What is it?
Nissan's new X-Trail is very different from the SUV of the same name, earlier sold in India. While that model blended car- like driving manners and real off-road ability in equal measure, the new X-Trail is clearly focused on delivering the best on- road experience possible. The SUV that comes to India first up is also very different under the hood; it's a petrol-electric hybrid as against a diesel. Under the skin you’ll find the Common Module Family (CMF) platform, the latest Renault-Nissan architecture, which underpins a range of new models. The new X-Trail is also bigger on the inside and has a 76mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor. This initial version, however, will be offered only as a five-seater. The large battery pack needed by the hybrid system is placed behind the rear seat and what's missing is a full-sized spare in the boot.
Come across the new X-Trail and first impressions are of a handsome and modern-looking SUV with attractive proportions and sharp detailing. It gets a pair of exaggerated but prominent wheel arches and interesting detailing around the nose; the headlights and 'V' grille are placed inside the negative space below the bonnet. However, the SUV isn't immediately recognisable as a hybrid. Yes, up front, there is a blued-over Hybrid badge and you can tell from the rear too, but the appearance in general, is quite stock.
What's it like on the inside?
Like the exterior, the interior is all new. The centrally mounted dials are gone, as are plenty of other quirky bits. In its place comes a thoroughly modern-looking new dash with a prominent 'V' shaped centre console, a hooded instrument cluster and a nicely contoured dash. Door and fascia plastics are substantial and well-finished, and the dash feel fairly plush too. With the exception of second-row headroom, occupant space is excellent. The large seats are good and legroom at the rear is sufficient. You also get clever bits like cooled cup holders, a 7.0-inch display, satellite navigation, smartphone data connectivity and a top-view reversing display.
As mentioned earlier, there isn't much to give away the fact that this is a hybrid on the outside. On the inside, the display in the instrument panel does tell you how the energy is flowing and there is an Eco mode, but again nothing really stands out and shouts 'Hybrid'.
What's it like to drive?
The hybrid petrol-electric powertrain under the hood of the X-Trail delivers 144.9bhp from the combustion engine and 40.3bhp from the electric motor. The car uses Nissan's smart one-motor two-clutch parallel hybrid system as well as regenerative braking. A CVT automatic is used to bring the performance of the petrol and electric systems together.
On our short spin, we found the X-Trail drives quite well if driven in a relaxed manner. Initially you take off in electric mode, and this feels good, but the car responds even better once the combustion engine fires up. This happens at around 30kph or when you use plenty of throttle. The bottom end of the engine is pretty responsive and the electric torque fill makes it nice to drive, by giving it some extra kick. And as long as you are easy on the throttle and smooth, you really get access to some effortless performance. Drive it harder and the CVT whine and the ugly rubber band effect begin to raise their heads. This can be quite frustrating because you have to really wait for the performance; also the CVT gearbox and engine aren't the most refined either. The worst bit is that it doesn't feel anything like the combined 180bhp or so promised.
The suspension, however, is quite comfortable. It does feel soft and compliant at town speeds and absorbs more than a few rough sections nicely. Still, it isn't perfect when you go faster and this is because it feels a touch too soft. The brakes, with their regenerative system, are pretty spongy too. All that aside, the steering is pretty nice and though it does roll, the car tracks quite accurately.
What's nice about this Hybrid is the fact that there aren't half a dozen or so drive modes. You get in, start up, select D and just drive. The car also delivers upto 20 or 30 percent more fuel economy.
Should I buy one?
The Hybrid X-Trail from Nissan will come in as an import, so it is likely to be priced high. Expect an asking price of around Rs 35 lakhs to begin with. But what you get for your money, when it hits showrooms later this year, is an efficient and relatively clean SUV. It has a comfortable and up-to-date cabin, the ride is good, performance is decent, and as long as you don't set your expectations too high, it's quite agreeable to drive too. What makes this new SUV unique is that it is currently the only Hybrid SUV on sale here, and that, if you are interested, is probably the best reason to buy it.