The Malaysian mid-size SUV market has undoubtedly been dominated by the likes of the Honda CR-V, and the Mazda CX-5. Undeniably, the previous-gen Nissan X-Trail hasn’t had it easy, with a design that didn’t do much to flatter itself, and specifications that didn’t quite add up to customer satisfaction.
Now, Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) is throwing itself back into the game, with the launch of the all-new third-gen Nissan X-Trail, launched in Malaysia with prices ranging from RM142,800 to RM165,800, updated power- and drivetrains, and the local return of a dearly-missed 4WD variant.
On paper, things were always going to be a lot prettier than the last, but ETCM were kind enough to have us along for a trip to Perak, to discover the charms of it first hand, and we’re here to tell you all about that.
Two variants are available to buyers – a 2.0-litre two-wheel drive and a 2.5-litre four-wheel drive model, which as mentioned, signals the welcomed return of a 4WD variant to the X-Trail’s line-up. Differences between the two variants are yours for the reading over at our full launch coverage, but it has to be said that the 2.0-litre model leaves very little room for wanting a 2.5-litre over it.
Yes, there are lots gained in specifications on top of the added power and 4WD system, but RM142,800 on the 2.0-litre is a bargain, all things considered – this is of course only if you can look past the standard dual airbags (even the 4WD variant has to live with this). If a little bit more is what you’re after, than the X-Trail’s 4WD option will get you additional features such as leather seats, a touchscreen infotainment unit with navigation, different interior trims, and on the obvious side, the more powerful engine and all-wheel drive mode with hill descent – all for a RM23,000 premium.
When compared to the X-Trail’s closest rivals, the first from Honda with the CR-V and Mazda’s CX-5, it is fairer to compare the 2.0 2WD variant against the CR-V’s 2.0-litre 4WD variant at RM 150,800 and the CX-5’s 2WD High Spec at RM 144,141. However, in doing so, the X-Trail does lose out on certain features like the CR-V’s 4WD system and CX-5’s navigation system. That’s not to say the X-Trail doesn’t have its fair share of impressive tech as well because it boasts advance safety systems and an all-view camera (first in class) that its rivals lack.
Driving The All-New 2015 Nissan X-Trail:
Cruising on the highway, the X-Trail offered a very comfortable ride paired with well insulated cabin. The usual bumps and unevenness were easily dealt with and in some instances where the road evenness deteriorated severely, the Active Ride Control (ARC) component of the X-Trail’s Active Chassis Control system kicked in, automatically applying the brakes on sudden dips in the road to smoothen the ride out. You can watch THIS VIDEO for a better inside of that by Nissan.
Even when tackling twisty B-roads, as we got a little eager in the corners, the vehicle’s dynamic control (VDC) and traction control (TC) systems kept us in check, even braking each individual wheel to correct the vehicle’s cornering path. That comes courtesy of Active Trace Control, which functions as a sort torque vectoring system.
During the drive, ETCM also arranged for the media to take the X-Trail off-road to see for ourselves how the SUV coped on looser surfaces and much more unpredictable terrain.. In that session, we took the 2.5-litre variant that was equipped with the All-Mode 4x4-i system.
Now, the route wasn’t a full-on 4x4 adventure by any means. Instead, the path was through a plantation, which was a good replication of how far regular X-Trail drivers may typically tread with their vehicles. And to the vehicle’s credit, this was a far easier challenge than we know the X-Trail is capable of.
The All-Mode 4x4-i has three modes – 2WD, Auto, and Lock. On roads, 2WD is more than sufficient but when you do take the vehicle off-road, the system will regulate the power sent between the front and rear wheels up to a 50:50 split in Auto mode. As we made our way across the loose gravel, the multi-info display showed the amount of power being divided and it kept the vehicle going. It wasn’t the most demanding sort of terrain but we guess a trip to a construction site for instance, would be pretty easy.
As for the Lock mode, the system permanently sends 50% of the power to the front and the remainder to the rear. We found out during another demonstration of the all-new X-Trail’s hill descent feature that the vehicle needs to be set in Lock mode for the feature to work, which it did, bringing us down a slope without us needing to modulate between the brakes and throttle, only the steering.
Visibility is also pretty good and it’s pretty easy to judge the size of the vehicle when navigating it. The 2.5L 4WD variant doesn’t have a blind spot monitor like Honda’s LaneWatch on the CR-V but it does come with an around view monitor that is found on the 2.0L 2WD as well.
By providing a panoramic, 360-degree view of what’s around the vehicle, no doubt it was useful when attempting to park, making it easy to make out where the vehicle is relative to what’s around it.
Available in 2.0- and 2.5-litre engines, both variants are paired to Nissan’s XTRONIC CVT 7-speed transmission. The former produces 144 PS; 200 Nm of torque and the latter, 171 PS; 233 Nm.
