The Nissan X-Trail doesn’t get the plaudits afforded to the Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Tucson, but it’s almost as popular among Australian buyers looking for a practical, well-priced and trustworthy family car.
As such, the humble X-Trail is a vital car for Nissan Australia, being the company’s biggest-seller alongside the Navara ute. Here we’re looking at the updated and just-launched version that brings some worthy tweaks to an established favourite, in its entry ST form.
In many ways it’s the ST variant that makes the most sense, because affordability is a trait that plays to the Nissan’s strengths. It doesn’t necessarily have the cachet to match the best in the business at the top end of town, but down here it’s highly appealing.
Our test car is the X-Trail ST five-seater with automatic transmission, costing $30,490 before on-road costs — on par with a CX-5 Maxx, Tucson Active or Toyota RAV4 GX. Like the Mitsubishi Outlander, you can option a third row of seats for $1500. Very handy for occasional use, liking taking your kids’ friends home after a sleepover, or to the footy.
Cabin space is a selling point for the Nissan, and that doesn’t change here. Cargo space is 565 litres with five seats in use — 20 per cent more than the Mazda — and there’s an under-floor compartment in hose-proof plastic for dirty or wet stuff, and a 12V outlet. Nissan calls the twin-floor setup Divide N Hide. Yeah, right.
The back seats are also very spacious in terms of legroom and headroom, with room for three adults in the back row thanks to a mostly flat floor. Plus, unlike many rivals, they slide on rails, and recline. There are also standard rear air vents and large side windows (like a Subaru Forester) that create a nice atmosphere.
You get top-tether and outboard ISOFIX child-seat anchors, and while the seats fold 60:40 to stow longer items, there’s a clever flip-down through-loading section that allows you to seat two outboard rear passengers while sliding items between them.
Basics like this are where the Nissan is a winner. On the down side, those back seats are flat as a tack and offer minimal support, which may grow tiresome on long journeys.
Up front things are similar, yet appreciably different than before. For one, the Japanese X-Trail remains beautifully built, with a tough and hard-wearing feel giving the promise of longevity despite the kids doing their best to ruin everything.
There are also some tactile improvements to be found such as the softer leather console lid, soft-touch materials scattered about the place to liven up the otherwise austere plastics and that lovely new steering wheel that alone adds half a point.
Standard features include hard-wearing cloth seats, push-button start with proximity key, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, cruise control, a reversing camera, front/side/curtain airbags, 17-inch alloys plus a space-saver spare, and LED daytime running lights.
The 2017 update also brings Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) that will stop the car for you if you don’t hit the brakes, though only the higher-grade variants get fancier active safety tech like pedestrian detection, radar-guided cruise control and blind-spot monitoring.
The element that clearly lets the Nissan down its old-world infotainment. The tiny 5.0-inch screen here (upper grades get a bigger touchscreen) is a decade out of date, and there’s no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connections unlike a base Tucson. It also means the rear-view camera resolution is low, and the field-of-view limited.
On the upside, the Bluetooth audio quality is crisp and the system rapidly re-pairs to your phone upon start up. The setup works well enough, it’s just not very intuitive or modern — two things customer surveys suggest are vital.
Stylistically the MY17-Trail bears close resemblance to the 2016 car, though there’s a bolder new grille, revised bumpers and new wheel designs. People familiar with older boxy X-Trails such as the T31 series will still find this rounder iteration bamboozling.
There’s no change to the base engine, which when matched to the automatic is a raspy 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol (the base manual ST has a 2.0) making a fairly strong-for-the-price 126kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4400rpm.
The automatic transmission is a CVT, which is less drone-prone than many, and by its nature keeps the engine in its strongest torque band by virtue of its lack of defined ratios. Engine power is sent only to the front wheels, though for $2000 extra you can get an on-demand all-wheel drive system. If you only drive on sealed roads, 2WD is fine.
Claimed fuel consumption is 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle using 91 RON petrol, though our testing returned 9.4L/100km. People wanting more frugal fuel use and additional engine torque can spend $35,490 on the X-Trail TS AWD diesel. A bargain.
Dynamically, the X-Trail does what it has to do, and little more. Its ride is quite comfortable over cobbled roads or speed humps, with soft suspension and plenty of travel, and noise suppression is good. Better than we recall it being in the MY16 car…
The body control is average, given the propensity for some roll through corners. Certainly more so than the CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan. That’s the trade-off for the spongy suspension.
The steering with electro-mechanical assistance is extremely light and unresistant, which makes it a breeze around town, though there’s precious little feel or feedback. Not exactly a big problem for most buyers, we’d imagine.
The driving position will appeal, given the commanding road view afforded by the 210mm ground clearance and high seats, as will the well-sorted ergonomics — one notable exception being the naff foot-operated parking brake.
From an ownership angle, Nissan gives you a three-year/100,000km factory warranty with roadside assistance across the tenure. Nissan also offers advertised servicing prices, though intervals are 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first). Many rivals offer longer km intervals.
All told, the ST is probably the sweet spot within the X-Trail range, in either 2WD form as tested or with AWD for $2000 more. The cabin is low in frills, but there's a ton of space and practicality for the reasonable entry price, and the driving experience is uninspiring yet comfortable and competent.
The fact the MY17 car picks up that lovely new steering wheel and plusher contact points, as well as the AEB system, while retaining the old price only builds its case. At the $30k range the Nissan genuinely justifies its popularity. This is its heartland, and deservedly so.
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