Introduced in 2005, the Nissan X-Trail undergoes a few changes for 2006. All models now receive two master keys. On the SE AWD A4 model, there’s a new Adventure Package option, which includes 17-inch alloy wheels, and a Hyper roof rail that deletes the standard vehicle’s fog lights. On the LE AWD, 17-inch alloy wheels replace the 16-inch. On the SE AWD with automatic and LE AWD, a Navigation System Package has been added, including a DVD-based navigation system with seven-inch colour screen and Canada and U.S. map data; the system deletes the cassette player, and replaces the six-CD changer with a single CD system.

Nissan’s compact SUV is currently unavailable in the U.S.; it’s been on sale in Japan since 2000. It’s available in front-wheel-drive or with an “All-Mode” active torque distribution management system. Front-wheel-drive models come in XE or SE trim; AWD models come in SE or LE. All use a 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder, mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Notable features include four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, polyurethane front fenders, a rear seat pass-through in the 60/40 folding seats, and a fibreglass-reinforced plastic luggage compartment floorboard that’s easily removed for washing. The much-heralded “heater-cooler” cupholders aren’t quite as fancy as they sound; the twin holders, mounted somewhat awkwardly on the outside corners of the dash, have vent ducts running to them. If you’ve got the heater or air conditioning on, the warm or cold air flows around your cup. It’s nice, but it doesn’t actually heat or refrigerate your drink, as implied. A console storage box has the same feature.

The base XE features air conditioning, power windows, heated power mirrors, cruise control, cloth seats, leather-wrapped wheel, power locks with keyless entry, CD player with six speakers, 16-inch steel wheels, privacy glass, and fixed intermittent wipers. In FWD it has an automatic transmission; in AWD, the base is a five-speed manual.

The mid-line SE adds the electric sunroof, six-CD player, heated cloth seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, variable intermittent wipers and fog lights. Like the XE, the FWD comes with the automatic, while the AWD starts with the five-speed.

The top-line LE comes in AWD only and adds climate control, leather interior, power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped gearshift knob and rear spoiler.

The boxy X-Trail works quite well; the powerplant is gutsy and smooth, and gives the little truck enough energy to hold its own. The steering isn’t as sharp as it could be, and the centrally-mounted instrument cluster just shouldn’t be. The power window switch is so far down on the dash that it’s all but inaccessible. A sunroof, standard on SE and LE models, is so big it almost feels like you’re opening up a convertible. (The down side is that you can’t use a floor-to-ceiling aftermarket cargo divider, like that intended to keep pets confined to the rear.) The X-Trail’s box-on-box styling is definitely a departure from the swoopy lines found on Nissan’s other offerings, but it does make this little trucklet look fairly rugged.

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