If you can’t afford a Range Rover right now, then try the Nissan X-Trail instead at half the price, says Dr Tony Rimmer
Every private practice has to start somewhere and the early days of growth can be a real financial strain. With every profit boost comes extra investment to improve premises and equipment.
The days of surplus income to spend on luxuries arrive later than you would expect, so during the development phase, compromises have to be made. This applies to family car we drive as much as anything else.
I am sure that those of us who are attracted by large 4×4 sports utility vehicles (SUVs) would love to afford a Range Rover Sport, but if your practice is re-investing for future growth, the £65,000 cost may be an unrealistic option.
So what alternatives do we have? Is there a way of getting most of what the Range Rover offers at half the cost?
Enter the latest Nissan X-Trail.
The third generation of this well-known model has become a different type of vehicle. Previously a boxy, functional and utilitarian vehicle in the mould of a basic Land Rover, the new car has metamorphosed into a classy quality product wearing a sharply-styled suit.
Making the most of the great success of the smaller Qashqai SUV model, Nissan has styled the X-Trail to look like a bigger version. The greater size gives a boost to interior space and allows the option of seven seats.
Available in four levels of trim and equipment – Visia, Acenta, n-tec and the flagship Tekna, my test car was the n-tec version and had 19-inch wheels, roof-rails and Nissan’s new NissanConnect multimedia system.
This would be the model to go for. Its standard equipment like the ‘around view monitor’ that aids parking with a bird’s-eye view of the car computed by cameras in the nose, tail and wing mirrors are features one would expect in a car costing twice as much.
Excellent fuel consumption
Unusually, engine choice is limited to one. A 1.6litre 128bhp turbo-diesel unit powers all models of all trim levels.
As most competitors offer 2.0litre turbodiesels, this would seem to be a risky manouvere by Nissan. However, they counter this argument by claiming really excellent fuel consumption figures: up to 57.6mpg overall (for the two-wheel drive model).
Although the X-Trail looks like a four-wheel drive off-roader, standard set-up is only front-wheel drive on the base models, which saves weight and improves economy further.
The interior design, like the outside, is based heavily on the Qashqai. This is not a bad thing and the dashboard looks modern and up to date.
A large seven-inch touch screen operates the sat-nav and audio system and a further five-inch screen in front of the driver displays further useful information.
Trim quality, while not up to Audi or Range Rover standards, is still a giant leap forward compared to the previous model and gives an up-market feel, which can be enjoyed by rear-seat passengers, who have excellent best-in-class head- and leg-room.
The rear-most seats fold up from the boot floor and offer room for an extra two passengers of small adult size.
If your private practice is young, it is likely that you have young children too. An SUV makes a lot of sense and has great appeal for families with three or more youngsters.
Loads of space
The ability to accommodate all the paraphernalia that family trips demand in a vehicle with loads of useable space has great influence on our buying choice. This is where the X-Trail excels.
Only the Land Rover Discovery can equal the available space in this Nissan and that is a vehicle that now costs at least £40,000 before extras.
Performance, as expected, is somewhat hampered by the modest engine size. With a reasonable 320Nm of torque, the X-Trail feels agile enough with a driver only, but fill the capacious interior with a further six passengers and the Nissan starts to feel sluggish and underpowered.
To compensate for the limited power, the gearing is short and I found myself really stirring the gearbox to keep a reasonable pace.
I would not recommend the optional £1,350 automatic gearbox, as this would just compound the problem. The X-Trail is not any slower than its rivals, but you have to work quite hard as a driver to maintain your speed.
So does the private practitioner on a restricted budget have to suffer too much if they choose the X-Trail as family transport?
Well, the new model is more car-like cross-over than rugged 4×4. It has the best and most useful interior space in its class and is only hampered by a smaller than average engine with no larger option.
It is smart, economical and great value for money at under £30,000, especially when you compare it to premium rivals.
I don’t think any of us professionals would feel short-changed and the compromise needed before practice profits allow an upgrade to a premium brand are minimal.
Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a GP practising in Guildford, Surrey