GATHER your pals for dinner and, as they take their places at the table, kick off the chat by asking them what car, in the entire history of cars, has done more than any other to transcend the boundaries of class, age and gender.
After five minutes of fevered brow-furrowing, during which all Fords and Vauxhalls will have been discounted, up the ante a little by warning your guests you won’t serve the main course until you get a satisfactory answer. Retreat to a safe distance before someone blurts out “Molksmagen Molf!” while peppering the room with bullets of half-chewed prawn cocktail.
Argument and counter-argument will follow, until someone remembers the original Mini while snaffling a second helping of roast tatties. Heads will nod in unison, mutters of “why didn’t I think of that?” will be heard, and the survey will be over. Victory to the Mini! Car of the common people! Of movie stars! Of royalty!
Then, midway through coffee and biscuits, a man in a tanktop will proclaim: “Actually, a diesel Subaru Legacy estate is all the car anyone will ever need,” and a hitherto pleasant evening will descend into anarchy as the wine flows and opinions become more forthright.
Allow me to muddy the waters further by nominating a fourth contender: the Nissan X-Trail. I covered more than 300 miles in one last week and, to pass the time, I decided to spot other X-Trails and the person or persons contained therein, so I could better understand who buys them.
In summary, absolutely anyone. I spotted dozens of X-Trails, and never saw the same combination of driver, passengers and other in-car contents twice. Men, women, old, young. Some had beards, many did not. Some had children in the back, others had dogs. Some had children and dogs.
Couples, singles. Some towed caravans with their X-Trails, others wore hats. Some drove fast, some drove slow. One smoked a pipe and one drove for five miles along the M9, indicating right while hogging the left-hand edge of the inside lane like a novice swimmer clings to the side of the pool, before leaving the motorway at Linlithgow. On purpose, I hope.
It’s not difficult to understand the popularity of the X-Trail. The first-generation car arrived a decade ago, at the height of the compact-SUV boom, when families were falling over themselves to trade in their estate cars for something with the same space but with heaps more rugged appeal.
Cheap enough not to be elitest, but expensive enough not to be a banner car for the terminally skint, the X-Trail sold like hot cakes. A few nips and tucks here and there, and it’s still selling yet.
It can do four-wheel-drive when conditions dictate – it even has a low-ratio gearbox for really testing stuff – but you don’t need to buy your clothes from Tiso to drive it. And because it’s a Nissan, it carries no airs or graces, for that is the Nissan way. Its towbar is as happy hitched to a polo pony’s horsebox as it is hauling a trailer of junk to the tip.
The driving position is slightly elevated and there’s a lot of glass, so the driver gets a good view in all directions. There’s acres of space for five adults and their luggage (the boot has all manner of shelves and drawers) and, if you help yourself to a top-of-the-range Tekna version, as we did, you’ll all be sitting on lovely leather seats. Tekna-spec cars also benefit from 18-inch alloy wheels, Nissan’s excellent Connect Premium sat-nav and hard-drive music storage system, and a sunroof that extends into the middle of next Tuesday.
Power now comes from a 171bhp two-litre turbodiesel, which impresses with its smoothness and eagerness to rev in a most undiesel-like way. It gives the 1.6-tonne kilogram X-Trail a good turn of speed, but emits barely a murmur. Not one that’s loud enough to drown out the constant tick-tick-tick of an indicator that’s been stuck on for five miles, at least.
Footnote: Someone in the office, who seems to think I’m some sort of expert in these matters (the fool) has just asked me if the X-Trail is supposed to be pronounced “Ex-Trail” or “Cross-Trail”. I’ve always assumed it’s the former, but I’m not sure what I base that assumption on, and the nearest Nissan dealership has closed for the evening, so I can’t ask a salesman. Time for another survey. So, all you X-Trail owners, how do you pronounce it? E-mail email@example.com, or visit our facebook page at facebook.com/scotmotors and let us know. Your prize will be an honourable mention in dispatches.
CAR Nissan X-Trail Tekna 2.0dCi
PRICE £29,850 (£30,737 as tested)
PERFORMANCE Max speed 124mph, 0-62mph 10.0secs
MPG 44.1 (combined)
CO2 EMISSIONS 168g/km
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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