Nissan X trail 2023 Review: Doors wide open

It was a box once like many of its rivals. But that was over twenty years ago. As the Nissan X-Trail enters its fourth generation, the spacious compact SUV with an optional third row seat displays an intelligent bent of mind and out of the box thinking. Travel with me to Jeddah as I test the new X-trail on Saudi Arabian terrain during the regional launch of Nissan’s most popular urban crossover till date.

After almost 8 million units sold across the world and a fastidious change of attitude in compact SUV seekers, no wonder Nissan is compelled to take its practical pot pourri of an urban commuter seriously enough to pack it with its entire bundle of safety and driving tech along with premium touches like (nothing less than) Nappa leather and pushing the envelope or, more precisely, the rear doors out a few extra degrees to make ingress and egress easier for families and their baby seats.

Nissan X-Trail 2023 fourth generation

THE DIMENSIONS: (L x W x H) 4680 x 1840 x 1730 mm, Wheel base: 2705 mm Ground clearance: 200 mm, Cargo space: 177 – 585 L (7-seat and 5-seat)

THE PRICE: Prices are in Saudi Arabian Riyals, where the price is inclusive of 15% VAT.
• S grade 5-seater 2WD – SAR 100,999 / 4WD – SAR 108,999 (In the UAE, starts under AED 99,000) • SV grade 7-seater 4WD SAR 126,699  • SV + grade SAR 137,899 • SL grade SAR 149,399

UPSIDE: 6 airbags and advanced driver assistance features, light off-roading, extra-wide door opening, good camera support

FLIPSIDE: Meagre boot space as 7-seater, CVT displeases some

Nissan X Trail 2023 grille SUV

The Design

This is where the love story invariably begins. And so, the new X-Trail underlines its family connections placing it halfway between the exiting X-trail and the new refined Pathfinder but commendably retains its individuality, starting with the new double V-motion grille (there is an outline of another V tracing the thick plateaued V, which frames the grille and the new Nissan logo).

The new X-Trail is 1 cm shorter both length-wise and height-wise than its predecessor but it is 1 cm wider too. However, the cabin offers even more space than before, though just a little more! The wheel size grows from 17” through 18” up to 19”. The Middle East thinktank has meaningfully decided to leave out the 20” wheels available in some markets!

The LED lamps are two narrow strips – LED Daytime Running Lights above and the headlamps below – instead of being one complex light assembly. This is sleeker. The designers even see an angry squint in the former. But sometimes I wonder if a Designer’s sense of the dramatic is even more verbal than visual! I mean, the taillamp design is impressive no doubt but its name will blow your mind – 3D boomerang signature LED taillamps. Wow. The sporty roof spoiler in the rear, a bunch of 15 interesting colours including 5 dual tone options – everything adds up to a reasonably good-looking urban crossover.

By the way, my favourite Champagne Silver Metallic surprisingly received a 50-50 response on the Drivemeonline Instagram page when asked if it suits the new X-Trail. And if you want to know the colour of my test car – it was Brilliant Silver Metallic… or was it Boulder Grey Metallic?

Nissan X Trail urban crossover

The Redesign

Nissan X-trail has undergone quite a few changes even where it looks the same. For instance, the fact that the engine is a 2.5L four-pot sounds like nothing has changed, until it is revealed that 80% of components is either new or redesigned. The CVT is what has clung on to the drivetrain but as the Director of Products, Marketing and Customer Experience, Mr. Abdulilah points out, the 9-speed auto of the new Pathfinder would be a bit much for the four-pot in the X-trail. (watch the full interview on YouTube/Drivemeonline on Jan 26) Fair enough, as long as the CVT isn’t the drawling, groaning kind – which thankfully it isn’t.

The next area where the early application of thought, design and engineering is obvious is in the NVH levels. The first thing that hit me on my test drive was the improved quietness of the cabin and the smoothness of the ride, even on the unpaved approach to our stopover. The result of relevant changes in the chassis, suspensions, body materials and the thickness of the glass. The use of Aluminium has now been extended to the fenders other than the doors, providing overall strength that allows the A-pllars to lose some fat, thereby improving visibility.

