The steady and dependable X-Trail goes under our microscope.
The Nissan X-Trail was one of the trailblazers (sorry) of its kind. When it was introduced in 2001, it set itself on a different path, offering one of the best blends between utility, practicality, and off-road ability, wrapped in a boxy, upright, masculine design that sat comfortably between the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. It was usable enough for mum and macho enough for dad, which is why it has always sold in comfortable numbers.
But the first X-Trail could not have possibly foreseen its future, as the 3rd-generation X-Trail we have now is a massive departure from the model that precedes it, let alone the first iteration of the moniker. Its looks are now more mainstream than they used to be, with interior appointments, features, and refinement all feeling more European than Japanese. This consistent seller now offers seven seats, a rarity in its segment, and promises excellent value through the range.
“The third-generation X-Trail has done away with its predecessor’s boxy aesthetic and now sports a curvaceous and Euro-inspired look in the hope to win over the more style-focused urban dweller.” - CarAdvice
The first generation could be likened to a brick, while the second generation worked on that and looked like an updated brick. All slab-sided connotations must be banished immediately: This new X-Trail is pretty. It has curves and creases rather than straight lines and folds. It looks distinctive, and it looks contemporary. While not as outrightly aggressive as the Mazda CX-5, it’s not as benign as the Honda CR-V either. It’s balanced, that’s what it is.
If you think the X-Trail has grown, you’d be right. It’s now so long that you can get up to three rows inside, while the roofline is a little lower to make it look less upright. LED daytime running lights are standard across the board, giving the Nissan wagon a little jewellery. We quite like the high-mounted width-emphasising rear lights, and the standard alloy wheels (no cheapskate steel wheels here).
Engine & Drivetrain
“The volume engine is a 1.6-litre diesel with 128bhp, which is a mixed blessing.” - TopGear
The X-Trail is offered with no less than three engines, with two petrols and one diesel. The range kicks off with a base 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol, producing a modest 106kW and 200Nm. Smooth and relatively subdued, this unit returns a decent 8.2l/100km based on testing cycles. Moving up is the 2.5-litre petrol, also four-cylinders, which packs a more commendable 126kW and 226Nm. Fuel consumption for this bigger unit is rated at just 7.9l/100km, with the larger power plant not having to work quite as hard to haul the body along.
The sole oil-burner here is a very, very humble 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, nicked from Nissan’s French partners, Renault. This ageing unit pumps out just 96kW, but torque stands at an impressive 320Nm, available from just 1,750rpm. This makes the pulling power usable through the rev range, which is great when paired continuously variable (CVT) automatic. It’s a little unrefined though, especially under heavy acceleration, though it settles down nicely on the motorway. Fuel consumption is rated at 5.3l/100km.
The X-Trail is available with either a continuously-variable (CVT) automatic gearbox on higher models, while 4x4 diesels and lower-end petrols get a 6-speed manual gearbox instead.
“Nowhere does the new Nissan X-Trail demonstrate how much it’s changed from the previous model than inside.” - CarBuyer
While the exterior looks like a bloated Qashqai, the interior puts a little more distance between the X-Trail and its smaller sibling. The X-Trail is far more business like, with subdued tones and lines, making it look more sombre.
All X-Trails get features like a touchscreen head unit, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and keyless entry and go. Electrically-folding mirrors are a boon too, as well as a reversing camera. See what we mean about good value?
Behind the Wheel
“The soft suspension means the X-Trail leans heavily in corners. And while light steering makes it relaxing to drive around town, you do need lots of lock, even for shallow corners.” - WhatCar
We’ll kick this off by reminding readers that the X-Trail is, above all else, a family wagon. As such, its main priorities were not to be engaging, but to be comfortable. And ‘comfortable’ is the best way to describe how the X-Trail trundles along, with a pliant ride isolating the cabin from all but the harshest bumps. The steering is light, making it a doddle around town, but it can be slightly disconcerting at motorway speeds.
The X-Trail is available in both front-wheel and four-wheel drive, though the latter sends power to the front axel most of the time. The CVT is surprisingly smooth and refined, though not completely free of the ‘rubber band’ feel that plagues transmissions of this type. The six-speed manual is serviceable, and offers little in the way of engagement.
“The X-Trail gets a full complement of airbags. The more expensive Ti and TL models have lane-departure and blind-spot warnings.” - WhichCar
No car can aspire to be a real family wagon without strong safety credentials, and the X-Trail is no different. All variants get six airbags (two in the front, two on the outer edge of the front seats, and curtain airbags), electronic stability control, and bright LED daytime running lights as standard. The front seats also come with seatbelt reminders, while the rear seats have ISOFIX tethers.
Of special note are the curtain airbags, that several parties have commented on for not extending all the way to the third row of seats (for 7-seat models). Those extra two seats in the back are also lacking seatbelt reminders. Despite this, the X-Trail was awarded a five-star score by ANCAP.
The X-Trail we see now is just as strong a contender as the first iteration of the moniker from 2001, though it’s managed that for different reasons. The third-generation model was more a revolution than an evolution, and the changes are certainly for the better. It’s now more relevant, more competitive, and more value-driven than before, which is probably why it needs little help moving from showrooms to driveways, day-in and day-out.
We recommend going for the ST-L variant of the X-Trail, as the 2.5-litre petrol engine works very well with the CVT automatic to provide a quiet, comfortable experience. We suggest that prospective owners think long and hard about the extra two seats though, as their inclusion reduces outright load-lugging ability and raises the sticker price. Either way though, the X-Trail is a value-driven contender that will undoubtedly continue to make many families very, very happy.
CarAdvice - 65/100 - “If you’re in the market for a seven-seat mid-sized SUV, then the Nissan X-Trail – with its spacious cabin with comfortable front seating and good use of storage – could present an interesting option for you. But there are better options out there.”
WhichCar - 90/100 - “The Nissan X-Trail has a big cabin with brilliantly configurable second-row seating, and it is one of the few mid-sized SUVs you can get with seven seats. It is good to drive, and all but the least costly models have part-leather trim and satellite navigation. You can specify a peppy petrol engine or a very thrifty diesel.”
TopGear - 80/100 - “The new X-Trail is softer and more sophisticated. Less rugged, but more family-friendly.”
WhatCar - 80/100 - “The X-Trail strikes a happy medium between affordable running costs, a versatile and spacious interior, and accomplished on-road dynamics. We’d still strongly suggest you look to cheaper alternatives such as the Nissan Qashqai or Mazda CX-5 if you’re in any doubt about needing the X-Trail’s extra space and seven-seat potential. However, if you’re set on the model, it won’t disappoint.”
AutoExpress - 80/100 - “The Nissan X-Trail shares much with the smaller Qashqai, but is more practical, and more comfortable.”
CarBuyer - 84/100 - “The Nissan X-Trail looks, and drives, like a large Qashqai. And that’s a compliment.”
The Telegraph UK - 70/100 - “The Nissan X-Trail is easy to drive and easy to live with. It won’t empty your wallet at the pumps, and it should offer trouble-free motoring for years to come. You also get the option of two - admittedly very small - extra seats. If you can live without them, though, you'll get the best the X-Trail has to offer. That said, if five seats are enough, we'd also take a look at the Mazda CX-5. It doesn't come with as many safety features, but it's better to drive and will be even cheaper to run.”
AutoCar - 70/100 - “This is a handsome, habitable, usable and efficient family SUV – and those are the right boxes to tick for buyers migrating to its niche. But for veterans for the class who do the occasional bit of towing and more, it may seem a bit of a lightweight, and for us it’s just a tad too soft.”