|  First Published: September 2006

Motor vehicles that have offroad capability are interesting critters. Some are staid but reliable, or beaut to drive but expensive, while there are others that are affordable and fun to drive. Here the Nissan X-Trail has made its mark.

Unlike standard 4x4s, the X-Trail does not have a low range gearbox but does offer the advantage of an all mode 4x4 system. This allows a driver to select 2WD, navigating the front wheels, a ‘lock’ mode which sees 57/43 front/rear power distribution and the ‘Auto’ mode which senses potential loss of wheel grip and allots torque to maintain stability. For city or highway driving select 2WD via the dash mounted selector switch and enjoy the spirited performance of the 2.5L DOHC multi-point fuel injected engine that pumps out 123kW of power and 230Nm of torque. The X-Trail has plenty of power on hand. There is a 2000kg (braked trailer) capacity with a 750kg unbraked trailer fine so towing your boat or a standard camper, and taking your family down to the beach is no trouble.

The X-Trail reviewed was the ST-S 40th Anniversary model, which lacks in various extras (the Ti is above it) yet surpasses the competition with comfort and safety features. Highlights include a set of roof carry bars, a sun roof, cruise control, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, driver and passenger air bags, AM/FM radio and CD player, air conditioning, keyless entry, multi-function cool/heat box 60/40 split fold rear seat, power windows, leather steering wheel, 3x12 volt power outlets, driver’s foot rest, and a rear luggage compartment.

The instrument panel of the X-Trail is different. They’re centrally located above the platinum finish dash that houses the heating, sound system, air conditioning controls and the 4WD master control switch. Once accustomed to the set up, monitoring the instruments is simply a matter of looking a little further to the left.

As I saw it, the Nissan X-Trail is the large version of a small car. It is spacious for up to five people, there is a standard 1m deep storage area in the rear, and 2m additional room with the rear seats folded down. Front seats are wide and supportive while rear seats are deep enough to be comfy with plenty of head and legroom.

On the driving side of things I found the X-Trail was a swift and responsive wagon thanks to the powerful four-cylinder engine that is mated to a smooth and virtually undetectable electronic 4-speed auto unit. For those who like to do their own gear changes a 5-speed manual is available but beware, the X-Trail is no buzz box; vibration and noise levels are extremely low.

Furthermore, 2006 sees the unveiling of the newest model. It features sharper, sleeker lines and other extras. I had the opportunity to test drive the car on both suburban and country terrains and found that you’re able to get off to a decent start on green lights. On the gravel roads the five seater wagon handled exceptionally well thanks to McPherson struts and coils up front and parallel link struts in the rear. Steering was confident with surprisingly little feedback, given that it’s a front wheel drive.

Ground clearance can be a sticking point with some AWDs but the X-trail, with its 15” steel wheels, has 195mm and a 28 approach angle with a 25 departure angle. You may not be able to follow the Patrol everywhere, but sand, forest tracks, and the like won’t be a problem if you watch where you’re going.

The X-Trail is an enjoyable vehicle to drive. The cruise control set up is especially favourable and the seating, forward and side visibility were just right. Something else I found ideal was the good access to the driver’s seat.

Last but not least was the fuel economy aspect. Nissan claim figures of 9.8L per 100km from the auto that I could not match but a mix of city and highway driving produced 10.3 litres per 100km which isn’t excessive for this class of vehicle.

The Nissan X-Trail ST-S retails from $31,990 plus onroad costs. Contact Highway Nissan on (07) 3290 7888 to organise a test drive or to check out the vehicle.

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