It feels as if the Nissan X-Trail has been around for yonks.
Actually the compact crossover vehicle has been on the world's motor markets for 10 years, and during that time it has forged a strong reputation for being a good SUV - solid, no-nonsense looks, capable off the road, and comfortable.
And with plenty of load capability. When all the seats are in use, the X-Trail offers an impressive 603 litres of cargo space; and when the rear seats are folded down, this increases to an enormous 1773 litres.
Not only that, but the load area features a double luggage floor that hides a sliding storage drawer underneath.
It's great, and it is one of the very good things about the X-Trail. These days the chunky square- shaped long-nosed Nissan might not rate as anywhere near the best-looking compact SUV on the market, but nobody can ever deny it its efficiency of design.
NISSAN X-TRAIL WAGON
POWER PLANT: 2.0-litre four- cylinder petrol engine, 102kW at 5200 rpm, 198Nm at 4400rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: Front-wheel drive. Continuously variable automatic transmission. MacPherson strut front suspension, parallel multi-link set- up at the rear.
HOW BIG: Length 4635mm, width 1790mm, height 1700mm, wheelbase 2630mm.
HOW MUCH: $38,990.
WHAT'S GOOD: Easy to drive, plenty of interior load space.
WHAT'S NOT: Average performance.
OUR VERDICT: Honest is the best way to describe this X-Trail.
Now Nissan New Zealand has moved to take further advantage of that, by introducing a 2.0-litre front-wheel-drive version of the X-Trail that it is marketing not as an SUV, but as a wagon.
Whereas the all-wheel-drive, 2.5-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbo diesel members of the X-Trail SUV fleet retail from $43,990 through to $51,990, the wagon has gone on the market for $36,990 with manual transmission and $38,990 with automatic.
That's good pricing, and it reflects the fact that this wagon is intended as a pared-down member of the X-Trail lineup with cloth seats, lots of plastic, no all-wheel drive, and the same 2.0-litre petrol engine that is under the bonnet of the smaller Qashqai.
But hey - don't knock it. My immediate impression of this X-Trail is that it will easily find favour as an old-style wagon that has a sufficiently capacious and tough interior to happily accept all sorts of loads chucked into it. In that regard, it can be ideal either as a carry-all fleet vehicle, or as a popular family wagon.
And the level of specification actually isn't too bad. It might not have the goodies such as climate air and electric seats, but it does have a leather-covered steering wheel with controls for audio, phone and cruise control, full connectivity, and the full suite of safety aids including stability control.
Not only that, but as I cruised to work early last week the onboard computer warned me that the outside temperature had dropped below 3C and therefore the road conditions could be icy. That was a nice feature to have, too.
The Nissan X-Trail wagon isn't faultless, however. It's biggest failing is its lack of power.
The engine that also powers the Qashqai and various Renault vehicles including the Megane and Fluence, in this case offers 102 kilowatts of power and 198 Newton metres of torque. When mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission, as it was with our test vehicle, it is lacking in grunt, seemingly having to work hard to haul along the 1426 kg vehicle. So quite obviously, the performance potential of this wagon is nowhere near those of the bigger-engined X-Trails.
But if you are prepared to forgive this wagon for its lack of power - or choose the manual version and work it harder - then in every other respect this latest Nissan is an appealing vehicle.
Actually the X-Trail wagon is a bit like many of us as we move through middle age. We might no longer be among the best-looking around, and our turn of speed might not be entirely acceptable anymore, but we're honest and loveable - and cheap to run.
- © Fairfax NZ News