The Nissan X-Trail has been with us in one form or another since 2000, and is about to launch in its fourth generation. Along with its smaller Qashqai sibling, the X-Trail SUV has brought much success for the Japanese manufacturer in the burgeoning market for big and chunky off-road style cars. With the choice of either four wheel drive or two wheel drive form, as well as the option of a third row of seats to give it seven seats in total, the X-Trail has proven itself to be a flexible family SUV.
There is an all-new model of the X-Trail coming in 2022, but this Nissan X-Trail review will focus mainly on the current third generation version of the car, and give you the information you need to decide on whether this seven seat SUV is the right choice of family car for your needs. We will look at factors including the exterior, the interior, its performance, and the combination of trim levels and engine choices. Read on for your whistle stop tour of the Nissan X-Trail SUV.
One of the factors that appeals most to SUV buyers is the no-nonsense, go-anywhere styling of an SUV. Nissan was early to the SUV party with the X-Trail, and got the formula right very early on, with boxy looks and plenty of practicality.
The styling of the X-Trail has gradually softened as it has been reinvented during its lifespan, to meet changing tastes of buyers. The square, bluff looks of the first incarnation have been rounded off a little in successive Nissan X-Trail models, but its prominent grille and tall body still make this unmistakably an X-Trail.
The chunky SUV styling masks a practical family car which boasts up to seven seats, making it a more appealing option for image-conscious family buyers than an equivalent MPV. However, aside from the grille there is little in the styling to get excited about. This will work for many buyers, but newer rivals such as the recently-facelifted Skoda Kodiaq look a little classier in comparison.
The Nissan X-Trail hails from Japan, which has a reputation for efficiency, logic and functionality, so the clearly laid out dashboard comes as no surprise. The interior is of decent quality and is well screwed together, but the standard perhaps isn't quite that of rivals, particularly German offerings, with some evidence of hard and scratchy plastics which are focused on durability rather than aesthetics. While it may not be the plushest of interiors, it should certainly stand up well to hard family use without showing signs of wear too soon.
The interior style prioritises function over form, so don't expect a triumph of design in the X-Trail's cabin. However, the cabin is suitably attractive and inoffensive, and the interior is brightened a little by some contrasting black and silver inserts.
Everything is very easy to find in the X-Trail's interior. Those buyers who are more technology-averse, or who just prefer simplicity, will welcome the presence of chunky and solid-feeling buttons to operate the main controls, rather than a massive infotainment screen requiring endless searching through menus to turn the air con up a bit, as you see with some rivals. This reduces the risk of distractions out on the road, but does risk making the Nissan X-Trail a little outdated compared to some of its peers.
The touchscreen in the centre of the dash mainly controls the infotainment and sat nav. It can be a little ponderous to use and isn't quite as sharp as some of the systems available in other cars, but otherwise it works very well and is intuitive to use.
It is easy to get comfortable inside the Nissan X-Trail, with plenty of adjustment available in the supportive front seats. The X-Trail has a tall roofline, so there is a reasonable amount of headroom for the driver and passengers, even as far back as the third row of seats for seven seater versions.
The Nissan X-Trail comes as standard with a fixed glass panoramic sunroof, which gives the interior an airy feeling. It does reduce the roofline a little, but this should only concern the tallest of passengers. The cabin is also large enough to allow for plenty of legroom for everyone, although taller passengers may not appreciate long journeys in the third row.
The high driving position gives reasonable visibility all around the car, but some drivers may find the large C-Pillars and comparatively high rear screen a little obstructive when reversing. However, Nissan added front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera into the X-Trail to mitigate this, which helps prevent undue neck-craning.
Practicality is key in a family SUV, and the Nissan X-Trail doesn't disappoint in this regard. The doors and tailgate are all large, and open widely to allow easy access into the cabin and boot space. The huge tailgate will appeal in particular, with a wide opening revealing a square load area.
The rear seats are flexible, with a 60/40 split fold function and a centre armrest which contains cupholders. The middle row of seats slide back and forth as standard to give either more rear legroom or boot space, and this also helps to allow access to the rear row on seven seat versions of the X-Trail and give the occupants slightly more space. The rearmost seats are admittedly better suited to children, and the space for adults is limited, with little knee room for taller people.
