First there was one. The Honda CR-V has been “the people’s SUV” for close to two decades now, its de facto status in Malaysia cemented by archrival Toyota’s strange lack of interest in the segment. No, the truck-based Fortuner and Avanza-based Rush don’t count.
It’s no longer a free ride for Honda though, as the CR-V is facing a strong challenger in the Mazda CX-5. It may have started off as the alternative, but the CX-5 outnumbers the incumbent in trendier Klang Valley neighbourhoods these days, winning the visibility battle. I’m no cowboy, but I can tell you that carbuyers tend to stick with the herd – so many others cannot possibly be wrong, right?
Nissan knows the game because they’ve been in it before. One decade and two generations ago, when people still liked their SUVs rugged, the X-Trail was the CR-V’s sparring partner. The second-gen car, arriving here from Indonesia a few years late, used the same formula but didn’t catch on. It could have been that tastes have changed (or softened) while Nissan’s box stood still.
No sharp edges in sight now, as the third-generation X-Trail arrives in Malaysia just months after major markets Thailand and Indonesia, and in CKD form no less (it takes much longer to prep for local assembly as opposed to just ordering off the shelf). It looks throughly modern, is priced to match the two leading SUVs, and has some unique party tricks up its sleeve; so will it be a case of third time lucky for the X-Trail?