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  • Fantastic space, good economy, smooth drive, great value in ST guise
  • No rear parking sensors, some interior details

8 / 10

Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
by Karl Peskett

Everyone is feeling the fuel-price pinch these days, but SUV sales are still going through the roof. It’s partly the reason why so many manufacturers are offering diesels. And some, like Nissan, are offering two-wheel-drive versions of their SUVs.

But Nissan’s reason for releasing an X-Trail which is front-wheel-drive only is more about grabbing market share than saving fuel. In fact, CEO of Nissan Australia, Dan Thompson, admitted why the Nissan X-Trail 2WD was brought to market.

“We are confident that our specification advantage, combined with a dynamite $27,990 driveaway launch price position will vault the Nissan X-Trail to the top of the shopping list for couples and families in the market for a practical and flexible vehicle of this type,” said Mr Thompson.

“We are sending a strong message to the market that we are serious about improving our market share and sales position still further in 2011.”

Forgive me, then, for approaching the X-Trail 2WD with a healthy dose of cynicism. After all, it’s even lost the 2.5-litre engine, which was never a rip-snorter anyway, and replaced it with a smaller engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder. And the ST-L, which we tested here, has a lot of additional extras – which means it weighs more – plus it’s only available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We’re not off to a good start.

Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review

Despite no external differentiation between the 2WD and 4WD X-Trails, climb aboard and the All-Mode selector knob has been cheaply replaced by a raised cavity blank. It looks like a tiny recess for putting coins into, until you realise that a 50 cent piece will never come out because you can’t get your fingers in there to get it out… and 50 cent pieces don’t react to magnets – once it’s in there, it’s staying there.

It’s starting to look like this car is a mistake. The whole point of an SUV is to be able to go off road, and a front-wheel-drive won’t do that. With a huge back end able to be loaded, front-wheel-drive is also a disadvantage because the rear gets weighed down, which unloads the front wheels, meaning getting traction is extremely difficult. But it’s not time to throw in the towel just yet.

The X-Trail is a wonderfully practical car – it always has been, no matter which model you buy – and I’ve always been impressed by it. The fact that you can load two prams side-by-side plus have two baby seats and a third person in the rear row, as well as having cooled drink holders, strorage for any sort of paperwork or books you’d like and still have room for extras, means the X-Trail is one of the best examples of packaging in the Compact SUV segment. And none of that has changed in its transition from 4WD to 2WD.

Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review

You’d also think that because the 2.0-litre engine is only producing 102kW that progress is going to be unhurried, and you’d be right. But it’s not dangerously so; in fact it’s more of a leisurely pace. Because it’s so smooth, thanks to the CVT, it’s a very relaxed drive – soothing, even. That applies for the rest of the drive experience.

The steering is ultra smooth, perhaps lacking in genuine feel, but it faithfully obeys inputs. The ride is also very nice, save big potholes which can thump a bit, and it treads a good balance between firmness and comfort.

The engine can be buzzy when overtaking or getting up to speed quickly on freeway on-ramps, however around town it goes about its business with a distinct lack of fuss, and without hurting your wallet, either.

On test we achieved 9.1 litres/100km with mostly city-based driving duties, which is not far off the 8.4L/100km ADR combined cycle Nissan lists officially. For those interested, the manual version (which only comes in ST trim) uses 0.1L/100km more than the CVT.

Just like its all-wheel-drive siblings, the X-Trail 2WD comes with a load of safety gear, like ABS, Brake assist, ESC including traction control, active brake limited slip (which forces torque to go to a wheel which is not spinning), six airbags including side curtain bags, active headrests and seatbelt pretensioners.

Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review

With a back end this big, though, the omission of parking sensors is a serious oversight.

Inside, that huge boot still allows for heaps of load area, and with the underfloor trays using dividers, there’s plenty of stowage. It’s advisable to remove the luggage cover; it does eat into the available space sitting as low and far back as it does. The dash also has a massive lidded space which can take wallets, keys and other items, and the doors will take bottles as well.

