What’s in a name? If that name happens to be ‘X-trail,’ well, you’re looking at the substantial brand equity of one of the best-selling SUVs worldwide, and a vehicle that’s managed to move more units than even the mighty Ford F-150 bakkie in the US.
The 2021 Nissan X-Trail is more than just a familiar name slapped on a new lunchbox and placed on a lower, more budget-friendly shelf. At its core, it’s a re-think of what a certain slice of sport-utility customers might be looking for in a versatile commuter, and one that seeks to carve out new territory for the automaker rather than simply chip away at the existing X-Trail buyer base.
The X-Trail checks in longer and higher than its your sibling, the Qashqai, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it falls into the subcompact category. In fact, when contrasted against popular cute ‘utes like the Toyota Rav4 and the Kia Sportage, the X-Trail pulls ahead with an adult-capable rear seat and third row seat capacity – at that.
It also occupies a middle ground in terms of pricing. Our test Nissan X-Trail R599 000 starting price is a couple of grand more than its previously-mentioned rivals, and about the same amount less than a base Qashqai, showing once again how vigilant automakers are these days in occupying every possible product niche.
It’s worth noting that the X-Trail’s feature set is relatively modest at the entry-level – air conditioning, Bluetooth, and, well that’s pretty much it – with more gear available via the X Trail Tekna (dual automatic climate control, keyless entry and ignition, louder stereo, leather upholstery, bigger wheels, top-tier touchscreen infotainment system).
The Tekna, which Motus Nissan East Rand Mall provided for this test period, will run you R599 000. Time with this model afforded the opportunity to run the SUV through the countryside surrounding Johannesburg and further to the Natal coast. Given that the X-Trail is priced at a level that will have buyers considering not just the larger, mid-level Rogue but a host of larger competitors from Ford (the Kuga), Toyota (the RAV4) and Honda (the CR-V), I was curious to see how strong of a case the legitimately compact Nissan was able to build for itself.
Nissan is aiming the X-Trail away from families and instead targeting couples or younger folk who want something other than a hatchback to cart around their kayaks, sports gear, and Makro carts. It’s a smart play – larger SUVs do things like car seats and rear-seat entertainment systems better than the Qashqai– but as mentioned earlier, that rear row won’t crush grown-ups when it’s time to load up a pair of friends for an out-of-city excursion.
The X-Trail also has access to an impressive level of safety equipment (including automatic braking, lane departure warning and intervention, and blind spot warning), proving that downsizing doesn’t have to mean giving up the latest in active protection.
Interior room certainly isn’t a problem, and while the plastics and materials used throughout the X-Trail err on the side of affordable there’s really nothing missing from the crossover’s feature set that would impinge on enjoying a longer journey in the vehicle.
What Nissan had thrown in was a few niceties (Nissan Intelligent Mobility features) which adds a 360-degree camera, motion-activated rear hatch, and power panoramic moonroof. It also includes a audio system and navigation on a 7-inch touchscreen. It’s not the prettiest or the most intuitive infotainment system out there, and even with the upgrade you only get a single USB port in the whole cabin. Power, however, is a bit of a different story. Versions of the Nissan X-Trail are motivated by a 1.6-, 2.0- or 2.5-litre engine either in manual or CVT.
Acceleration in the X-Trail is milquetoast, but acceptable, even when merging on the highway, as long as it’s just you and a buddy along for the ride. Start to pile that boot high with suitcases, camping gear, and other lifestyle accoutrements, and then toss in 150kg of additional adult ballast in the back seat, and you’ll still be able to reach the coast without any problems.
Is the Nissan X-Trail destined for success? Undoubtedly, as crossover-hungry consumers flock to dealerships in search of something, anything that isn’t a sedan. With so many regular Rogues sold each year, there’s also a strong chance that anyone in the market for an SUV knows at least one other person willing to recommend Nissan’s volume leader, which in turn will drive buyers seeking a smaller option to the Qashqai sitting just across the showroom. Giving the people more of what they want has never been a bad strategy in any business, and when it comes to sport-utility vehicles, Nissan’s in the perfect position to satisfy all comers.
The Nissan X-Trail model featured here was supplied by Motus Nissan East Rand Mall. You can contact them on 011 418 7000.
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