Since it first launched locally, the Nissan X-Trail thas built up a solid reputation for both on and offroad capability while undergoing design and specification changes with each new version - this latest being the fourth generation and refreshingly updated in terms of overall styling.

The latest version of the X-Trail was launched in the middle of last year and has, as its entry-level, variant the Visia CVT, which is available only in front-wheel drive format and on the price ladder its R672 900 sees it up against some serious competition, most notable from the all-wheel drive Haval H6 GT 2.0GDIT 4WD Super Luxury priced at R652 250.

Buyer requirements change over time and automakers have to constantly adapt to those needs, so the X-Trail is now much about urban mobility than that original version that prided itself on its offroad capabilities.

However, the ability of particularly the Chinese manufacturers to price their products so competitively, does make for a really hard choice.

Need an X-Trail - we can sort out your needs - click here

At the launch of this latest family of X-Trail models, Kabelo Rabotho, managing director at Nissan SA said: “The X-Trail forms part of our commitment to continue Nissan’s long-standing heritage in the SUV arena. With its generous seven-seat configuration, versatile luggage space and of course, how seamlessly it caters for the practicalities of day-to-day life, the premium crossover is the ideal addition to life’s on-the-road thrills.”

Powered by a four-cylinder 2,5-litre petrol engine, the Visia generates 135 kW at 6 000 r/min and 244 Nm of torque at 3 600 r/min – with a combined fuel consumption of 7,8 l/100 km, which is not bad considering price rivals the Haval, with a 2,0-litre engine, does 8,4 l100 km and the 1,6-litre Chery Tiggo 8 Pro 7,2 l/100 km. 

For me, the downside of the X-Trail Visia is the Xtronic CVT transmission that I found to be irritatingly noisy and sometimes desperate in its hunt for the right gear for the moment, swopping up and down like an unbalanced yo-yo.

What possibly made it feel worse is the fact it is so out of kilter with the rest of car that offers high levels of safety specification, a decent amount of tech-spec and really good ride qualities on both paved and unpaved roads. 

The vehicle offers technologies including Intelligent Cruise Control, Predictive Front Collision Warning, Blind Spot Intervention, Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Emergency Braking, and ProPilot among others and it sports six crash bags, anti-lock braking with EBD, stability control, diff lock and Hill Start Assist.

On the tech list is a 12,3-inch intuitive touch screen, 10,8-inch head-up display and 12,3 inch digital instrument cluster with all the functionalities needed to put the X-Trail firmly into the frame as far as ‘bells and whistles’ are concerned but, more importantly shows a marked improvement in the material and build quality.

Visually it looks less like a big Qashqai and the exterior is a much-needed update on the somewhat dated exterior of its predecessor.

In terms of design, the latest version did not undergo any radical level of transformation and sports a modern, sleek and appealing exterior look complemented by a well-planned and neat interior layout where power-assisted seating allows the driver to achieve the ideal seating position.

This, plus the SUV raised ride hieght and large glass area provide a suitable command post view of the road ahead and behind and, other than the gearbox, a high level of ride quality, comfort and cruising confidence.

Power assist for the tailgate would be a nice touch as this is quite a heavy item and could have some folk struggling to get it closed.

Considering the extensive range of options open to buyers in this sector of the market, the validty of the X-Trail is perhaps brought into question as, perhaps, is its surival into a fifth generation – or will Nissan come up with a completely new plan for its SUV stable.

Colin Windell