Nissan X-Trail Review
If you’re going to base a big family SUV on another SUV, it helps if that’s the biggest-selling SUV out there. As you can probably see from these images, the Nissan X-Trail is just an overgrown version of the Qashqai that has been such a hit with consumers, but it’s managed to carve out a character all of its own. Comfy, roomy and capable of breezing through its family bus duties, this is one of those cars against which all its rivals are judged.
Select's rating score* - 3.1 / 5
At a Glance
Available with a choice of five or seven seats, the Nissan X-Trail is one of those spacious, practical cars that will slot easily into family life. It isn’t the most inspiring car out there and nor is it the most modern, but that doesn’t matter when it’s comfortable, well built and roomy. It isn’t without its faults, but it’s one of those solid all-rounders that performs decently across the board.
The different versions are something of a mixed bag, with basic Visia models proving exceptionally basic. The Acenta model would be a more fitting starting point, what with its two-zone climate control, panoramic roof and automatic windscreen wipers, but that does without the touchscreen infotainment system. You’ll need the mid-range Acenta Premium for that.N-Connecta cars improve things a bit, but the Tekna is the desirable one, offering bigger wheels, heated seats and a Bose sound system.
The X-Trail isn’t especially revolutionary in any way, but it’s very good at doing the simple things well. A case in point is the sliding rear bench seat, which allows you to trade off boot space against passenger legroom if you so wish. If you’re carrying lots of luggage and very few people, you can reorganise the seating plan to suit, and the same goes if you need to prioritise people over boot space. It also allows you to tweak the amount of space available for those in the rearmost row of seven-seat cars.
Similarly simple but effective is the Luggage Board system for the boot floor, which allows a divider to be raised, segregating areas of the boot. That means your shopping is less likely to fly around and you can keep muddy boots separate from your weekly shop. It’s the simplest ideas that make the most impact on your life.
But the X-Trail also has all the mod-cons you expect these days. Navigation systems, a posh sound system and heated seats are all present on range-topping examples, along with the heated steering wheel – a seemingly superfluous invention that, believe it or not, will change your motoring landscape. Especially in winter. We’re big fans of the Bose hi-fi, too, and the electrically operated tailgate found on N-Connecta- and Tekna-spec cars.
Performance & Drive
Engine options are fairly limited for the X-Trail, which means customers essentially face a choice between the 1.7-litre diesel and the 1.3-litre petrol. The petrol might sound too small for such a big car, but with 160hp it’s punchier than you might imagine, although the diesel is still the engine of choice.
The 1.7 dCi 150 engine comes with 150hp and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and although that sounds less potent than the petrol, its mountain of torque means it’s actually faster. Getting from a standstill to 62mph takes 10.7 seconds compared with the petrol’s 11.5, so the diesel feels beefier as a result and that suits the image of a big, lumbering SUV quite well.
That might be down to the gearbox, though, because the diesel is also available with an Xtronic continuously variable transmission, which does a passable impression of a proper automatic but adds a whole two seconds to the 0-62mph time. The petrol, meanwhile, comes solely in seven-speed auto guise.
Of course, nobody really cares about 0-62mph times in family 4x4s, so all we really need to say is that the X-Trail is just about fast enough for day-to-day driving. But it isn’t what you might call quick, and it doesn’t handle that well, either. Numb steering and a real sense of lean through the corners (thanks, high driving position) mean it doesn’t really put the ‘sports’ in ‘sports utility vehicle’. If you like driving fast, this is not the car for you.
If you like driving about in comfort, however, the X-Trail might be right up your street. It rides well, with a wallowiness that’s lovely on the motorway but slightly less welcome on twisty back roads. Keep it going more or less straight, and you’ll find it quite cosseting, and Nissan’s efforts to soundproof the cabin work pretty well. It isn’t as silent as a Rolls-Royce, of course, but it’s pretty good for something in this class.
There’s also a modicum of off-road talent on offer should you choose a four-wheel-drive version of the X-Trail – although such a choice leaves you stuck with the 1.7 dCi 150 diesel engine. Thanks to their decent ground clearance, even front-drive X-Trails are fine for the odd grassy field or even a farm track, but four-wheel drive is what you’ll need for anything more serious. Choose that, though, and the X-Trail will do things you might not expect, and it’ll follow Land Rovers into most situations. Not all situations, though. This is still a family SUV at heart.