Nissan X Trail 2023 profile

Cabin and Tech

My experience car is the SL Grade Nissan X-Trail. The top trim looks rather deserving of the descriptor Nissan has given to the new X-Trail – i.e. ‘premium’ urban crossover. Several creature comforts once reserved for the premium and expensive badges are now fittingly found in this Nissan.

Comfortably seated in quilted seats of Nappa leather, under a panoramic sunroof, both driver and passenger power-adjust their seats and set their separate preferred temperatures with the Dual Zone air-conditioning while listening to a 10-speaker Bose music system… it does paint a premium picture, doesn’t it?

Spacious comfort is standard in the X-Trail cabin regardless of the grade. The second row seats can be slided 22 cm (two-thirds of a foot) so as to optimize the space-sharing between the second and third row seats. All three seats in the second row are prepped to place the baby seat. The sixth and seventh seats are spacious for ‘just-in-case’ seats because it is the boot space that bears the brunt.  With the third row up, 177 L space is still good for backpacks, duffel bags and the kind, especially because there is a little extra under the false flooring. With the third row down, the space expands to a class-leading 585 L.

Nissan X trail door opens 85 degrees

It is always refreshing to see automakers resort to innovation and thoughtful extras to make life easier for their patrons. The new 85º wide open rear doors make it really easy for people and baby seats to slip in and out. The ‘butterfly opening’ of the central console, with the two flaps opening to either side, offers convenient access for the rear passengers to the storage space without having to lean over and fumble through a lifted-up armrest. The boot also comes with a powered liftgate that can be hands-free operated with a foot gesture.

Tech being the sounding board of premium-ness, this cabin has three screens: 12.3” A-IVI display audio, 12.3” digital driver assist display and 10.8” head up display that is projected ahead for the driver to get essential info without taking eyes off the road. There is a wireless charger, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. All the electronic safety tech is mentioned separately.

Nissan X Trail tech screens

The Drive

For a test driver, the King Abdullah Economic City is an ecosystem of crossroads, beach sand, marshy lands, mangrove lagoons, salt fields, a sea of many blues and dramatic winter skyscapes. While the last three are mostly for great looking pictures (check mine out on Instagram/drivemeonline) or an inspired opening line (watch my review on YouTube/drivemeonline) the rest make for props to test the all-wheel drive capability and urban ride quality of the new Nissan X-Trail.

While it is available in a 2WD format in the base grade, the X-Trail is otherwise an adventure-ready crossover, with a new, intelligent All-Wheel Drive System with direct coupling. Intelligent, because it claims to have quick and accurate torque transfer between axles which works differently for the 5 drive modes chosen through the selector dial. The system also helps in Vehicle Motion Control during cornering where torque can be individually managed for all fours. The drive modes are Eco, Sport, Snow, Normal and Off-road. X-Trail also has Hill descent control, which lets the car come down slopes at low-speed with a careful grip.

The 2.5 L engine is almost all-new and has improved its power to 181 hp and 244 Nm which are 5% and 7% more than its outgoing model, respectively. I’ve already mentioned the quieter cabin and the smoother ride. That hasn’t done away with the body roll, but an easy drifting line exhibited reassuring control and a willingness to play along. Despite the increase in power, the fuel economy is said to have improved up to 3% to over 15.6 kmph (2WD version), which I am looking forward to testing against life, sometime soon.

