“Top practicality, a hard-wearing interior and go-anywhere ability make the Nissan X-Trail a decent family SUV.”
When talking about the practical family compact SUV market, you hear a lot about the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Santa Fe or the Skoda Yeti, but the truth remains that the Nissan X-Trail is still a decent off-roader. Dependable and enjoyable to drive, the current X-Trail is only available with four-wheel drive, and although it's good value to buy, it's not as cheap to run as a Ford Kuga. Nissan has a strong reputation for reliability, which shows no sign of changing in the X-Trail, and, unlike many family 4x4s, the X-Trail is actually very capable off-road if you do need to venture off the beaten track – when conditions get uneven, it certainly holds its own. Inside, Nissan has upgraded the interior, moving away from the utilitarian 4x4 feel in favour of something more upmarket. On the downside, the dashboard is bit clumsy and rear legroom is limited, but that's the price you pay for large and versatile boot. It comes in three specs – entry-level Acenta, mid-range n-tec+ and top-of-the-range Tekna – all of which come well equipped.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The 171bhp engine returns 44.1mpg and emits 168g/km of CO2, putting it into the annual £285 band H for road tax. Maximum speed is 124mph, and it goes from 0-60mph in 10 seconds – pretty impressive for an SUV. It does beat the CR-V for fuel economy, but both the Freelander and the RAV4 are marginally more economical, with slightly reduced running costs.
Interior & comfort
Even though it has quite a firm ride, the X-Trail is never hugely uncomfortable to ride in. The diesel engine is generally quiet, but road noise does become particularly intrusive on the motorway. Aside from that, Nissan has given the X-Trail a much more upmarket interior with a cabin that is quiet and relaxing to be in. As befits a capable off-roader, rough roads and uneven surfaces barely register inside. Legroom is reasonable, but adults will find it cramped in the backseat, though children will be fine. Also, the full-length sunroof does eat into headroom a bit.
Practicality & boot space
This is where the X-Trail performed particularly well in the Driver Power survey. With the back seats up, the boot offers an impressive 603 litres of luggage space, a full 193 litres more than its predecessor. Drop the rear seats (which fold flat in a 40:20:40 split) and that expands to 1,773 litres, more than 100 litres bigger than a Land Rover Freelander. The back is made from wipe-clean material for those off-road types with muddy boots, and you also get drawers in the boot that are very useful for stashing valuables away from prying eyes. In the front you also get large door bins, a big storage box in the middle of the dashboard and chilled cup holders. The only issue is a lack of decent legroom in the rear that makes it a bit cramped for tall adults.
Reliability & safety
Nissan placed 12th in the manufacturers’ table of the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, dropping a full eight places from fourth in 2012. The second-generation X-Trail itself dropped a hefty 13 places in the Top 100 cars, but still ranked at an impressive number 22, which is probably due to the age of the car (it's been around since 2007) more than anything else. If anything, it's testament to the SUV's reliability that it has ranked so high for an off-roader. Unfortunately that age gap is widened by its four-star rating from crash safety body Euro NCAP, landing it with the old Toyota RAV4 and behind almost everything else, as it's now becoming common practice for most new cars to get the maximum five stars. It scored particularly badly in pedestrian protection, getting just two stars. You still get front, side and curtain airbags fitted as standard, along with ISOFIX child-seat anchor points, electronic stability control, hill descent control and four-wheel drive. All models come with an immobiliser, deadlocks and locking wheel nuts, too.
Engines, drive & performance
You only get one engine choice in the X-Trail – Nissan's 2.0-litre dCi diesel. You can get it in two forms – a 148bhp and a 171bhp – but the former is only available in Tekna specification and an automatic gearbox, the rest get the smooth six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The more powerful engine's got good acceleration and is generally quiet, while the suspension is firm and feels controlled in the corners. It's also a good towing car, with an impressive braked towing weight limit of 2,200kg. Visibility is very good all-around, and you get hill-start to make it easier to drive up steep slopes. The X-Trail is designed to be very capable on rough terrain because Nissan estimates that approximately a quarter of all its buyers will use it off-road. But it's equally suited to road cruising, too. A thing to note, though, is that it is a bit slow to brake to a stop from when driving at speed.
Price, value for money & options
Priced competitively against rivals such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, the X-Trail unfortunately suffers quite badly depreciation, so it's definitely worth haggling down the asking price when buying new to balance out the uncertain resale value on the used market. However, those resale values are improving, so it's worth shopping around when it comes time to sell. Entry-level Acenta models are well equipped and come with climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, alloy wheels and cruise control fitted as standard. The top-of-the-range Tekna models add Nissan Connect 5-inch touchscreen sat-nav, electrically adjustable heated front seats, leather trim, parking sensors, BOSE audio system with nine speakers and a clever 360-degree bird's-eye-view parking system.