The funny thing is the X-Trail doesn’t react badly when you load it right up. While you may think it’ll claw at the road, struggling to take off, it just doesn’t. Fully loaded, it does suffer a little with its lack of torque (198Nm isn’t quite enough for its load-carrying capacity), but it never drives waywardly as a result.

The seat comfort is outstanding for both front and rear rows. The outboard rear seats are the best for older passengers, as the centre seat’s headrest doesn’t quite come up high enough for adults. Legroom for the rear is good and headroom for all is outstanding.

The main differences in the X-Trail 2WD between the ST and the ST-L are the additional luxuries. There are leather seats (instead of cloth) which are soft and not too slippery, and the front seats are heated. You also get six speakers instead of four, climate control instead of standard air-con, electric seats instead of manual adjustment, tinted rear windows, fog lights and a pocket on the back of the driver’s seat. It adds up to a $4000 price adjustment in favour of the bank manager.

Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review

If you can live without any of those minor differences, then the base price (with CVT) of $30,990 is certainly worth looking at. It has miles more room than the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi ASX, Kia Sportageand Subaru Forester, is far more comfortable than the Hyundai ix35, is a lot cheaper than a Mazda CX-7 2WD, is nicer inside than a Mitsubishi Outlander 2WD and has a bigger load area than the Toyota RAV4 2WD.

It’s weird. Looking at it on paper, I thought it would be woeful. But it’s not. Not at all.

In the world of front-wheel-drive SUVs, despite its name no longer describing what it can do, the X-Trail 2WD definitely holds its own.

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Nissan X-Trail 2WD Review
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  • Captain Nemo

    You would think they could of at least put a Nissan badge instead of that blank in the All Mode selector knob space.

  • James

    I`d pick a skoda yeti 1.2TSI 2WD

    • Able

      Agreed muchly. Does the boring things better and actually has character… Some say it’s ugly but look at the X-Trail.

  • nickdl

    Well for $35k you can get a much better Mazda6 or Mondeo wagon. No brainer to me if you don’t want AWD…

    • Xtrailconvert

      True, but the 2WD is only $27999 drive away and the local dealer didn’t under value my trade to compensate.

  • Mr Gaspo

    Practical car… I just cant come to terms with the boxy styling. If it looked better, I’d consider it as a family truckster. Still lots of people will be swayed by the price and the practicality.

  • Aussie bender

    I was expecting by “cheaper” 2wd it would be a 2L Turbo Diesel.
    Forget a thirsty, gutless petrol.

    • Xtrailconvert

      Currently averaging 8.1 litres per 100 km … not exactly thristy for this size vehicle.

      • BD

        What model is yours? I have the 2011 ST Manual 2WD and my average is 10.2 for suburban driving!!! Dealer said it would improve when the engine is run in but it now has almost 4000km and still no improvements!!!

        Question – does your engine sound really loud at speed? Sounds like an air-related wistle but only on excelleration. (Reminds me of the sound my BA Falcon made when the diff had gone). This car has made this noise since new so it’s nothing I have done to the car. Nissan tells me it’s ‘normal’ but it’s an incredibly irritating noise and I don’t recall the demo vehicle making this noise!!!

  • UnderBrakes

    Had a AWD earlier version, it rans around like all the others in 2wd…

    Excellant vehicle, never a issue

  • maximark

    Had one of these for a loan car the other day and I think it’s seriously under power compare to my 4WD 2.5l engine.

  • http://www.clearimagephotos.com braydenc

    That interior looks so dated compared to the competition.

  • Jimmy

    I still don’t get 2wd SUVs. What’s the point? Unnecessary height and body roll and not to mention the added weight which produces pretty average economy.

    • Bert

      The point of a 2wd is that 95% of SUV don’t go off road, people like to sit high on the road and look down on others.

