Rediscovering its X-Factor - The New X-Trail could win lost ground for embattled Nissan


• Nissan reveals teaser images of new X-Trail

• X-Trail expected to make its local debut in 2021/2

• Only one engine announced, more could join the line-up

Embattled Nissan knows that a better product is the only way it can trade its way back to profitability. The Japanese company has promised a flood of new vehicles, with 12 new models before the end of 2021. Not all of those will be of particular relevance to South Africans, but the new X-Trail, known in America as the Rogue, most definitely is.

Traditionally strong in the local compact SUV and crossover segments, with X-Trail and Qashqai, competition from its Korean rivals has pressured Nissan in recent years. It is worth remembering that Nissan often challenged Toyota's Rav4 in the local market with its previous X-Trails. 

Do you think the Nissan X-Trail could make up lost ground when it arrives in SA? Email us.

Nissan X-Trail

2021 Nissan X-Trail. Image: Nissan USA Newsroom

Not a radical redesign

The original version had a powerful turbodiesel engine and dramatic centre-console instrument binnacle design. Nissan's second-generation X-Trail, which arrived in South Africa during 2007, was much loved for its high-volume rear load area. The third-generation car was perhaps a bit too close to its Qashqai crossover sibling, and with its fourth-generation X-Trail, Nissan has to find those customers that it has lost along the way.

Nissan has followed the current split headlamp trend, with the new X-Trail featuring two separate front light clusters, at each corner. The styling is slightly more purposeful than the current X-Trail, with a larger grille and shapelier front bumper. Superior aerodynamics has been a crucial design objective with this new X-Trail. Many of the details which have lowered its drag index are not that visible. These include an active grille shutter function and underbody cladding. 

READ: President Cyril Ramaphosa test drives the new SA-bound Nissan Leaf in Japan

The X-trail cabin features enhanced infotainment, with a digital instrument binnacle, and seats with advanced lumbar support, which should make long-distance driving more comfortable for the front passengers. 

Ergonomically, one of the interesting updates concerns the X-Trail rear door hinges, which now allow for nearly 90-degrees of door opening aperture, improving both ingress and egress for second-row seating passengers. 

Nissan X-Trail

2021 Nissan X-Trail. Image: Nissan USA Newsroom

Will it be better off-road?

Nissan lacks a traditional Fortuner rival, since the Pathfinder has become a larger crossover vehicle, without the option of a low-range transfer case. That means that customers will perhaps expect a bit more all-terrain ability from new X-Trail, especially in markets such as South Africa, where the Pathfinder is no longer available.

Although it still does without a transfer case of locking differentials, Nissan's engineers have attempted to improve the X-Trail's off-road ability. The clutch-pack enabled all-wheel-drive system now features an electro-hydraulic clutch, which can respond much swifter to wheel-slip, and better managing of torque distribution.

Nissan's coding experts have also assisted engineers in developing two new driving modes, which overlay modulation onto the all-wheel-drive system. The two additional settings are an Off-road and Snow calibration of the all-wheel-drive system's traction control code. 

Nissan X-Trail

2021 Nissan X-Trail. Image: Nissan USA Newsroom

One engine, for now

Beyond the improved centre-clutch, new X-Trail also gains a revised steering rack to deliver improving dynamic driving agility, according to Nissan. Its suspension design features a new multi-link configuration which should smooth out vibrations when gravel travelling.

The only confirmed powertrain is Nissan's 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder, good for 135kW and 245Nm. Turbocharged petrol and diesel options are expected to be announced closer to the local introduction date, which is hopefully going to be in 2021. Although the X-Trail market segment is increasingly crowded with rival products, Nissan's compact SUV has always enjoyed a strong following in South Africa.

This fourth-generation version could be the sales revival it desperately needs.

Nissan X-Trail
2021 Nissan X-Trail. Image: Nissan USA Newsroom
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