According to the latest figures the average UK family now has 1.9 children rather than the familiar 2.4 figure that has become the go-to stat.
I’ve never been an average type person so, perhaps predictably, our family boasts a higher-than-average three anklebiters.
A joyful as a houseful of ever-cheerful and cooperative children (aye, right) might be it poses a conundrum for a motoring journalist. How on earth do I transport two adults and three kids still in various sizes of car seat?
Over the last 20 years cars have got a lot bigger, offering more space for passengers. At the same time, however, child seats have gone from rudimentary plastic frames or simple booster cushions to huge, complex pieces of safety technology. As a result, the extra space afforded by cars getting bigger is instantly swallowed up if you have young kids. Most cars will take two child seats easily but try adding a third and you quickly realise that most rear benches simply aren’t wide enough to accommodate them.
So you’re into the realm of MPVs and seven-seaters, which brings us to this – our new long-term Nissan X-Trail. We’ve been impressed in the past by the X-Trail’s all-round capabilities so it seemed like a good place to start in assessing how different shapes and sizes of vehicles cope with a larger-than-average family.
Our n-tec specification test car sits one tier below top-of-the-range Tekna and before options weighs in at £29,620. Added to that is £550 worth of metallic “copper blaze” paint – which I’d skip in favour of black – and the all-important seven-seat upgrade (£800).
While the X-Trail can be had with a 160bhp 1.6 turbocharged petrol, our version comes with the 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. This only produces 128bhp but compensates with a healthy 236lb/ft of torque. Official figures claim 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 139g/km.
Of course, we haven’t seen the official economy figures but so far the X-Trail has proven impressively frugal for a vehicle its size. Even a recent trawl through Edinburgh that saw a nine-mile journey take an entire hour failed to bump economy below 29mpg, thanks presumably in part to the stop/start system fitted as standard to all diesel models.
All X-Trails are fairly well equipped but being near the top of the range, ours adds some blingy 19-inch alloys, the full NissanConnect system with seven-inch touchscreen, the Smart Vision safety pack and a handy powered tailgate.
It’s a fairly comprehensive specification, although the lack of voice control for the ents system seems like an odd omission in this day and age. Nonetheless, it’s streets ahead of our last long-termer.
As for that vital extra row of seats, the X-Trail is a lesson in simplicity. A single pull of a strap in the boot floor flips up each seat and despite being thin enough to fold away they’re well-shaped and supportive and feature a proper headrest. Another tug on the strap and the seats fold completely flat, leaving a good-sized boot. So far their use has been limited to fairly short runs but there are plans for longer trips and if there are any issues I’m sure I’ll hear about it.
The car in facts
Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel producing 128bhp, 236lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 116mph, 0-62mph in 11 seconds
Economy: 53.3mpg combined
Emissions: 139g/km of CO2