is thankfully available with seven seats) and save yourself some R70 000. Take it from an old friend of the X-Trail...

JOHANNESBURG – Five weeks ago, Nissan South Africa launched its facelifted X-Trail range. Colleague Peter Palm attended the launch and sampled the 1,6 dCi Tekna 4x4 (you can read his first impressions here).

During a recent visit to Johannesburg, we had the chance to drive a more affordable derivative: the 2,5 Acenta AWD CVT.

What’s that sticker on the rear?

Called the “dog pack” (one car enthusiast we met suggested Nissan call it the "Paw Pack" instead), this package comprises a raft of accessories aimed at canine-lovers. These include a fold-up, grippy walkway to allow short-legged hounds easy access to the luggage (doggy?) compartment, along with an X-Trail-branded, soft-padded sleep basket, an even softer blanket, a play ball, a stainless steel bowl and even a bone. Underneath all of this you’ll find a sturdy rubber carpet to keep your luggage compartment protected.

Another addition, which is handy even if you don't have dogs, is the fixed luggage grid that keeps various items (and, of course, pets) from entering the passenger compartment. All of these accessories are available through Nissan’s dealerships.

Behind the wheel

Additional equipment aside, this X-Trail is powered by a 2,5-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine. Connected to a CVT transmission, the car is effortless to drive whether pottering around in traffic or cruising on the highway.

At an indicated 120 km/h, the rev-counter settles just below 2 000 r/min. Although there are steps built into the transmission, the gearbox is a true CVT in its operation, which does result in that tell-tale “droning” noise when the throttle is pinned for rapid overtaking manoeuvres. At times, I found myself considering that a turbodiesel derivative would be a better choice, delivering an even more relaxed driving experience.

Both the ride quality and noise insulation are impressive. During three days of driving in Gauteng, which included some slow-moving traffic as well as a spot of highway driving, the average fuel consumption came in at 8,8 litres per 100 km. That's fairly impressive, considering that the Honda CR-V 1,5-litre turbopetrol I’m currently running as part of CAR's long-term fleet manages only marginally better consumption.

Summary

Priced at R425 900, this variant in the facelifted Nissan X-Trail line-up represents good value, particularly when measured against a competitor such as the aforementioned Honda CR-V. Although the CR-V has more interior room, a decent equipment level and better perceived trim and finishes, you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to pay some R200 000 more for these added features and space.

Ultimately, the X-Trail is spacious enough, relatively light on fuel and offers all the comfort you need at this price point, with the added benefit of being able to venture off-road. And, of course, you can take your dogs with you.

PORT ELIZABETH, Eastern Cape – Nissan has refreshed its popular X-Trail range and released some pretty keen pricing to boot.

The name has been firmly established from it inauguration back in 2001. External changes are subtle, with a new V-shaped grille, headlamps with daytime running lighting and darker rear lenses the main updates. A flat-bottomed steering wheel and a shark-fin radio antenna are further additions to the package.

There is a worldwide move towards safer driving, reducing emissions and reducing crashes and injuries in motoring. Nissan has thus introduced a number of high-end features to the X-Trail in the form of what it calls "Nissan Intelligent Mobility". Cameras around the vehicle now give you an all-round view for avoiding obstacles when parking, while auto dimming lights, blind-spot warnings and collision warnings (with emergency braking) are also offered.

Some improvements to upholstery and the quality of the interior trimmings have also been effected. What has not changed is the generous comfort and support of the seats. This is a decided advantage of larger vehicles where there is no need for compromise.

The expanded line-up of eight models includes three 4x4s and you even have a choice of five or seven seats in certain derivatives. A strong point of the design is the amount of rear legroom available. To fully utilise this, Nissan has allowed the rear seating to slide so you can increase the size of the boot in the five-seat version or provide more space for the two rearmost occupants in the seven-seat option.

As before, there are three engine choices: 2,0- and 2,5-litre petrols and a 1,6-litre turbodiesel. Slight re-mapping and tuning has squeezed out a few extra kW and N.m, so the 2,0-litre now has 106 kW with a maximum torque of 200 N.m. This entry-level model is supplied with the super-slick six-speed manual gearbox.

The second petrol engine that is not used in any other Nissan products in South Africa is the naturally aspirated 2,5-litre four-cylinder, tuned to 126 kW and 233 N.m. This gets the CVT treatment for a wide spread of variable ratios for its four-wheel-drive layout. We drove both the 2,5-litre CVT and the 1,6-litre turbodiesel 4x4s and our preference is certainly the diesel.

While the petrol comes in at a keener price, the diesel uses much less fuel and is both quiet and smooth (just don't let the revs drop below 1 500 r/min when on the move). And, of course, there's that great six-speed gearbox. It is always a sign of a good design when you manage not to stall a turbodiesel that you don’t drive every day. And this is one such design. A touch of clutch-slip on the way out and the rest falls neatly into place.

The ride is on the soft side as befits a spacious SUV but the new wheels fitted to the top-spec Tekna versions are now 19 inches in diameter. This, coupled with 225/55 section tyres, means that harsh gravel roads are a bit hard on the system. Having said that, the X-Trail takes smoother gravel roads in its stride. The use of electrically assisted steering has resulted in a small reduction in road feedback, but it is acceptably user-friendly.

The features list for the top-spec model is impressive: dual climate control, electric adjustment for both fronts seats, sat-nav (although the screen isn't very large), rain-sensing wipers and a big sunroof with a full-length powered screen. A healthy six-year/150 000 km warranty, meanwhile, is supported by a three-year/90 000 km service plan.

While many would opt for the entry-level Visia front-wheel-drive 1,6 dCi manual (with seven seats) for a competitive price of R392 900, the added features of the Tekna are certainly appealing.

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