    • Luke

      if you need room for large audio gear….Please suggest a better option

  • Tony

    old people have bad backs so like 2wd SUVs they don’t have to “climb down” to

    also Nissan dealers will install rear park sensors for free if you ask them…

    wave the cash… $30k buys you one of these and they’ll throw in metallic, 6yr warranty, mats etc. etc.

    these are just not popular SUVs so deals are out there

    • Rob P

      I agree. I am one of those “old” people with a bad back so the 2WD Suv takes the place of the station waggons that are painful to get in and out of.

  • Biker

    Is it just me or does the front end have a face like a circus monkey?

    • Xtrailconvert

      Totally agree. I love my X-Trail, but it could easily have a prettier face.

  • Old Dog

    For once there I actually thought you were going to give a negative review, and a little part of me cheered a little. Grow some coconuts ca.

  • pirakavezok

    I am prepared to tolerate the ugly front lights and C pillar but I cannot ignore the gutless engine. What is the point? Consumption is not very different from my 2.4 SUV.

  • Dave L

    The X-Trail does have the bigger boot, but with the downgrade in engine, would the Dualis + 2 be the better option, especially if you don’t use the rear-most seats? Not sure I quite get Nissan’s logic on this one.

  • kotmax

    If you compare the technical specifications for the Nissan X-Trail 2WD and Nissan Dualis 2+, you’ll find that in fact Dualis 2+ has more weight than X-Trial 2WD.

    • ross

      The X-trail 2WD and dualis(not the +2) share the same frame and engine. beware of parts availability. My friend’s dualis was involved in an accident then it took 3 months for Nissan to repair it due to parts not available in Australia

  • LB

    I like the idea of decent size car, throw the dogs in, sport bags, numerous children & adults etc. I don’t really need the 4wd as husband has that already but like the visibility and height of SUV. Like the current price tag of the 2WD and wondering what’s people’s experience of CVT and reliability so far?

  • JNA

    I drove an st model for a week as hire car in the country and I felt that it was a very good riding and comfortable car. I even thought engine was a 2.5 and not a 2.0 as I have just discovered. I also like the trip computer that gives instant fuel consumption reading depending on throttle application. Only thing I didn’t like is the sound proofing at the rear compartment as I always felt that there was a slight gap in the rear windows because I can hear wind and water splashes at the back which I wouldn’t in other cars/hatch.

  • Ian Gracie

    Great suv. Good space adequate power and economy and a great practical vehicle. Good finish. Upright driving position is fantastic if over 6 foot tall.

  • Blayne

    My wife and I just purchased the ST-L version for our family car. After months of research and test drives, we couldn’t go past the value. To cover the points raised above
    Why 2WD?
    Most of these types of vehicles (SUV’s) will never go offroad. I can’t imagine a CX7 going over a rocky incline! The 4WD system in SUV’s is supposedly more of a safety feature than true offroad ability. It costs more and increases fuel costs, not just through extra power required by the drivetrain but in weight. Thats why they put diesel motor’s in. To make the extra torque required by the drivetrain and to help reduce fuel costs.

    Why not just get a Mazda 6 or Mondeo?
    The X-Trail’s are aimed at outdoorsy people and families. As a mountain biker, I love not having to stretch to put my bike in the back. Having a station wagon or normal boot is too awkward to load in and out of. As a family car, the height of the car makes putting kids in car seats so much easier.
    My wife and I are both tall. Loading kids in a regular car is not easy, and has anyone ever thought about tailgate height? Nope? Most cars don’t allow for anyone over 5’10 to fit under the tailgate.

    Gutless motor.
    Yep, I thought that too. Being a “revhead” and loving my 200kw Hilux, a 102kw 2L seemed too small. Until I drove it. The motor is really smooth and the CVT compensates for the “lack”of
    power. The transmission hold the motor in the peak torque range and then
    does all the work making the car get to speed or up hills.
    Think about who will be driving these cars. They are not race cars, and anyone driving it will probably have kids or something in the boot. Why have a massive motor and fuel costs when 95% of driving will be short trips to the shops with the kids or dropping them at school?

