The Nissan X-Trail continues to be a popular choice for medium SUV buyers. Though it's not the segment leader, there is a charm about it that attracts a consistent buyer base.
When it comes to seven-seat SUVs, the options are limited in the medium segment, where the X-Trail competes with the Mitsubishi Outlander and even the Mahindra XUV500. Beyond that there are large SUVs like the Holden Captiva, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, the Kia Rondo crossover and people-movers like the Honda Odyssey, Kia Carnival and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.
So far this year, the X-Trail is the third-biggest-selling medium SUV behind the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson, but the Toyota RAV4 isn't far behind. In 2015 the Nissan finished third behind the Mazda and Toyota.
The toughest competition for the seven seat X-Trail is the Outlander and the Nissan has a clear advantage when it comes to price. The range starts at $31,990 before on-road costs for the entry level ST front-wheel-drive, and the Outlander seven-seat range starts with the mid-spec XLS 4WD at $36,490.
The value proposition gets a little tougher when you look our test car, the mid-range Nissan X-Trail ST-L, which is also 2WD and is priced at $38,090 plus on-road costs. The 2WD petrol ST and ST-L variants (both with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, automatic) are the only two available with seven seats - 4WD, manual, diesel or top-spec Ti models come with five seats only.
The X-Trail maintains an impressive cargo volume at 550 litres with the third-row seats folded flat, but with the rearmost seats up there's 135L of space. Its spaciousness is likely part of the attraction for buyers, when you compare it to the CX-5 with 403L of space and the Hyundai Tucson with 488L. Cargo space and seven-seats are the key factors behind the X-Trail's popularity.
The ST-L scores 17-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights with LED daytime running-lights, front fog lamps, and chrome trims that adorn the grille, window surrounds and door handles. It's finished in Tempest Blue which compliments the chrome finishes and LED DRLs nicely in this writer's opinion.
The X-Trail ST-L has a solid list of features including a 7.0-inch media screen with satellite navigation plus a rear-view camera with surround view which is designed to give an overhead view of the car. The around-view camera takes a little bit of getting used to due to the fisheye effect at the seams, unless this technology is done exceptionally well, a well-executed rear-view camera is all you need. The warped surround-view simply leaves you feeling like you're having an out-of-body experience.
Entertainment-wise you'd be left wanting for nothing (except Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto connectivity): it has a CD player, MP3 capability, radio and DAB+, USB connectivity, the NissanConnect system as well as Bluetooth handsfree phone and audio. Your time spent on the road is made more enjoyable thanks to cruise control, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and warmed and cooled cup holders in the front that run off the climate control system, as well as push button start and a smart key. It doesn't have rain-sensing wipers but you do get auto headlights.
The seats are quite comfortable, big, wide and they feel like lounge chairs. The armrest on the door and the top of the centre console bin are beautifully padded and increase the seated comfort levels. The seats are also are electrically adjustable with leather accents that you'll also find on the steering wheel and gear shift.
The second row is well catered for storage-wise, too, with cup holders in the centre armrest and bottle holders in the doors. The second row has 40/20/40 split fold seats and there are air-vents. There is ample space for teenage or even adult passengers, with plenty of headroom and lots of knee-room if you aren't using the third row because the second row can be slid fore and aft.
In the third row, however, there are no air-vents - you will find those in both the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe - but there are bottle holders and the seats are 50/50 split fold. During our time with the car a couple of fellow CarAdvice employees, including Matt Campbell as you see in the video above, spent time in the third row and found it incredibly cramped and so bumpy that they felt ill.
The suspension composure of the X-Trail is one of its shortfalls. We also had a Nissan Qashqai in the garage at the same time, and the difference in both ride comfort and cornering performance between the pair is astounding. If Nissan is in your blood and you only need five seats and wouldn't miss the extra cargo room, you'd have to be bonkers to buy the X-Trail over the Qashqai.
Out on the road the ride is quite sharp at city speeds and transmits every little bump through the cabin. That sensation is amplified in the second-row, then again for third-row passengers. It does soften up at highway speeds but falls behind class leaders in this regard.
The X-Trail ST-L has a 2.5-litre petrol engine that produces 126kW and 226Nm, it's teamed with a CVT with manual mode. The throttle can be quite touchy and things get a little 'all talk, no action' at times. Even at urban speeds, if you jump on the throttle you'll hear a lot of noise but that won't match the propulsion. This became even more apparent when trying to overtake on the highway, as it's slow to accelerate when on the move.
That being said, if you're content to meander along and go with the flow, the X-Trail is a better highway cruiser than it is roundabout-wrangler. The brakes feel a little wooden when engaged and the feel underfoot through the pedal takes a bit of getting used to, and it has a foot brake instead of a handbrake or electric park break (something the Qashqai scores).
The towing capacity of the 2WD X-Trail is 750kg un-braked or 1500kg braked so if you need a higher capacity you'd have to consider the five-seat 4WD diesel variants that have 2000kg braked towing capacity.
Taking a look at ownership costs, the petrol X-Trail drinks 91RON regular unleaded fuel and the combined fuel economy is a claimed 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres, while on test we saw an average of 10.2L/100km.
The X-Trail comes with Nissan's three-year/100,000 kilometre warranty with a capped-price servicing plan and roadside assist. Maintenance is due every 12 months or 10,000km, and the plan is capped at six years or 120,000km. Over a three-year period you could spend as little as $250 per annum on average if you don't do many miles (10,000km), but if you're a long-distance driver that could balloon to $560 per year if you travel 20,000km per annum.
If you're in the market for a seven-seat mid-sized SUV, then the 2016 Nissan X-Trail - with its spacious cabin with comfortable front seating and good use of storage - could present an interesting option for you. But there are better options out there.
The base-model ST is better-priced, and if you can overlook its equipment shortages, it could be one of those better options. But, if you're prepared to pay more and drive away with the better-equipped ST-L, you'll still need to be willing to overlook a few on-road shortfalls.