If you want to keep running costs down, then you’re going to have to go with the 1.7-litre diesel engine. In front-wheel-drive, manual guise it’ll do well over 40mpg on the official economy test, and you can probably get that on a long run – provided you drive fairly sensibly. Going for four-wheel-drive or the Xtronic gearbox will damage that efficiency slightly, however.
Thanks in part to the government’s somewhat ill thought-through war on diesel, there are plenty who won’t fancy the 1.7-litre engine, but they had better brace themselves for big bills. Officially, the 1.3-litre DIG-T 160 will do up to about 35mpg, but bear in mind the size of the engine and the occasional need to push it when you want to get up to speed. Something in the low 30s is probably more realistic.
From a company car perspective, the X-Trail struggles to make a compelling case for itself. Other car makers are building plug-in hybrid vehicles that really cut your tax bill, but with the current-generation X-Trail’s days numbered, Nissan hasn’t bothered. That means the least polluting model – the two-wheel-drive 1.7 dCi 150 manual – will still put you in the 31% bracket at best. Go for a more luxurious model with bigger wheels and it’ll cost even more.
If you want the automatic or four-wheel drive, meanwhile, you’re going to be faced with an even bigger bill. For reference, the petrol engine slots into the 34% tax bracket regardless of the trim level and wheel size fitted.
Nissan improved the X-Trail’s cabin greatly as part of a mid-life facelift, but with the car coming to the end of its life, the Nissan is starting to feel its age. Even so, it’s a reasonably high-quality environment, with some soft plastics on show and a relatively clean design. Comfy, well sculpted seats only aid the impression. There are quite a few buttons – a design feature that’s rapidly going out of fashion – but they’re logically laid out and they feel reassuringly substantial when you press them.
That said, the plastics used do feel a bit cheap and shiny in places, which spoils the overall feel a little. But for all that, the car feels as though it will last the course. Everything is well stuck together and nothing is likely to crumble under the pressure of marauding children or boisterous pets. And in a family car, that’s what matters most.
Despite Nissan’s insistence that it’s forward-thinking in every way, its products are invariably let down by sub-standard infotainment systems, and the X-Trail is no exception. The seven-inch screen is a bit small by modern standards, and although improvements have been made over the years, it still feels a bit ‘last-gen’. The functions are fine and the menus are fairly logical, but some of the virtual ‘buttons’ are still a bit too small and the graphics are decidedly old hat. It’s like going back to a big, boxy cathode-ray TV after years of using a 50-inch UHD flatscreen. It works, and you can still do all the things you want to do, but it just isn’t as good.
That kind of sets the tone for a car that’s basically been in production for seven years and is now nearing the end of its life. Everything works okay and it does most of the things you expect, but the car is still missing the style and panache of more modern rivals. A Seat or a Skoda is going to be much easier to use from a technology point of view.
Happily, the system, which is standard on Acenta Premium, N-Connecta and Tekna models, comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which offer much more up-to-date interfaces and allow you access to the functions of your smartphone. To be honest, once you’ve tried one of these systems you probably won’t go back to the standard infotainment system of any car, no matter how good it is.
Once you’ve rigged everything up, you’ll be able to play your music through the on-board sound system, which varies in quality depending on the car you’re driving. Basic Visia cars get a measly four speakers, while mid-range models upgrade to six. But the highlight is the swanky Bose system that comes as standard with the top-of-the-range Tekna model.
Practicality & Boot Space
Whether you’ll find the X-Trail practical depends largely on what you need and whether you choose five or seven seats. Stick with the standard five-seat version and you get a sizeable 565-litre boot that expands to almost 2,000 litres when you fold the rear seats down and fill it to the roof. That means it’s slightly smaller than some rivals with the seats upright, but it’s still huge. And when the seats are folded, it’s on a par with the competition.
Opt for the seven-seat version and you’ll get a pretty puny 135-litre space when the third row of seats is in use. And when you fold them away again, the five-seater’s 565-litre boot is reduced to 445 litres. Still, it isn’t tiny by any stretch of the imagination – you won’t find that much space in the back of a Golf or a Focus – and 99% of the time, it’ll be all you ever need.
The trade-off for that 1% is the ability to carry seven people, although space in the third row is a bit tight for adults. Getting in is tricky, and once you’re in the seat you’ll struggle for leg- and head-room – particularly if you’re tall. Kids will have plenty of space, though, and they’ll always love the novelty of sitting in the boot.
Whether you go for the five- or seven-seat versions of the X-Trail, you’ll find a decent amount of room in the front and rear/middle row of seats, but beware of the standard panoramic roof on all but the cheapest Visia models. That does affect headroom slightly, so exceptionally tall rear-seat passengers might find the headroom a little tight. If you’re under six feet tall, though, you’re unlikely to have an issue.
Fortunately, you’ll have plenty of room to stretch your legs. Legroom is good across the board, and depending on your needs, you can trade legroom for boot space if the need arises. The bench seats slide forward, allowing you to shift the seats around to suit the situation.
The X-Trail received a solid five-star Euro NCAP crash test score when it first came out in 2014. Since then, both the car and the test have been updated, but the score remains as an indicator of the X-Trail’s very respectable safety credentials. It wasn’t particularly outstanding in any one area, but it performed well across the board, and a jack-of-all-trades performance means it’s going to put your mind at rest when you’re hacking about the country.
While you’re on your travels, the car will be working hard to keep you safe, with a host of safety gadgets on offer. Gizmos include adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front, and blind-spot monitoring that alerts you when there’s a car in one of the hard-to-see areas over your shoulders. Intelligent Emergency Braking is on the menu, too, hitting the brakes automatically if you fail to stop for an obstacle, while lane departure warning is also on offer.
And that’s all in addition to the usual plethora of airbags and Isofix child seat mountings that appear across the X-Trail range. The result is a car that’s going to keep you and yours as safe as possible on the road.
The X-Trail range is quite large, with five different trim levels to choose from, but it’s fairly straightforward. Basic Visia models come with 17-inch alloy wheels, manual air conditioning and cruise control, but that’s about your lot. You do get some safety gizmos and a glorified digital trip computer, but otherwise it’s all pretty mundane stuff. That said, chrome window trims and door handles manage to make the car look more upmarket than it is.
Realistically, though, you’ll be looking at the Acenta model or perhaps something even more luxurious if you want to waft about in comfort. That means you get two-zone climate control, automatic headlights and rain-sensing windscreen wipers, not to mention a panoramic glass roof, rear privacy glass and leather trim on the steering wheel and gear knob. And the Acenta Premium is where there’s value to be found, because that gets the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation and a 360-degree manoeuvring camera.
Above that is the N-Connecta model, which comes with larger 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, roof rails and a power-operated tailgate, and the range-topping Tekna. That car adds 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery and electrically adjustable heated front seats. You get heated rear seats, too, along with a heated steering wheel, LED headlights and a Bose audio system.
The options list is quite short, though, with the option of seven seats available across the range, while Tekna models get different leather options and driver assistance tech on the 1.7 dCi 150 Manual versions. Otherwise it’s a choice of some quite lively paint colours, including two reds, the bold Monarch Orange and the rather lovely Sapphire Blue.
If you’re judged by the strength of your enemies, the X-Trail is a shirt-shredding Hulk among four-wheeled creations. It’s up against some incredibly talented rivals, including the brilliant Skoda Kodiaq, Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace and Seat Tarraco. Based on identical underpinnings, those cars offer a really compelling mix of comfort, space and style, although the VW does all that with a marginally more premium edge. Skoda has just announced some updates for the Kodiaq, though, and the Tiguan Allspace’s future looks uncertain.
If you want to look elsewhere, consider the freshly revamped Hyundai Santa Fe, Peugeot 5008 and Kia Sorento, all of which are incredibly capable large SUVs with surprisingly premium interiors. If, on the other hand, you don’t really need seven seats and you’re a keen driver, the Mazda CX-5 only really lags behind the Porsche Macan and BMW X3 in terms of handling prowess. And it’s a classy, upmarket family car, too.
On the other hand, those seeking comfort might prefer the Citroen C5 Aircross, while those in search of seven-seat luxury will find the Mercedes-Benz GLB and Land Rover Discovery Sport very pleasant companions. The five-seat-only DS 7 Crossback might also appeal to those who want something a little quirkier.
Verdict & Next Steps
If you prioritise comfort, space and reliability above all else, the X-Trail is for you. And that’s a good thing, because, let’s face it, most of us really do value all those things – particularly in a family SUV. The biggest Nissan is one of those cars that does everything you need of it in a fuss-free, assured kind of way, and that makes it reassuringly dependable. Exciting it ain’t, but family life is tough enough without worrying about whether your Italian sports car will start in the morning. For peace of mind, an X-Trail is going to be a great choice.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Nissan X-Trail
**Correct as of 30/04/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1987.09 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.