    We got the ST-L with metallic paint drive away for $32250 and the extras at trade price. Considering the alloy wheels, leather interior, and climate control, no other car came close for the money.
    With small kids, spending big dollars on an SUV is a bad idea. Kids do damage to cars.
    I’ll install the Eclipse (Nissan OEM) touchscreen Sat/nav unit and reversing camera for $2300, making the total cost $34550. Is there any other SUV with leather and Sat/nav/bluetooth for under $35k driveaway?

    I guess the main point is, everyone has differing needs. If one car suited everyone, then everyone would drive that car.

  • Markus6664

    Blayne your comments are spot on – I previously had a 2003 T30 4WD X Trail and this seemed to be a nimbler and lighter vehicle than the current X Trail 4WD so I tried the 2 litre and have been pleasantly surprised by how well it goes and how cheap it is to run for what is a large and versatile car.  Its nice to be able to sleep in the back of a car thats returning 8l/100km. Its really noticeable that visits to the petrol pump have become less regular. Not an exciting car but very satisfying all the same,

  • Blayne

    Here’s an update on our ST-L.
    We’ve enjoyed the car to 2 years now and only put 18,000k’s on the clock. Most of the driving is to the shops and/or daycare. We get 9.1L/100 around town. We have loaded it up with all the kids stuff (portacots, highchairs, prams, toys, bikes,etc) and headed up the F3 (now the M1) for holidays. This is where it gets interesting. I drive up the coast every week and see cars running out of puff up some of the hills. I was thinking the little 2L in the Xtrail will struggle under the load. How wrong I was. With the cruise control set, the CVT does its jobs and keeps the Xtrail doing the speed limit all the way up and down the hills. The fuel economy dropped only slightly (0.1) on the highway, but we have never reset the fuel economy, so its averaging out over two years worth of driving.
    We have been very impressed with the car. No problems at all, the boot is massive and easy to use (tailgate is nice and high).

  • Jedi Master

    We drive one of these and love it. We like its boxy shape design and unique rugged appeal. The interior is uncluttered, spacious and have lots of storage compartments. We have no problems carrying a lot of things around thanks to its large boot! The seats are very comfortable and offers a lumber support for the driver’s seat. The large glass windows gives me and my passengers good all around visibility. Having the windows tinted was a good idea. It keeps the car cool and avoids having one side of your face and arm from being sun burned during the summer. For our 2WD CVT, the engine is quiet, the car is easy to drive all around and its also economical to run (9L/100km for city driving). It has more than enough power to carry 4/5 passengers with a full boot and still accelerate if I need to overtake.I don’t feel tired after taking the XTRAIL for a long drive. Its has cruise control, bluetooth, and loads of safety features. We fitted ours with rear parking sensors as a safety precaution when reversing. Price wise, we bought it brand new at a discounted price when Nissan did a runout sale promotion with no deposit at 1% interest for 3 years! Its a pleasure to drive, has all the features we wanted, we like its practicality, price and reliability.

Nissan X-Trail Specs

Car Details
ST (4x4)
T31 MY11
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$13,640 - $15,500
Dealer Retail
$15,080 - $17,930
Dealer Trade
$10,800 - $12,400
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
226Nm @  4400rpm
Max. Power
125kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
9.1L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:2000  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
215/65 R16
Rear Tyres
215/65 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Hydraulic damper, Shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Hydraulic damper, Shock absorber
Standard Features
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Hill Holder, Traction Control System
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Engine & Transmission
Limited Slip Differential
CD with 6 CD Stacker, Radio CD with 4 Speakers
Power Mirrors
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
6 months /  10,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Eng Scuttle
Country of Origin