Review: Nissan X-Trail

Nissan's most sophisticated and practical SUV

05 Jul 16 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Very practical

  • Safe and reliable

  • Precise steering

Cons

  • Loud auto transmission

  • Lots of body roll

  • Limp performance

Our expert rating

Nissan’s X-Trail underwent a bit of a metamorphosis back in 2013. The third generation transformed from a sturdy off-roader into a modern, cushy SUV - a very different car to that which first entered the market from 2000 onwards.

With a fresh new image, the latest generation of the Japanese made X-Trail looked to target a new type of customer.

Performance

At the time of launch there was just one engine available, and this 1.6-litre diesel is what will be found the most on the secondhand market. It isn’t the most powerful of power units, and a fully laden Nissan X-Trail may struggle to get a hurry on, but it does have decent low-down pull which is good for a heavier car.

It can be a little noisy, but the sound levels can be reduced slightly by sticking with the manual gearbox, as the ‘CVT’ automatic can be whiny and loud in nature. Though the 1.6-litre diesel may be lacking slightly in power, it’s very economical and capable of returning up to 57mpg.

As the X-Trail is a large and relatively heavy vehicle a figure like this is actually rather impressive. The X-Trail is available in two or four-wheel drive, but the X-Trail is no longer the tough off-roader it used to be.

For this reason, it’s better to stick to the two-wheel drive manual version, as this will return the best CO2 figures and therefore keeps road tax down to a low annual rate of £110.

Nissan X-Trail front

Ride and handling

Nissan has set up the latest X-Trail so that it’s easy to drive for anyone that jumps in behind the wheel. Modern SUVs are now all as easy to wield as a normal car, and the X-Trail is no exception.

The steering may be light, but it’s precise and should give drivers plenty of confidence. The handling itself is nothing to write home about.

Lots of body roll in corners is to be expected as the car is designed to only be comfortable. But this means it never feels confident and settled in fast corners. Off-road capability was sacrificed for better road behaviour and comfort in this generation of X-Trail, so don’t expect strong off-road performance with this particular generation of the car.

Nissan X-Trail interior

Interior space

The benefit of softening up the X-Trail becomes evident in the new quality of the interior space - everything is just that little bit more refined and comfortable. The dashboard design is smart and all of the controls are well positioned, while materials used are of a good quality.

‘Acenta’ trim level cars are the ones to try and hunt out as they provide the best balance of equipment against cost.

There’s plenty of space in the cabin and lots of cubby spaces for all of the family’s loose belongings. Helpfully, the second row of seats is very adjustable and can slide backwards and forwards as well as recline to make passengers comfier or boot space larger.

That space in the boot is 550 litres with the seats up, and a whopping 1,982 litres with the seats down, so the X-Trail is well capable of swallowing just about anything you can think of.

Nissan’s clever variable boot configurations also allow different ways to store goods and can be made into something resembling shelves.

Nissan X-Trail boot

What to know before you buy

Nissan has an excellent record when it comes to reliability and the X-Trail’s stablemate the ‘Qashqai’ has proven enormously popular with families. As a bigger version of that car, the X-Trail shouldn’t really have any issues to look out for.

It has a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, which gives confidence for family buyers, but if you don’t need seven seats it may well be worth looking at the Qashqai instead.

Nissan X-Trail side

Alternative cars

The Honda CR-V is the one rival the Nissan X-Trail should be really concerned about. It drives better, it has a much better automatic gearbox, and it feels a little bit more special. It’s also the world’s bestselling SUV.

Hyundai have made big steps forward in recent years and the Santa Fe shows off that progress. The big draw with the Santa Fe is it has a far more powerful engine than the slightly weak one found in the X-Trail, but it isn’t as practical.

BMW’s X3 is the pricey rival, being more expensive but displaying a notable step up in quality and performance, as it outshines the Nissan on and off the road and in the quality of the interior.

It won’t just be the car that costs more initially though, servicing and tyres will be far more than the Nissan.

Nissan X-Trail and Nissan Qashqai alternative

Overall verdict

The Nissan X-Trail is a good effort at an SUV and has immense practicality. However, the slightly weak diesel engine and the generally lifeless feeling you get when driving on the road lets it down.

That said, it’s cheaper to buy than some alternatives and builds on Nissan’s blossoming reputation as the family-orientated SUV manufacturer.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall