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A new trail

The art editor scratched his bald pate. “New X-Trail? But isn’t this the same car that’s already on sale here?” Ellared’s confusion was understandable. The styling of this all-new X-Trail is so derivative, it’s easy to mistake it for the one currently on sale in India.

Nissan has stuck with the straight lines and boxy look because, unlike in India, the X-Trail enjoys an almost-cult-like status in other markets. For those unfamiliar with the character of the X-Trail, it’s a soft-roader — an SUV that’s built like a car, much like the Honda CR-V. That means no heavy-duty load-carrying ladder chassis and no off-road-centric suspension.

Still, Nissan has given both the old and new car some amount of off-road hardware, good on and off tarmac. And that’s where the straight lines and hardcore 4x4 looks come from. Nissan wants to give the impression of this being an old world, middle-of-the- road, tough-as-nails SUV.

The new X-Trail shares the car-like suspension and chassis with the new Qashqai crossover. It means great agility and ease of driving. There is good off-road gear, generous ground clearance, and the capability to manage most dirt tracks well.

So in what way is the new design different then? The multi-element headlights on this new X-Trail are triangular and larger. It looks much more muscular and there is a kink in the base of the D-pillar as well and slightly larger.

One surefire way to distinguish between the old car and the new one, however, is to take a peek inside the cabin. The instrument panel is no longer positioned in the centre of the dashboard. It’s now behind the steering wheel. The cabin feels larger, more spacious, and is fitted with higher-quality trim and plastics.

The front seats offer more space, the rear seats are almost as comfortable as those in the Honda CR-V with more legroom as well. The car abounds with storage space too with a number of well-designed boxes in the central console, cupholders cleverly placed near the aircon vents and a couple of long ‘drawers’ in the boot.

Under the bonnet, there’s a new 2.0 common-rail diesel that’s shared with Renault, putting out an impressive 150bhp. Fire it up and it’s smooth and relatively noiseless except for a soft pitter-patter and occasional whine from the fan.

Out on Portuguese roads, there’s very little lag from the motor and the six-speed manual ’box feels slick and light. Once past that bit of lag, the tug of the diesel is quite strong as well as gratifying. It breezes over country roads impressively and feels nice and perky in city traffic too.

The clutch action is easy, the brakes well-weighted and the steering direct with very little slack. When cornered, the X-Trail rolls a bit initially, but quickly settles down on its anti-roll bars, maintaining that attitude throughout the corner.

What the X-Trail has however is a very pliant ride. The suspension is very absorbent over rough patches of road, big dips are easily soaked up and, even though it’s soft, there is very little bounce. Overall, comfort levels are much improved.

Nissan has kept the blend of on-and off-road ability intact. It has generous amount of ground clearance, differential locks that can be selected from the dial in front of the gear lever, a hill descent control system, along with a mode that will automatically select four-wheel drive.

Despite the fact that the X-Trail has no third row of seats and is only a five-seater, unlike the Captiva, the Chevy will have a strong diesel competitor once Nissan launches the new car in India, sometime at the end of the year.

spec check

NEW NISSAN X-TRAIL

• Price: Rs 20.5 lakh-Rs 25 lakh (est)
• L/W/H: 4630/1785/1680mm
• Wheelbase: 2630mm
• Turning circle: 5.3m
• Kerb weight: 2170kg
• Engine: 4cyls, 1995cc, turbodiesel
• Installation: Front, longitudinal, four-wheel drive
• Power: 150bhp at 4000rpm
• Torque: 32kgm at 2000rpm
• Suspension: (Front) MacPherson strut (Rear) Independent multi-link
• Gearbox: 6-speed manual
• Fuel tank: 65 litres
• Brakes (F/R): Ventilated discs
• Tyres: 215/65 R16

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