Softies, or Soft-Roaders, make a lot of sense! Just think about it; ninety per cent of people with real 4×4’s hardly ever take them into a situation where they need to engage low range.
Why is it then that the 4×4 community looks down on these cars? They will go on any gravel road, do very well in mud and sand and, best of all, they only use about a quarter of the amount of fuel than the more hard-core bigger uncles.
The X-Trail is a very popular soft roader and I think there are very few people in South Africa who do not know what it looks like… in one word, its boxy, like any other SUV.
However, the new model is far more aesthetically pleasing compared to its 1st generation counterpart, yet some people say it looks the same. Sure, it looks similar but it’s bigger and much, much better.
The front features projector-type headlights with sadly no Xenon headlights, but they are height-adjustable from inside. There are also spotlights on the bumper and visibility is very good considering the very lack of Xenon headlights. The chrome grill is sort of in your face with the Nissan logo, making sure that you know this is well a Nissan.
The 18inch wheels are pretty big and not really off-road orientated, but they are fitted with 55 profile tires and, with our test, they coped fine on gravel, rocks and mud.
The windows are called privacy windows and, really, that’s just a fancy word for ‘heavily tinted’. They keep a lot of the glare out and seem to add some form of ‘VIP’ feeling to the interior. The interior is fitted with most top-of-the-range accessories you can find. Cruise Control, leather heated seats, a huge tilt-and-slide sunroof, and an 8-way power adjustable driver seat is all standard on this LE model.
The interior is rather spacious and probably one of the bigger models in its class. My 1.9m frame fitted very comfortably behind the wheel and/ or in the passenger seat. Space in the back is good with a slight limit on head-room, due to the lowered roof lining caused by the sunroof. All though I did sit comfortably in the back, if I had to sit completely upright, my head would just-just touch the roof. I hardly think this would be of a concern to new buyers.
Keyless entry is the 1st thing you notice when you start the X-Trail. the 2.0l diesel engine, which makes 110kw and 320nm, fires up without a hitch and, in typical diesel fashion, is a little noisy but settles down pretty quickly and becomes comfortably quiet. The engine pulls from low but suffers a bit of Turbo lag if you flat foot it. Of course then all hell breaks loose and the X-Trail runs towards the horizon at a rather quick pace for an SUV of this size.
On-road handling is superb. It’s comfortable and you can see why there are so many of them of them road. Gravel roads are smooth and stable once you engage 4wd auto. The vehicle stability control also keeps things in check should the car start moving around. You can then feel the brakes intervene and control the individual wheels which are losing traction. When the road gets twisty, there is obviously body roll but it’s not excessive and it can be contained if you are just realistic with your corner entry speed.
Off road is where the X-Trail shines and really impressed me. Surprisingly, I got pretty far on our test road and only when the front wheels started to dig in between the loose rocks did I switch to 4wd Auto and the system pushed the traction to all four wheels and off I went. Yet, all things that go up must come down and this gave me the opportunity to test the downhill assist. This worked very well and you can feel how it brakes each wheel independently while you are moving downwards. It just works superbly.
The X-Trail is pretty fuel efficient and our overall consumption was about 8l per 100km – this included various driving conditions from city to crawling up rocky hills in the mountains. Previous consumption was as low as 6l per 100km before our shenanigans started.
The X-Trail 2.5 DCi LE, which retails a touch over R450 000, is a great soft roader and it’s so simple to live with. It’s a typical ‘get in and go’ car that can take you across the country in style whether you are driving gravel or tar. This in one soft roader I can really live with.
For more info and accurate pricing, please have a look at www.nissan.co.za