“Top practicality, a hard-wearing interior and go-anywhere ability make the X-Trail a brilliant family SUV.”
When it comes to practical family transport, the Nissan X-Trail is hard to beat. Front and four-wheel drive versions are available, both of which are good to drive. Nissan has long been renowned for its strong reliability record, and that shows no sign of changing in the X-Trail. Unlike many family 4x4s, the Nissan is actually very capable off-road, so if you need to venture off the beaten track it will do the job. There isn't much rear legroom, but the boot is large and versatile. Overall, there's little not to like.
The X-Trail is only available with Nissan's 2.0 dCi diesel engine, but it comes in two forms – 148bhp and 171bhp. Both variations have plenty of low-down pulling power, and they're quiet at speed. The Nissan is a good tow car, while the 171bhp version has an impressive braked towing weight limit of 2,200kg. Visibility is good and the hill-start assistance makes it easy to drive up steep slopes. Nissan estimates that around a quarter of X-Trail buyers will use their car off-road, so it's designed to be very capable on rough terrain - but it's equally happy and well-suited to the road.
There is a bit of wind noise at speed, but that's to be expected from a car with the X-Trail's boxy proportions. Aside from that, it's quiet and comfortable inside. The suspension ensures the car rides smoothly over rough surfaces and there's very little road noise either. The diesel engines are quiet too, even when you're driving them hard.
The X-Trail scored four stars for adult and child occupant protection and two stars for pedestrian protection in the Euro NCAP crash test. That's not the class best, but it's on a par with rivals like the Toyota RAV4. Front, side and curtain airbags are fitted as standard, as is electronic stability control, hill descent control and four-wheel drive. All models come with an immobiliser, deadlocks and locking wheel nuts, too. The X-Trail didn't appear in the 2010 Driver Power survey, but Nissan finished 13th in the JD Power Satisfaction survey, which is above average.
With the rear seats in place, there's an impressive 603-litre boot, which extends to 1,012 litres when the seats are folded. There are also drawers in the bottom of the boot, which are useful for keeping valuables out of sight. Up front, there are large door bins, chilled cup-holders and a big storage box in the middle of the dashboard. The only downside is with legroom in the rear, which could be better.
Value for money
The Nissan is competitively priced against rivals like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but it's known to suffer from quite heavy depreciation, so it's worth haggling for a discount from new. Entry-level Acenta models are well equipped and come with climate control, Bluetooth, alloy wheels, cruise control and more. Range topping Tekna versions add satellite navigation, electrically adjustable front seats, leather trim, parking sensors and metallic paint.
The 171bhp engine returns 44.1mpg and 168g/km of CO2, putting it into the annual £180 band H for road tax. The lower power 148bhp variant is actually pricier to run because it's mated to an automatic gearbox, which uses more fuel. Expect 39.8mpg on average and emissions of 188g/km, so you're looking at £235 per year for road tax.