By Mike Torpey on 2017-09-20 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
On the trail of family
THE perfect car for family adventures is how Nissan describes its freshly upgraded X-Trail SUV.
And the Japanese manufacturer has left no stone unturned in its quest to accelerate what has consistently become an upward curve in the model's sales.
The X-Trail is actually the world's best selling crossover car with 766,000 sold worldwide last year and over the past three years has tripled its sale in the UK.
Now Nissan has turned to the people who matter the most, the customers, to ensure the latest X-Trail has the quality, flexibility and freedom they require.
With 97 per cent of existing owners keen to recommend the model, the outgoing X-Trail was already in a good place.
Now Nissan feels it is in pole position to deliver on an even greater scale - and adventure-loving families are the top target.
Feedback from customer clinics was focused on three principal areas - design and premium quality, practicality and space, and innovative new technology.
All three have been meticulously addressed in a stylish-looking vehicle that's available with a choice of three engines - two diesels and a petrol - manual or XTronic auto transmission, four trim grades and prices from Â£23,385.
Design-wise the car looks that bit more streamlined with its extra length, wider V-motion grille and boomerang style daytime running lights, while chrome side mouldings add to the effect.
Inside, small but effective changes like a new D-shaped steering wheel, soft knee pads for the driver and front seat passenger and gloss black inserts on the dash make a noticeable difference too.
Space for five is extremely good, the second row of seats both sliding and reclining, and on seven-seat variants - which cost an extra Â£1,000 and make up half the sales - access to the third row is easy.
That said, these individual back row seats are realistically only for kids and having them in place severely restricts boot space.
But with space at a premium there is actually more room now as repackaging the car's suspension has resulted in an extra 15 litres, for five-seat versions at least.
Another practical feature is the ability for a driver carrying bags or carrying young children to kick their foot under the bumper to open the tailgate.
Apart from a new eight-speaker BOSE sound system - standard on flagship Tekna grade - the technology spotlight is centred on Nissan's Intelligent Mobility features which include the likes of Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Recognition and Stand Still Assist.
And from next year the X-Trail will also be available with ProPILOT, seen as the first stage in the brand's journey towards autonomous driving.
It will control the steering, acceleration and braking in a single lane on highways during heavy congestion and high speed driving.
What it all means is the X-Trail is now a better-looking, more versatile and safer SUV for families whether they want a two-wheel drive version for everyday conditions or a 4x4 for those pioneering weekends.
With the latter in mind we set off on a 150-mile adventure into the wilds of Snowdonia that included winding forest roads and mountain tracks as well as a demanding off-road course around a disused North Wales quarry.
Both the diesel engine options - 1.6-litre dCi 130 with 2WD and 2.0-litre dCi 177 with 4WD - were available for testing, the lower powered of the pair tackling the off-road track.
Negotiating deep mud, the edges of a small lake and steep inclines proved no problem for the X-Trail. It was a case of put the car in first gear, let the engine run at tick-over and wonder at its substantial degree of torque doing the work.
Out on the road both 4x4 models, each in the leather-clad Tekna trim and striking Monarch Orange pearlescent paint that takes the price north of £35,000, proved a joy to drive with a positive feel from the steering and smooth ride quality.
The same could be said for the 1.6-litre 2WD version which, in mid-range N Connecta trim and extra cost Palatial Ruby paint, cost £30,555. Just under 50mpg is a realistic fuel return.
What Nissan have achieved with the latest X-Trail is to deliver a vehicle that now has the premium feel, sharp looks, practical touches and all-weather abilities to really cut the mustard. It's family friendly - and families will love it.
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