There is plenty of space for nick-nacks, with a number of large cubbies dotted around the cabin to swallow drinks and everything else that the average family needs to cart around with them. The third row of seats lift easily from the boot floor and can fold down flat to avoid any cabin intrusion, making the load area large, square and practical. There is no load lip in the boot, so large items can slide in and out easily without having to be manoeuvred over a ridge, making this the perfect car for lugging big loads around.
The Nissan X-Trail is reasonably sprightly to drive, and given its size you might be surprised to find that there is only a 1.3 litre petrol engine under the bonnet. The 1.3 litre turbocharged petrol engine does punch above its weight, offering an impressive 157bhp which enables it to cope well in most driving conditions. It can be a little sluggish when pulling away from stationary, particularly when you have the whole family and their luggage aboard, but once you're on the move, the X-Trail performs well enough, with sufficient power to keep up with the traffic flow on faster roads.
The X-Trail has a seven speed auto transmission as standard, which does most of the heavy lifting and making the X-Trail fairly relaxing to drive. If it had a manual gearbox you might have found that it would need to be worked hard to get the best of the available power.
The Nissan X-Trail has a compliant ride, but the suspension is rather softly sprung and can make it feel a bit wallowy in corners. The golden rule is to look for X-Trail models with smaller wheels, as larger wheels can make it crash around on uneven road surfaces. The X-Trail is a tall car, so the soft suspension makes for quite a lot of body roll, and also a bit of wind noise and buffeting at higher speeds.
If you do need a more sure-footed driving experience, you can find examples of the Nissan X-Trail SUV with optional four wheel drive, which improves traction and gives you slightly more confidence in poor road or weather conditions. However, more recent versions of the X-Trail are now front wheel drive only.
Earlier versions of the Nissan X-Trail SUV offered a 148bhp 1.7 litre diesel engine which returned up to 47 miles per gallon, but this has since been dropped in favour of a single 1.3 litre turbocharged petrol unit mated to a dual clutch automatic gearbox. Expect up to 38mpg from the petrol version, with fuel economy of around 35mpg in real world driving conditions.
Standard equipment levels in the Nissan X-Trail are reasonable, with even the entry-level Visia model featuring Bluetooth, Cruise Control, DAB Radio, Air Conditioning and 17" alloy wheels.
The next version up the X-Trail range is the Acenta Premium model, which offers extras including rear privacy glass, extra stereo speakers and dual-zone climate control. The Acenta Premium versions are the most popular models on the used car market, so are a better bet as a used buy in combination with the seven seater versions and four wheel drive cars.
The Nissan X-Trail SUV scored a full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, but this was back in 2014 and the Euro NCAP standards have become more stringent since then, so it may not stand up to greater scrutiny in the future.
The X-Trail has a good amount of safety equipment as standard, including a brace of airbags, chassis control and stability control to maintain composure on the road, and ABS brakes. Four wheel drive models also have extra traction to add to the safety package. You can be confident that the Nissan X-Trail SUV will offer a decent standard of safety for you and your family.
The Nissan X-Trail does have some known reliability issues, particularly around electrical faults, so look carefully at its service history to look for signs of previous problems that may not have been solved. Do ensure that your X-Trail has been serviced on time and that all wearable items have been replaced at the right time.
We wait to see what the future has in store for the Nissan X-Trail as the new version of the car is launched during 2022, but in the meantime the current version of the X-Trail remains a decent used purchase for family SUV buyers. It is a practical car with plenty of space for the family and their luggage, and opportunities for even greater flexibility with versions that offer four wheel drive or seven seats to suit the needs of most buyers.
Performance and fuel economy is around average for the class, and while quality and refinement isn't quite up to the standard of some newer rivals, and the engine choice is arguably a little limited, the Nissan X-Trail has a well built and durable interior which will stand up to the harshest abuse that children and families could throw at it. The Nissan X-Trail is a genuine seven seater SUV with genuine capability as a practical family SUV.