Like most CVTs, the ‘rubber band effect’ is also found here where upon stepping on the accelerator pedal, you’ll see a rise in engine revs but not much in terms of speed. This trait is not a deal breaker however, because both the X-Trail’s powertrains provided good performance and it never felt like the engine was being strained to haul its more than 1.5 tonne kerb weight.
ECONOMY: The brochures quoted a fuel economy figure of 12 km/L for the 2.5L 4WD and 14.1 km/L for the 2.0L 2WD. We can’t guarantee a solid figure for the 2.0L 2WD because we didn’t spend much time driving it.
However, we did spend a solid amount of time driving the 2.5L 4WD variant on the return leg of the journey, opting for the Kuala Selangor-Teluk Intan route that were basically B-roads all the way back instead of the main highway. Upon arrival back at ETCM’s new 3S centre at Glenmarie, the fuel economy figure we obtained was 12.3 km/L.
Living with the 2015 Nissan X-Trail:
INTERIOR: When you’re seated inside the cabin, the zero gravity leather seats, found only on the 2.5L 4WD variant, provide good support and was comfortable during the long drive. The fabric ones on the 2.0L 2WD were decent, but can’t compare to the comfort offered by the leather ones. Those leather seats are also electric-powered, adjusting for height, tilt, distance from the steering wheel, and 2-way lumbar support – which is a pleasant feature to have.
As for roominess, there is an ample amount of cabin space. Passengers at the second row also have the luxury of sliding their seats back for more legroom, likewise forwards for more cargo room or legroom for the third row passengers. The third row isn’t ideal for ferrying full-size adults, and we recommend using the space more for cargo than anything else. However, if you insist, you can fill two, smaller size, adults in the most back.
The middle and third row seats are also foldable as well (60:40 at the second row and 50:50 for the third), expanding the boot size from 550 litres (when the third row is folded down), all the way to 1,520 litres when both the second and third rows are folded via a few simple strap pulls. Unfortunately, the X-Trail’s seat-folding requires far more steps to accomplish a flat cargo floor than a Honda CR-V’s would – a minor point to note, but should be taken into consideration if you plan on fully maximising the X-Trail’s cargo-carrying abilities on a more frequent basis.
Minor details like the cup holders in the centre console are cooled via an air vent lend a nice touch as well to keep your canned drinks nice and chilled.
EQUIPMENT: The 2.0 2WD gets a 5-inch infotainment display with the Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone and other auxiliary inputs. Pairing the phone to the system was a straight forward affair. As for the 2.5 4WD, the same infotainment system now receives touchscreen interaction and navigation as well.
Said unit is a TCAT multimedia navigator unit and it offered an intuitive interface which was easy to use as well. Pairing a mobile phone via Bluetooth was simple enough and the GPS unit was quick to lock on and a full list of ETCM Nissan centres were included as well.
SAFETY: As we mentioned above, the Nissan X-Trail comes with an impressive safety suite, a common theme now found in ETCM’s recent car launches including the Sylphy, Teana, and Serena S-Hybrid. Aside from VDC, TC, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist (BA) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD), Active Chassis Control is also found here.
As a short refresh, the Active Chassis Control system comprises of three separate modules – Active Ride Control, Active Engine Brake, and Active Trace Control.
With Active Ride Control, the system modulates the vehicle’s brakes along with the engine’s torque to reduce the pitching motion when passing over undulated surfaces like bumps on the road.
Active Engine Brake works with the CVT gear ratio control to help reduce the vehicle speed by adding small amounts of engine braking to assist the brakes, decreasing the frequency and effort required to decelerate the vehicle.
Lastly, Active Trace Control works to ensure the vehicle stays on the cornering line by applying small amounts of braking to individual wheels and is engaged at any point in the corner, so long as the driver does not lift his foot off the accelerator pedal. In a way, it serves to provide torque vectoring for the vehicle.
Unfortunately, only two front airbags are available to both variants of the X-Trail, with no option to increase the count. The Honda CR-V offers a maximum six, and the CX-5 puts up six airbags from the base model even. A strange omission when you consider than the Nissan Sylphy and Teana both get six airbags from the base model up too. Do the extra active safety features thrown in here make up for the lacking airbags? We’ll leave that for you to decide..
Verdict: What we think of the all-new 2015 Nissan X-Trail:
The Nissan X-Trail is best described as an all-rounder. If you’re planning a long cruise back to your hometown, the comfortable ride and cruise control will help you cover ground quickly without leaving you fatigued.
Even then, when you do finally reach your hometown and the road conditions might not be favourable, the intelligent four-wheel drive system does a good job of pulling the vehicle through relatively tough terrain. It’ll even bring you down a hill on its own when you set it right.
And by the end of that trip, you’d probably load up the vehicle with stuff and it’ll carry all that with minimal fuss. Add on a capable powertrain to all the above with a strong safety system suite and you have a crossover SUV that can tackle most situations it’s put in.