Make no mistake about it: the Philippines is a country where crossovers thrive.
The combination of higher ground clearance, varied styles and designs, versatile interior configurations, efficient engines and a car-like ride quality make crossovers one of the most compelling models to have inside one's garage, and they're typically priced between the top spec compact cars and executive sedans.
That said, if there's one model that Nissan is heavily banking on it's this: the 2015 X-Trail.
Launched at last year's Philippine International Motor Show, the 2015 Nissan X-Trail has it's work cut out for it, and all it takes is one glance at the sales charts to see why. Nissan needs the X-Trail to perform. After spending a few days with this top-spec 2.5L version, we think Nissan has a winner in their showroom.
Upon seeing Nissan's new crossover for the first time you'd be forgiven for doubting that it is indeed an X-Trail. The new X has departed so radically from the design of the two boxy generations that preceded it, and what has emerged from the clean sheet drawing board is a crossover with far more modern styling.
The front of the car starts off with a very modern adaptation of the Nissan V-motion grille flanked by headlamps with the very stylish LED daylight running lamps. The entire front end does work together well, and the details such as the headlamps, grille, bumper and foglamps bezels all seem to focus attention towards the center of the fascia; quite cool. The side profile is likewise sleek, complemented by the 17-inch rolling stock. The rear end is finished off very nicely, particularly with the shape of the D pillars and the way the rear details also focus towards the center. There are critics saying the new X-Trail has lost the character it once had, but we beg to disagree; Nissan could very well have the most stylish compact crossover in the market right now, and one that appeals to a wider range of the market.
The body has also grown significantly. The new X-Trail measures in at 4630mm long with a wheelbase that's 2706mm, thereby making it the longest overall vehicle amongst its competition such as the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5. Width is at 1820mm and height is at 1695mm, also making the X-Trail one of the widest and the tallest in its category.
Much like the boxy exteriors, previous X-Trails also had cabins that were inspired by their larger SUVs; not so in this new generation model. In a nutshell, the interior of the X-Trail is very far detached from the previous ones as it seems to have more in common with a large executive sedan than a crossover, and that's always a good thing.
The dashboard is clean and crisp to look at with its warm, soft touch surfaces and materials, the matte buttons, the piano-black panels and the matte silver accents. It appears to have been designed with cleanliness and quality in mind, not to mention the ergonomic and easy-to-use layout and placement of controls. One minor glitch I found was the steering wheel horn pad; it's so long (it stretches down to the bottom of the wheel) that if you try to make a typical 3-point turn (U-turn), you could end up with a few cases of unintentional honking.
Being a top spec model earns this X-Trail leather on the steering wheel, shift knob, interior door panels and seats... all seven of them.
Yes, you read that right. Unlike its predecessors which were just 5-seaters, this 2015 X-Trail can seat seven people. It's prime competitor (the Honda CR-V) is also available as a seven seater by purchasing an optional “bench” for the trunk, but this one is designed to be a seven seater from the ground up. That said, however, the third row should really be reserved for children; it's still too small for full size adults unlike the midsize crossovers (i.e. Hyundai Santa Fe) or SUVs (i.e. Toyota Fortuner). If you only need to seat 5 people the third row can fold fully flat with the pull of a strap, and it's a 50/50 split while the second row is a 60/40 split.
This being the top of the line model, this X-Trail gets some pretty good equipment as standard. Of course there are the power features such as power windows, mirrors and central locks, though Nissan also tossed in rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps. Dual-zone climate control is standard along with the rear seat vents; yes, this X-Trail's aircon is very cold when set to max. Cruise control is also available, along with steering wheel controls. Safety features that are standard include dual airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, Vehicle Dynamic Control (stability control) with quite a few enhancements. More on that later.
In the center console is a 5-inch LCD unit that allows for USB, Bluetooth, Aux and iPod playback via 6-speakers. What's unique about it is that it has something called an Around View Monitor. When you're backing up, the AVM activates and turns on several cameras around the car, allowing you to see the front, sides and the back, thereby making parking a breeze. AVM does take a bit of getting used to as the side displays (the cameras are located under the side mirrors) look odd at first glance.
At the heart of this 2015 X-Trail 4x4 is the QR25DE; a 2.5 liter twin cam 16-valve four-banger that makes 171 PS of power and 233 Newton meters of torque. The engine is actually not a new one unlike the 2.0L 4-cylinder in the 4x2 version, though Nissan have improved on the QR25DE a bit over the years. Transferring that power to all four wheels is the Xtronic CVT with a manual mode as well as the All Mode 4x4-i system.
On a daily commute in the city, the X-Trail drives superbly. The ride comfort actually surprised me; the ride quality and suspension absorption matched our pick for most comfortable crossover in the class: the Honda CR-V. Nissan's engineers certainly worked hard to up the NVH of the X-Trail. Also good is the power delivery of the Xtronic CVT from the QR25DE, though given that it's a 2.5 liter petrol engine, it's not as efficient in traffic. At a 17 km/h average, this X-Trail did 6.7 km/l while at 25 km/h average it bumped up a bit to 7.6 km/l. Not bad, though it could have been better had they put in an engine with direct injection.
On the highway, the X-Trail shows off it's comfortable and stable ride again. Handling-wise there are better choices out there, but the X-Trail is no slouch. Body control is good and measured, though on the uphill I wish there was a decent-sized common-rail turbodiesel under the hood. Nevertheless, on the highway there's also not much in the way of wind noise at 100 km/h and the fuel economy has improved to 12.2 km/l with 2 persons aboard at a 95 km/h average.
On a light trail with packed dirt, the X-Trail performs solidly. The intelligent 4x4 system is a breeze to use, making light off-road duties even lighter. I do wish we had a more difficult trail to try the X-Trail on, but the weather was relatively dry. Nevertheless the traction and control afforded by the system makes quick work of the conditions given that it has toys such as Active Trace Control, Active Ride Control, Active Engine Brake, Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control. Much like it's predecessors, the new generation X-Trail is quite capable for a “soft-roader”.
It's hard to find glaring faults in the 2015 Nissan X-Trail 2.5L 4x4. Nissan's engineers and designers definitely did their homework and then some in making the X-Trail such a well rounded crossover, and Nissan Philippines' product planners specced it properly to be very competitive against its peers for the price. I still would have preferred a new and more advanced engine, but as it stands, Nissan could very well have lunged into the lead in the compact crossover category with their seven seater 2015 X-Trail.