In 2002, Nissan launched a compact SUV that was boxy and named it with an "X" - something that was cool for another three years before "i" became the best letter in the alphabet. The X-Trail was not exactly the first choice in its class - Toyota and Honda had the RAV4 and CR-V respectively, which were the ones in my friends' shortlists. But to me, they were too common, and common wasn't something I was excited about. Unfortunately, I never experienced getting in the X-Trail, except that one drunken night my newly-dumped friend who actually owned one needed a listening ear for about 30 minutes - idling right across my parents' house at two in the morning. So, no - no recollection of the car at all except the cold air conditioner.
Almost a decade and a half later, Nissan delivers the current generation X-Trail to the Opus Macchina HQ - this time for me to drive and get a firsthand feel for. At first glance, there is no similarity at all with its elder boxy sibling. The current X-Trail follows the curvy exterior design of the generation, but much longer in length. To be fair, the length isn't too obvious when looking at the car by itself, but parked right beside the Toyota Prado, you could tell it was longer than the older generation because it had equal length to the mid-size SUV, which the X-Trail isn't.
"It rides as suave as a flirtatious Frenchman speaks."
The X-Trail's length is to thank for its 7-seater capacity - the only one in its class that could take the whole barangay along for a trip to Tagaytay. The whole second row slides back and forth to adjust to the legs of the people on the third row, if they have any. This alone should put the X-Trail in the shortlist of many people, especially if seating capacity is a major factor.
Because the X-Trail is not a crossover body bolted unto a utility vehicle chassis, the ride is excellent - no leaf spring suspension trampoline bouncing rear. Instead, it shares its platform with the Renault Kadjar and Megane - both revered for their silky smooth rides. The suspension is excellent enough to drive through the dirt roads at 40km/h as your passengers continue reading a book undisturbed. It rides as suave as a flirtatious Frenchman speaks.
A knob on the center console also allows your "Mad Max" alter ego to switch from two wheel drive to four. Although sand dune driving might not be the X-Trail's specialty, for those days you might feel like YOLO'ing across the La Paz Sand Dunes in Ilocos Norte, you'll have better chances getting out of sticky situations than say, any of its 4x2 counterparts.
Nissan has always been known to have great air conditioning, and the X-Trail is no exception. Media cars normally don't have tinted windows, and sometimes that makes long rides under the afternoon sun a deep-frying affair - not so much in this crossover with its biting cold air conditioning.
"the X-Trail is a great people carrier."
So far, the X-Trail seems perfect, but is it? Unfortunately, this X-Trail is only available in two variants locally - the 2.5 liter and the 2.0 liter, both in gasoline and continuously variable transmission (CVT). I would've preferred the amount of torque offered by diesel engines especially when the cabin is fully occupied by either humans or luggage.
I am also not a fan of CVT, because based on the cars I've driven with the technology, neither fuel consumption nor power is given a positive upgrade. So I wonder, what is CVT really for? Hopefully, as the technology matures, the reason for the decision by manufacturers to use it will be clearer.
In tropical countries such as the Philippines, the barangay will be chilling (pun intended) during the duration of the road trip even on the hottest 40 degree Celsius summers - it may be a tiresome matter getting the barangay to walk out of the X-trail for a lunch break on your stopover.
In summary, the X-Trail is a great people carrier. The whole barangay fits, and everyone will be riding in comfort through different types of roads - from highways to dirt roads.
Ex-Public Highway Racer