Nissan X Trail Jeddah launch

Nissan senior executives happy at the X-Trail launch in Jeddah, KSA

“Safest X-Trail ever”

Why Nissan calls the 2023 X-Trail that becomes clearer when you realise it is only the third model in the range to be equipped with their Pro Pilot technology (The tech navigates the road using cameras, radar and sonar. It will slow your car down and bring it to a stop if that is what the traffic ahead is doing. It reads the road using freeway mapping and 360º camera info to prepare the car for turns and corners, upcoming exits and changing traffic situations etc. It can also keep to the centre of the driving lane, by reading the lane markings and the car in front). There is also a slew of NIM (Nissan Intelligent Mobility) features. 6 airbags, LED headlamps with high beam assist, LED fog lamps and structural improvements like high-strength steel and aluminium are a few other reasons that make this a safer car.

Nissan X Trail family friendly SUV features

Comprehensive ADAS: The Advanced Driver Assistance System includes Intelligent Front Collision Warning, Intelligent Cruise Control (that automatically adjusts speed as per the vehicle in front even when a speed is set with the Cruise Control function), Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Lane Keeping and Intelligent Lane Intervention (by applying brake pressure, the car automatically brings you back to lane if you are drifting into the next lane) Cross Traffic Alert (very helpful to avoid collision with a car crossing the rear path while backing up), Blind Spot Warning and Intervention (detects vehicles in the next lane and hold back the vehicle when you indicate an intention of changing lanes), Moving Object Detection (MOD – picks up cars getting too close and takes action to avoid or mitigate collision), Intelligent Around View Monitor (what we otherwise call a 360º camera which also simulates a top-angle view to give you an idea of the spatial context), Intelligent Rear View Monitor (the central mirror can be flicked up to activate a camera feed from the rear – very useful when your boot is stuffed up to the rear glass), Intelligent Driver Alert (monitors the driver’s alertness and steering control to recommend a coffee-break or snooze).

Seriously, look at that list. The new Nissan X-Trail seems to have everything but automatic parking assistance (which, by the way, was available in an affordable Chinese SUV that I was testing recently!) Tech is sure growing ubiquitous and cheap but for those who love to feel smug about the traditional superiority of “Made in Japan”, X-Trail is not assembled in one of their production franchises (Pathfinder in the US, X-Terra in Thailand or China). This is from Nippon with love.

Nissan X-Trail 2023 Nappa leather

The top trim SL of the new X-Trail comes with Nappa leather seats, setting a benchmark in luxury in the segment.

How pleased will you be by the base- or mid-grade?

The showcase model that I was driving of course feels a world apart with its Nappa leather seats and ‘drive-safe’ features as the car shares the burden of looking out for you and taking action. But impression builds further in favour of the brand when you learn that the base model S comes with front, side and curtain airbags; rear parking sensors; LED lamps all over and a stylish and quick e-shifter, also equipped with paddle shifters.

Additional safety and support start from the base grade itself with the option to choose a 7-seat configuration and a 4-Wheel Drive with its accompanying terrain modes and Intelligent 4 x 4 (for car-administered torque distribution) as well as the intelligent auto headlight.

Nissan Intelligent Mobility features scale up to almost the whole package in the mid-grade (SV) leaving just the Smart Rear View Mirror, Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and of course the ProPilot Assist as exclusive to the SL grade. Besides the advanced driver assistance features, the mid-grade SV gets rear view camera and front parking sensors, remote start, power seat for the driver, dual zone air-conditioning, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The only seeming compromise would be the 8” screen instead of the 12.3” display.

Nissan X Trail launch KAEC Jeddah

The essential Nissan X-Trail 2023

The fourth generation X-Trail is made to spice up the already hot segment. Among the chief rivals, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, the new X-Trail still remains slightly longer and decked up with Tech. The new reinforced X-Trail has added 47 kg to it but the additional 12 hp amply makes up. A permanent 7-seater is not what this segment is all about, so as a 5-seat urban crossover ready for a drive to Al Qudra or Tilal Liwa it has space to be stacked for a staycation. The starting price below AED 99,000 throws in some good standard features but spending a quarter more of that will fetch you a well-specked urban SUV. #defyordinary #nissanxtrail

(Check out the new Drive and Destination series now first episode featuring Chevrolet Traverse RS and Tilal Liwa Hotel)

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