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The next-generation Nissan X-Trail will follow SUV convention. While that used to mean a boxy, upright 4X4 look worn by the current X-Trail and ancient Ford Escape, today’s breed of crossovers have more curves than edges, and daylight openings smaller than those on yesterday’s sports cars.

Not persisting with the X-Trail’s macho image means that the next-gen car will look less out of place when lined up alongside crossovers siblings like the Juke, Qashqai and Murano. We first saw the rounded X-Trail as the Hi-Cross Concept from Geneva 2012, before patent drawings filed by Nissan in China gave us a clear look at the car’s shape and lines.

These pics by our spy photographers were taken at the USA’s Death Valley desert, the lowest and driest area in North America and a popular location for hot weather testing. Although the mule is fully covered in black disguise, it’s obvious that the Hi-Cross’ lines have been retained.

The Hi-Cross had a 2,780 mm wheelbase, a number that is between the current X-Trail and Murano, while its 4,660 mm overall length is just 30 mm longer than today’s car. The Geneva concept was a seven-seater SUV, so could the next X-Trail have a third-row option?