With its heated leather seats, a bright and voluminous cabin, an extremely versatile cargo space and four-wheel-drive off-road credentials, the X-Trail is angling for an over-achiever award – on paper at least.
Offering a 10 model line-up comprising four 2.0-litre turbo diesel variants and six 2.5-litre petrol engine variants, the X-Trail has been a steady performer for Nissan since its launch in 2001.
The second generation X-Trail remains a strong player in the compact SUV market, holding position as the number four selling compact SUV in a 21 vehicle segment. Year to date sales place it behind the better performing Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.
The X-Trail’s conservative, box-like physique has remained relatively unchanged for eight years. While its modern looking sibling, the Murano, leaves some buyers perplexed and opinions divided, the X-Trail’s appeal is far reaching and appears to stand the test of time.
The X-Trail’s 2.5-litre, six-speed engine makes light work of its 1554kg body weight. While no powerhouse, producing 125kW at 6000rpm and maximum torque of 226Nm, the X-Trail’s performance does not falter.
Acceleration from stand still is good and quick to respond, while travel through the six gears is smooth and power remains adequate throughout a range of revs. Swapping into M-mode, for manual gear selection, offers an equally efficient power delivery, although somewhat unnecessary for sealed road driving.
While the cabin is well insulated for sound, with overall road and tyre noise kept to a minimum, under hard acceleration engine noise is a little intrusive.
The X-Trail’s steering is light and almost a little vague at times, putting some distance between the driver’s intentions and the overall drive experience. The X-Trail remains composed through cornering, but a small amount of body sway and the soggy steering detracts from the overall drive experience.
While the X-Trail does possess off-road credentials, reality is that there are many that will never engage hill decent control or see the dust of an unsealed road.
A more common and equally rigorous test for the compact SUV is the suburban family test. Venture into schools zone around 9:00am and sedans are a rare sighting. Compact and even not-so-compact SUVs have fast become a popular choice of family car as a result of their size and functionality. The Nissan X-Trail passes this test with flying colours.
The Ti model sits in the upper spec region of the line-up – just below the range topping TL – and packs a great deal of value-for-money features as standard, including: leather seats throughout, the front are electric and heated; leather steering wheel; cruise control; 17 inch alloys; panoramic sunroof; rear park assist; 40/20/40 split fold seats; washable cargo liner; cooling/warming cup holders; climate control; chrome grille and door handles and halogen headlamps.
Cabin ergonomics are good, with most controls within easy reach of the driver. Steering wheel mounted cruise-control is a bonus, only to be let down by the absence of steering wheel mounted audio controls.
The dash, centre console and instrumentation is simple and intuitive, and splashes of chrome and silver plastics make for a more interesting contrast, but the finish remains quite hard and flat looking.
Electric seats and a large cabin make it easy to get comfortable in the X-Trail. The absence of reach adjust on the steering column is a serious oversight and hinders the ability of a range of drivers to achieve that perfect seating position. Seat memory settings would be a god send.
The panoramic glass sunroof, which extends over the second row, creates a bright and airy cabin, and adds to the great visibility. The wind deflector does a great job of protecting passengers when the glass is open.
The light steering of the X-Trail makes for fairly easy manoeuvrability, but combined with poor rear visibility, people, plants and inanimate objects are all at risk of injury.
While park assist is a helpful, standard option on the Ti model, this option was not working on our test vehicle, and a reversing camera should be standard on all such vehicles.
The X-Trail boasts a lot of in-cabin storage too, with a lidded dash top box, big door pockets, centre console, centre armrest box and smaller storage holes.
It’s out back where the space of X-Trail is set to impress. The split fold seats which offer a 40/20/40 functionality give great flexibility, from the simple to engage middle load through, to seats that fold flat to reveal a massive load space of 603 litres.
The cargo space offers a low load height for ease of access and includes a removable/washable liner, with a pull out drawer and concealed storage spaces. You’ll feel inspired to haul around more than necessary, just to play with this vehicles storage capability.
The process to fold down the seats however is a clumsy multi-step process that requires considerable effort. Fold the seat base upwards, remove the headrests and then fold the seat backs flat. Although the load space gained is worth the effort.
The X-Trail is not for the audio obsessed or tech-lovers, falling short of creature comforts such as iPod integration, Bluetooth and as previously mentioned, steering wheel mounted audio controls. The six-speaker stereo does however knock out a great sound through the large cabin.
A drive route weighted more to city-based driving returned fuel consumption figures of around 13.0 litres per 100kms travelled.
Safety features including: front, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; electronic brakeforce distribution; brake assist earn the X-Trail a four-star rating from ANCAP.
The X-Trail’s all-wheel-drive system is simple to operate. A single knob in the centre console lets you choose between two-wheel-drive, Auto or on-demand four-wheel-drive. In Auto mode, the car remains front wheel drive until it detects the need for more. Choose Lock mode to permanently fix the drive to a 50-50 drive.
Should you venture beyond the bitumen, the X-Trail offers a reasonable ground clearance of 200mm with an approach angle of 26 degrees and departure of 22 degrees, all of which are on par with its rivals, while wading depth is 350mm.
While the X-Trail doesn’t quite win the over-achiever award, its design less than inspired, and it’s on road handling leaves a little to be desired, there are few boxes this compact SUV doesn’t tick.
The clean conservative looks, sturdy stance and tried and tested credentials of the X-Trail make it deserving of its top ranking position in this segment and, in the absence of new competition, will likely secure it this position for some time.
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: