Including North Americas Rogue-badged model, X-Trail is one of Nissans best sellers worldwide

Including North America's Rogue-badged model, X-Trail is one of Nissan's best sellers worldwide

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It's been a tough year for Nissan Motor. The company has shifted focus from volume to profit and is trying to maintain a certain level of independence from Renault while keeping the Alliance going. For Nissan Europe, things are beginning to approve. A new Juke is finally here, Qashqai sales are up and even the six year old X-Trail is bouncing back. 

I never understood how Nissan thought that manufacturing the X-Trail in England made sense. It's a good enough vehicle but we Europeans have never taken to it with the same enthusiasm that the Americans have. For us, the Qashqai is the most desirable Nissan and until the arrival of the latest generation Tiguan, it was the region's long time favourite crossover/SUV.

The British, the Germans, the French - all are fond of Nissan's D-segment models yet the X-Trail has always been way less popular than the Qashqai in every EU or EFTA market. So it shouldn't have come as a shock when the decision not to go ahead with build at Sunderland was made public earlier this year. That followed the announcement in 2016 that the model would be made there rather than continuing to be an import from Japan.

The X-Trail for this region comes from the Kyushu plant but Japan is only one of many countries where the model is manufactured or assembled. That includes sites in China, Russia, Thailand, South Korea and the USA. In the last of these countries, Nissan sells it as the Rogue, while the Qashqai is the Rogue Sport, the pair being very successful vehicles: sales to the end of November totalled 323,116 vehicles. That volume is down on 2018, which reflects the decision to pull back from low-margin daily rental sales, something also being done by Nissan Europe.

The company's new CEO, Makoto Uchida, says he intends to fire 12,500 people, reduce the number of models Nissan makes and cut overall manufacturing capacity by 600,000 vehicles per annum to 6.6 million. Exactly what that means for Nissan Europe's factories and other operations has not yet been stated. The numbers seem drastic and they are, yet all of this is deemed necessary to prevent things becoming worse.

One of the main reasons why Nissan got into trouble in European countries was not replacing the decade-old Juke sooner. The first generation model was once a big seller but all that changed as younger competitors appeared and the Nissan's polarising design began to become badly dated. Let's hope this lesson has been learned.

How the X-Trail looks has never been an issue, on the other hand. In fact, such is its similarity to the Qashqai that many wonder why the brand has two vehicles in the same segment. The previous generation X-Trail looked way more like a traditional SUV but that's not the case for the existing one. That approach has worked exceedingly well in North America but hasn't been nearly as effective in European countries.

Might Nissan Europe even cut this model out of its range when the time comes for a successor? Volume of only 18,868 units across the region's markets for the year to the end of October means this D-SUV will be unlikely to reach 25,000 units in 2019. The total for November isn't yet official but in October, the X-Trail (2,430, +7.3%) still trailed the Leaf (2,881) even with the latter plunging by 26.4% (26,999 YtD).

It's quite a different picture in Russia, where the locally-produced X-Trail does about the same volume monthly as all European markets put together. Regionally then, the model is probably safe in terms of the business case for a successor. Such a vehicle is still at least twelve months away, maybe more.

Given that this is nowhere near the freshest entrant in the segment, is there much to recommend about the X-Trail? Indeed there is. The variant I spent seven days with came equipped with an engine which provided a welcome alternative to the not so economical petrol units which have become the default in so many classes. The 1,749cc diesel has outputs of 150kW and 340Nm, drive in this case going to all wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.

A Discovery Sport is more expensive yet in optional seven-seat form the Nissan doesn't feel in any way cheap by comparison. Interior quality is top-notch and even with the third-row seats flipped up you still get 445 litres of space (565 with them down). The Land Rover has better dynamics, as do other rivals such as the Tiguan Allspace, but as long as you don't push the X-Trail too hard, the vague-ish steering and soft suspension won't be that noticeable. On a lot of crossovers you tend not to notice the compromise which an elevated stance often brings. On this one you do. Keep things at low to medium speeds and the sometimes excessive lean in the bends won't be a problem.

The other new engine which was announced earlier in 2019 is the Alliance and Daimler's 1.3-litre petrol turbo. Aside from the inferior economy, the drawbacks are a lack of all-wheel drive, poorer acceleration and higher pricing, while the CO2 average is about the same. Guess which engine I'd choose?

The 1.7 dCi 150 4WD X-Trail Tekna has a top speed of 121mph, reaches 62mph in 10.7 seconds, has a CO2 average of 154g/km and official Combined fuel consumption of 39.8-41.5mpg. Pricing starts at GBP33,595 and the seven-seat upgrade is an additional GBP660.

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