Lesser engines offer no more than adequate performance, but the 2.0-litre diesel is much punchier

The X-Trail is no entertainer, but it’s easy to drive for such a bulky machine, thanks to light steering, an easy six-speed manual gearbox and a raft of safety tech.

Nissan wants to offer a commercially viable, fully autonomous car by 2020, and the X-Trail benefits from some of that burgeoning technology. ‘Active Trace Control’ constantly monitors your speed and steering input, adjusting your line through a corner if the car senses you’re going to run wide, rather than cutting in with juddering traction control once the car has lost grip. 

Active Ride Control appears, too, using subtle engine braking to reduce oscillations over particularly bumpy roads, or over urban speed humps. However, it’s not enough to disguise a slightly fidgety ride on the larger 19-inch alloys fitted to Tekna models. Models on smaller wheels are fine, but a Mazda CX-5 is more cosseting and the Skoda Kodiaq is sharper, yet just as smooth-riding. 

In the future, you'll also be able to specify your X-Trail with Nissan's ProPILOT semi- driving technology, which will allow the car to steer, accelerate and brake autonomously in a single lane on highways and motorways, both in heavy traffic and at cruising speed on the open road.

The X-Trail doesn't excite or inspire on the road, but offers a reasonable blend of refinement, comfort and agility for such a large machine. Wind and road noise are well isolated, but the diesel engines can make a bit of a din under load.

Tackle a few corners, and you'll soon be aware that the X-Trail has plenty of body roll, while the steering is soft rather than sharp. On the move it’s a comfortable cruiser with a well judged ride, although it’s fidgety at low speeds – finding bumps and lumps in the road around town. All-wheel-drive cars are capable when confronted with a bit of soft-roading, too, and features such as the hill-start assist system are tailored with muddy stuff in mind.

Overall, the X-Trail isn’t as composed as a Peugeot 5008. It’s upset more by bumps and cambers, while the damping means the car reacts more violently to potholes and bumps in the surface – especially at the rear. It’s also neither as responsive nor as rewarding to drive as a Skoda Kodiaq. The Nissan’s steering is nicely weighted, however, and although it leans quite a bit when you push it faster through corners, it doesn’t ever feel unsafe; just a little uncontrolled next to its more composed rivals.

Engines

The 1.6 dCi diesel engine develops 128bhp, and a decent 320Nm of torque – exactly the same torque figure as the old X-Trail’s 2.0-litre diesel, although power is down a bit. As a result, it’s just as punchy, but thanks to the smaller capacity, stop-start system and a 90kg weight saving, the X-Trial is 20% more efficient than its ancestor. 

We’ve also tried the 1.6 DiG-T petrol unit, but while its 160bhp figure is a little healthier than the diesel, it doesn’t feel any quicker in a straight line. That is mainly due to the inferior torque figure, which can make it feel a bit sluggish unless you use plenty of revs.

That said, it does slice almost a second off the diesel’s 0-62mph time, bringing it down to 9.7 seconds from 10.5. Maximum speed for the diesel is 117mph, which compares to the petrol’s 124mph. The petrol engine can't be specced with four-wheel drive, however.

It’s also worth noting that opting for the 4x4 drivetrain takes the edge off the performance of the base diesel engine further – 0-62mph drops to 11 secs, although top speed (116mph) is barely affected.

2016 saw Nissan answer critics of a lack of power by adding a Renault-sourced 2.0 dCi diesel engine. Producing 175bhp and a welcome 380Nm of torque, it can power the X-Trail from 0-62mph in a reasonable 10.0 seconds, but it's the extra in-gear punch that's most welcome, especially if you're using the X-Trail as a tow car.

In fact, there is a sizeable chasm in terms of grunt between the 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel units. Buyers towing heavy loads may find the bigger engine too tempting to ignore, especially as the 2.0-litre unit increases the towing weight by 150kg, and is more capable of lugging seven passengers about. Shame, then, that it sounds quite clattery under load, taking the edge off refinement.