If you are well-to-do, intelligent and a tad practical, you won't consider buying an SUV at all. I mean, most of your life is going to be spent in the city driving to dinner parties, clubs and theatres, and the office. And let's be honest here; no matter how bad our city roads might get, one never really needs serious mud plugging or rock-climbing ability in a vehicle to wade through.
But if you want to seem adventurous to the world, what you need is a car in SUV clothing. A vehicle that will out-handle cars on tarmac, will be easy to drive in the city, be light and efficient, and in the odd case when the going gets a bit rough, should have a decent higher-ground clearance and a sissy 4x4 system to pull you through.
The new Nissan X-Trail is one such option. It is easy to pilot in the city thanks to its superb front visibility, high seating and large ORVMs. It also has a responsive steering wheel, which doesn't require much effort to turn at slower speeds. Even at higher speeds, it weighs up enough to keep your nerves in check. In fact, the X-Trail is quite a treat to drive on the highway, courtesy its predictable handling and determined straight-line stability.
It also gets our thumbs up for the ride quality over broken roads. At slow speeds, the Nissan is absorbent and plush. And even as speeds climb, it manages to iron out most bumps with ease. Once inside, the front seats continue to pamper you. There's ample back-and-side support and though one can't adjust the seat squab height, thigh support still is acceptable.
The rear seats do a good job of holding its occupants in place, too, but could do with more support for the seat bottom. The X-Trail could also do with better quality plastics and fit and finish for its insides, which currently don't do justice to its price. It just doesn't look plush enough and some elementary comfort equipment you'd expect in a Rs 25-lakh car is missing, too, like a digital climate control and both reach-and-rake adjustment for the steering.
You do, however, get the best safety equipment for a vehicle in its class, including dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS and stability assist. Under the hood is a 2-litre common rail diesel engine that comes mated to a conventional 6-speed auto or a 5-speed manual box. The drivetrain works well to give the SUV commendable performance, but the engine isn't very refined and gets loud past 3,000rpm.
The engine is reasonably efficient nonetheless. The X-Trail will not sweep you off your feet at first glance, but the more time you spend with this city SUV, the more you'd want it. It's comfortable and it handles well, too. But, the fact that it is fantastically easy to drive and live with, both in the city and on the highway, seals the deal in the X-Trail's favour.
Max power 150bhp@4000rpm
Max torque 320Nm@2000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed auto 0-100 kmph 11.1 sec
Top speed 180 kmph
Price Rs 24.7 lakh