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X-Ceptional: The Nissan X-Trail is holding its own in a competitive market.
X-Ceptional: The Nissan X-Trail is holding its own in a competitive market.

WE fish. Some families take leisurely strolls along boardwalks, some picnic in the park, others brave the obstacle courses of packed shopping centres.

But not us. We scoff in the face of a skinny decaf soy latte and turn our noses up at the tantalising smell of a sausage sizzle.

Instead, we wake at first light, pile the rods and bait bucket into the car, throw a few supplies into the Esky, cajole the almost four-year-old into her car seat and try not to forget the baby.

We hit the road with the tingle of anticipation keeping sleep at bay, heads bobbing and weaving as first-born practices her casting skills from the back seat.

We get to the river or beach, pile out and set up camp. Hour follows hour with nothing biting but the midges.

My husband regales us with tales of growing up in Darwin where the barramundi were often more than a metre long and as wide as a man's forearm.

We start packing up as he recalls the pleasure palace of his youth, the sun is high in the sky, the baby has eaten about two kilos of sand and the only fish of any note was caught by a pink princess in gumboots who didn't even have bait on her line.

It's a dance we do often, every step perfectly choreographed with the curtains closing when we get home and attempt to make some sense of a haphazardly packed boot, wet clothes and sandy gear.

Except when we were driving the X-Trail, that is.

Its well-designed cargo hold has a false floor that hides two pull-out draws in which to put your bits and pieces.

There are storage pockets aplenty, a 12V power supply and hooks to hang bags or perhaps grubby clothes. Rods or skis can lie flat between the seats and there is a cargo net to hold everything in place. It has all the bases covered, except the actual catching of the fish.

Comfort

The X-Trail is generous in proportion, offering ample head and leg room. The front seats feature electric adjustment and can be heated for your comfort while back-seat passengers can recline if they want. The glove box can be heated or cooled as can some nifty flip-open cup holders positioned on the top of the dash at either end. The telescopic steering wheel can be adjusted for height and reach while instrumentation is user friendly and informative.

On the road

The Ti offers a smooth run, obviously enhanced by Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission. If you're unfamiliar with it, CVT is essentially a computer-controlled transmission that provides a limitless number of ratios, ensuring the engine is always working well.

It makes for an efficient and comfortable ride and basically puts paid to that whining sound as the engine hunts for power. It performs well on most surfaces and was reassuring in the rain. It sometimes felt a bit tinny but lacked for nothing in guts and intent.

What do you get?

The Ti comes equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, a six-disc CD player, a DVD player, cruise and climate control, reverse camera and a sat nav system with GPS traffic updates. The X-Trail also features a stylishly redesigned drive com- puter and an electric tilt-slide double sun roof.

There is keyless entry, auto sensing headlights and rain sensing wipers. Safety features are plentiful with ABS, traction control and stability control, hill-descent control and hill-start assist. This is complemented by dual front, side and curtain airbags and active head restraints.

Other contenders

Soft-roaders have flooded the market. But the X-Trail does have some smart off-road technology under its skin.

The main competitors include Mazda CX7 ($38,990), Honda CRV ($41,990), Mitsubishi Outlander ($42,490), Jeep Cherokee ($45,990), Kia Sorrento ($41,990) and Renault Koleos ($42,990)

Practicality

With its sizeable boot and spacious feel the X-Trail is certainly a good option. We found the inclusions generous, and the interior has a quality feel.

If we were to niggle, perhaps the clock could be better placed, and the buttons on the entertainment and navigation system are too small and fiddly.

Also, the screen is difficult to read when it catches the sunlight.

Running costs

Nissan has improved fuel consumption and emissions with a tweaked engine and better aerodynamics. There has been a price drop of close to $2000 across most of the range and that is backed up by Nissan's commendable after-sales service.

Funky factor

The X-Trail has not changed much since it first hit our showrooms a decade ago. It's a little less boxy and stands proudly on 18-inch alloys. The front grille and bumper have been updated as have the brighter Xenon lights and LED tail-lights.

The low-down

Nissan's minor tweaks have freshened the X-Trail's appeal, allowing it to hold its own in a very competitive segment. It's a surprising drive and filled with little extras that can make a world of difference.

 

Vital statistics

Model: Nissan X-Trail Ti.

Details: Five-door four-wheel drive compact SUV.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 125kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 226Nm at 4200rpm.

Consumption: 9.1 litres/100km (combined average).

Bottom line: $44,490.


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