The Nissan X-Trail ST 2.0L is the only manual option offered in the all-new model’s eight-variant range. Yet, while the transmission may seem limiting for some, for those happy shifting their own gears, the entry-level SUV is anything but.
Starting at $27,990 the Nissan X-Trail ST 2.0L exclusively pairs front-wheel drive with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
Mechanically on par with base mid-size SUVs from the likes of Mazda, Honda and Toyota, the X-Trail ST 2.0L is marginally more expensive than the Mazda CX-5 Maxx ($27,880) and Honda CR-V VTi ($27,490) but cheaper than the Toyota RAV4 GX ($28,690).
Measuring 4640mm long, though, the five-seat X-Trail ST 2.0L means you do physically get more car than with any of its key rivals.
Standard equipment is also high and includes a six-speaker stereo with five-inch central display screen, cruise control, reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and hill start assist.
LED daytime running lights are also included along with dusk-sensing halogen headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels and a neat little rear spoiler.
Another impressive feature standard on all new X-Trails is active ride control.
Constantly monitoring road surfaces for undulations that could impact vehicle pitch, the system alters suspension damping to compensate wherever necessary.
Sadly, driver aids such as moving object detection and blind spot and lane departure warnings are all reserved for the flagship $44,680 four-wheel-drive Ti model, while parking sensors aren’t even optionally available.
And while the Nissan’s 1000mm by 1020mm boot is not the biggest in capacity at 450 litres – the X-Trail falls short of the RAV4 (577L) and CR-V (556L) though pips the CX-5 (403L) – its trick ‘Divide-N-Hide’ cargo system is a unique bonus.
Teamed with an elevated 40/20/40 split-folding second row bench seat that expands loads space to 1520L – and which slides and reclines – the X-Trail’s flexible cargo system claims to offer up to 18 different configurations.
Comprising a three-position boot floor, underfloor storage, a storage shelf and space to stow the standard cargo blind, the ‘Divide-N-Hide’ system is well thought out, highly practical and relatively easy to use.
Continuing that theme is the Nissan X-Trail ST’s engine and gearbox.
Developing 106kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4400rpm, the 2.0-litre unit produces more power and torque than its equivalent predecessor, while claiming a more than 3.5 per cent reduction in combined cycle fuel consumption (8.2L/100km). That said, most figures are matched if not bettered by its main competitors and on test we averaged 10.1L/100km.
Punchy but not super torquey, the naturally aspirated four-cylinder is comfortable cruising around at low revs and will happily pick up from between 1800-2500rpm.
Partnered well with the tall-sticked six-speed gearbox’s notchy but light shifts, the linear engine is content doing most of its work between 2000-3000rpm but does offer more meat between 3000-4000rpm.
With that urge easing off by 5000rpm, revolutions approaching the engine’s 6750rpm rev limit are mostly unnecessary, provided you’re not planning on routinely testing out the X-Trail’s CRV-matching 1500kg braked towing capacity – the latter being mid-way between the CX-5’s 1800kg rating and the RAV4’s 800kg limit.
Nestled into the extremely comfortable and supportive but not heavily bolstered cloth driver’s seat, road and wind noise easily penetrate the cabin. Though, sitting on chubby 65-profile Goodyear tyres, the 1437kg base X-Trail rides exceptionally well.
Thumps and bumps are audible, however, the Nissan maintains high levels of composure and control over most surfaces, with only severe potholes or road imperfections able to taint the nice but not-quite-premium cabin ambience.
Body roll is present – as you’d expect in a 1710mm tall SUV – but helped by active ride control wizardry, the Nissan X-Trail sits impressively flat when changing directions, even when driven enthusiastically. Here too the X-Trail’s sound brake feel and ample stopping power inspire confidence.
Nicely weighted and consistent, the steering is also serviceable in my books either around town at low speeds or in more dynamic driving conditions.
Responsive off-centre and sharp enough to pick up even small steering inputs, the electro-mechanical system provides enough feedback to let the driver know if the front wheels are starting to over spin or push.
Less good is the thick and heavily raked A-pillar that’s smack bang in the way when trying to look around right-hand bends.
Awkwardly sized and positioned, it means drivers must resort to either leaning forward to look through the windscreen or dropping back in their seat and looking over the wing mirror – not ideal either way.
Luckily, vision over the shoulder and from the mirrors is top-notch, aided by small C-pillar cut-outs between the rear passenger windows and the tailgate.
The rest of the interior holds a degree of neat, if a little basic, simplicity.
A soft-touch dash top, silver air-vent surrounds, chrome door handles and gloss black trim accents around the audio unit and gear lever surround are all wins, alongside easy to use climate controls and rear air vents.
A soft arm/wrist rest located on the driver’s side door is another smart addition, and is particularly appreciated when fiddling with the somewhat awkwardly positioned power window switches.
Harder, scratchier plastics make up the majority of other trim – including on the dash, doors and centre console flanks – while the squishy non-leather steering wheel is let down by audio and cruise control buttons that are not as smartly laid out as those on rival vehicles.
Plenty of storage areas including cubby holes and hard plastic cut-outs boost ‘real-world’ liveability and are joined by a large glove box, four cup and four bottle holders and an intelligently compartmentalised 205mm-deep centre console bin – the latter missing out on any felt or rubber lining, however.
In-boot luggage hooks and a 186cm – or six foot one inch – maximum tailgate height are other convenient pluses.
Rear seat room too is likely to win fans. Massive amounts of leg and shoulder room make the Nissan X-trail’s second row feel dimensionally large, though, headroom is slightly more restrictive.
Like all five-seat variants, our Ivory Pearl ST also gains a centre seat that can be folded down to reveal an armrest with two cup holders.
Unfortunately, the audio unit and complicated NissanConnect smartphone app are at the root of the biggest frustrations with the all-new X-Trail.
Making even menial tasks fiddly and clunky to complete, sound quality is one of the stereo’s few positives. Syncing and using a hands-free Bluetooth phone device can be a chore.
And, in our experience at least, the NissanConnect app takes some time to get working.
What’s involved? Paraphrasing the eight-step process detailed on Nissan Australia’s public website, you must: check to confirm the compatibility of your smartphone; search for the app from your respective app store then install it; register the app via your car’s VIN; connect your device to your vehicle, log in to the app with a previously created username and password; configure the app; select the apps you wish to use in your vehicle; and finally "Enjoy your NissanConnect mobile apps".
However, once you've paired up, the NissanConnect app gives you access to Pandora internet music streaming, Facebook and Google search apps – provided your phone is connected to both the vehicle and the internet.
A cause of significantly less potential heartache, is the Nissan X-Trail’s three-year/100,000km warranty, 24-hour roadside assist and myNissan capped-price servicing.
Covering the first six years or 120,000km of ownership, with 10,000km service intervals, the fixed-price scheme means services priced between $207.23 and $491.14.
Far from limiting, if a manual transmission fits your lifestyle, the entry-level Nissan X-Trail ST 2.0L is a comfortable, affordable and highly flexible medium SUV that’s also a genuinely capable and entertaining drive. But it lacks some of the polish of its class contenders and, combined with its technology foibles, is therefore held back from being a stand-out all-rounder.