Nissan X-Trail review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Nissan X-Trail has morphed from rugged 4x4 to car-like crossover, and will appeal to a much wider audience as a result

For: 
Smarter looks, leap in quality, effortless to drive
Against: 
Loss of character, seven seats a cost option, only one engine option

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The Nissan X-Trail has ditched its predecessor’s upright styling and mud-plugging focus and followed the lead of the road-biased Qashqai crossover. It looks much more sophisticated, has a far higher-quality cabin that can be crammed with technology, and it’s one of the most spacious cars in its class. 

The latest X-Trail is a much more crowd-pleasing car, and continues Nissan’s fine run of recent form in building family-friendly crossovers. It looks well capable of  challenging rivals like the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V and Hyundai ix35 in the mid-sized SUV class. 

There’s only one engine available: a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 128bhp and 320Nm. As standard, you get front-wheel  drive, but all-wheel  drive can be specified on any of the four trim grades (Visa, Acenta, n-tec or Tekna) for £1,700. A 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol X-Trial will come on stream in 2015.

Our choice: X-Trail 1.6 dCi 2WD manual

Styling

3.9

Glimpse at the X-Trail and you might initially mistake it for its little brother, the Qashqai, though the X-Trail stands a full 100mm longer and is wider and taller too. 

The ‘Qashqai XL’ styling creates a clear lineage in the range and is clearly aimed at pulling in buyers easily won over by a sharper new suit. Nissan’s given the car its own Led running light ‘signature’ at the front, while the bold wheelarches are supposed to hint at Nissan’s rugged 4x4 heritage. 

Entry-level X-Trail Visia models come on titchy 17-inch alloys so the car looks much more purposeful and well-proportioned in higher-spec n-tec or Tekna guises. These more generously equipped versions wear 19-inch rims, plus a wealth of toys inside.

Owners of the old X-Trail won’t recognise the new one from inside – Qashqai owners will feel right at home, however. The layout is identical to the Qashqai’s, exhibiting quality soft-touch materials and excellent fit and finish. On X-Trail Teknas, the dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch touchscreen interface, called ‘NissanConnect’.

As well as controlling all the usual navigation and entertainment commands, it allows occupants to access their social media accounts on the move, and makes parking a doddle with the ‘Around View Monitor’ camera system. This uses cameras in the nose, tailgate and both door mirrors to create a birds-eye view of the X-Trail. The display is a little fuzzy, but it’s a handy back-up feature for urban driving.

Driving

3.2

The X-Trail is no entertainer, but it’s easy to drive for such a bulky machine, thanks to light steering, an unobtrusive six-peed manual gearbox (the Xtronic CVT auto is an option) and a raft of safety tech. 

Nissan wants to offer a commercially viable, fully autonomous car by 2020, and the X-Trail benefits from some of that burgeoning technology. ‘Active Trace Control’ constantly monitors your speed and steering input, trimming your line through a corner if the car senses you’re going to run wide, rather than cutting in with juddering traction control once the car has lost grip. 

Active Ride Control appears too, using subtle engine braking to reduce oscillations over particularly bumpy roads, or over urban speed humps. However, it’s not enough to disguise a fidgety ride on the 19-inch alloys fitted to n-tec and Tekna X-Trails.

Nissan X-Trail side on

The 1.6 dCi engine develops 320Nm of torque – exactly the same as the old X-Trail’s 2.0-litre diesel. As a result, it’s just as punchy, but thanks to the smaller capacity, stop-start and a 90kg weight saving, the new X-Trial is 20% more efficient. 

On the road, the X-Trail gathers adequate pace, but given this car hints at tough-terrain ability and can be offered as a seven-seater, we’d sacrifice a little of that fuel-sipping attitude for some more load-lugging grunt.

Reliability

3.9

This X-Trail is an all-new car, right down to its chassis, so there’s limited reliability data for the time being. Impressively, it’s ageing predecessor still managed a 56th place finish in our 2014 Driver Power Survey, and the top areas owners criticised it for - quality, handling, and running costs – have all been vastly improved for this new X-Trail. Nissan itself finished 22nd in our best manufacturers tally, out of 34 total entrants.

The X-Trail hasn’t had its official Euro NCAP crash test yet, but we’re expecting a strong showing. The new Qashqai has already recorded a five-star rating, and the new X-Trail has plenty of safety tech in its arsenal to follow suit, including liberal usage of high-strength steel in the bodyshell, plus the Nissan ‘Safety Shield’ which incorporates emergency city braking and lane-departure warning systems.

Practicality

4.6

On first impressions, the X-Trail makes a great case for itself as a family-mover. Thanks to an all-new platform co-developed with Renault, the X-Trail has the most legroom in its class, and the rear doors open outward by more than 80 degrees. 

The rows of seating are arranged in a tiered theatre-style system, where every row sits a little higher than the one in front, for better visibility. This doesn’t come at the expensive of sufficient headroom, though.

Nissan X-Trail boot

Nissan won’t offer a long-wheelbase ‘+2’ version of the new Qashqai, meaning the X-Trail is the only seven-seater crossover in the current UK Nissan range. However, the two rearmost seats are actually an extra cost option, asking £700 even on the most expensive model. That seems a little stingy and we’d prefer it if the flat-folding chairs were included as standard.

Paying £1,700 for all-wheel drive bags X-Trail buyers an adaptive 4x4 system. This can be switched between fuel-saving front-wheel drive, an automatic 4x4 system, that deals out drive to the rear wheels under hard acceleration or in slippery conditions, or a locked 4x4 mode for the worst weather and off-road situations. Nissan expects all-wheel drive models to be the smaller segment of X-Trail sales and that should tell you all you need to know about this car’s road-biased, crossover metamorphosis.

Running Costs

4.7

Downsizing from 2.0-litre to 1.6-litre power pays dividends at the pumps for the X-Trail, which can return a claimed 57.6mpg in its most efficient two-wheel drive manual form. CO2 emissions of 129g/km mean the new X-Trail is also four tax bands cheaper than the version it replaces. It’s dropped 10 insurance groups too, which all adds up to cheaper running costs and an estimated 9% increase in residual values versus the old X-Trail. 

That could be a killer blow against the X-Trail’s rivals from Kia and Hyundai, which traditionally depreciate more rapidly due to their perceived inferior badge credentials.

Disqus - noscript

I kind of agree that this new X-trail will appeal to a wider audience, but...I reckon that unless a more powerful diesel is made available then most caravanners will be put right off. And given how 90% of the old X-trails are pulling tin sheds and Nissan is a major advertiser in the Caravan Club magazine, this has to be a bit of an own goal? Suppose that you're not pulling a caravan, then wouldn't you be better off with the Qashqai instead? And if you want 7 seats, then an MPV from somebody else would make more sense... So who exactly is this wider audience?

Notice how the Kia/Hyundai large 4x4s are both persisting with larger diesel units offering a lot more pulling power...

This is perfect for me, no caravan in sight but occasional 7 seater usage for kids which makes the Qashqai a non-option. The SUV styling is much more appealing too than my current Touran with its boxy MPV shape. 1.6 engine not an issue with today's traffic either! I just wish they'd dump the CVT gearbox and introduce a dual clutch similar to the VW group DSG....

This looks nothing like the X-Trail it replaces. The styling is ditto the new Qashqai which is not a bad thing. The engine choice is however limited and the one diesel offered can't be more than barely adequate pulling the fully-laden car. Forget the caravan. Nissan should offer at least the 2L diesel even if nothing else.

Looks very like a larger Qashqai. I suppose that was deliberate as Nissan will be hoping some of that car's popularity will rub off on the X-Trail

I'd definitely want to see a much bigger diesel engine before I'd consider buying. To be quite honest what I'd really like to see is the new Pathfinder that is out in the US adapted for the UK with a still bigger diesel. The new X-trail looks OK, but fully loaded with my family's stuff going up hill looks like a struggle, never mind with anything on the tow bar.

I suppose that some who are not very bright might just look at the number 2 versus 1.6 and not really using their brains and understanding that the 1.6 produces the same 320nm of torque that the old tech 2.0 did then they might be put off.

But those that do use their brains will reap benefits with the running costs (see the last paragraph of the article).

The Kia/Hyundai large 4x4s do offer a 2.0l with 6BHP more than the X, with the same 320nm peak torque, same towing capacity.They do also offer a 181BHP/383nm version but which starts at almost £30K.

You wouldn't want a 20 year old 3.0L diesel in these cars because it wouldn't be as strong as a modern engine and with every decade the power/torque per litre ratio improves. Most tow cars spend 90%+ of its life not towing so the economic benefits of improved and perfectly capable engine tech are plain to see.

lol, very droll I'm sure!

However, the truth is, the Kia Sorento offers 194 bhp for £26,700. OK, a bit pricey, but in the same ball park. If we're talking about the same car here, the Sorento has 422 nm from its 2.2 diesel. Quite a difference, especially since it'll be over a wider rev range.

Yep, the fuel economy suffers and emissions are worse, but when you're pulling a van, these things don't count for much anyway.

As for engine sizes, let's not forget the old X-trail 2.0 dci produced 147 bhp, even if the new 1.6 manages the same torque numbers, that lack of power strongly suggests that the new X-trail simply won't pull in the same way. Will it still be OK? Maybe, but I'm willing to bet people *will* be put off by the headline numbers, both of power and engine size, rightly, or wrongly! :)

Last updated: 16 May, 2014
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