2014 Nissan X-Trail review

What Car? drives the all-new Nissan X-Trail SUV. It comes with five or seven seats, and prices start from £22,995\. It'll need to match the high standards set by the smaller Qashqai if it's to be...

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Vicky Parrott
01 August 2014

2014 Nissan X-Trail review

Think of the new Nissan X-Trail as an oversized Qashqai, with a bit more off-road potential and the option of seven seats.

No longer is this Nissan’s durable, rugged and slightly dowdy 4x4 – it’s now got an efficient 1.6-litre diesel engine, a smart interior and a new focus on road manners rather than mud-wallowing ability. Entry-level models don’t even have four-wheel drive.

Even the versions that do have all-wheel drive benefit from an on-demand system, which means the front wheels are driven most of the time, with the four-wheel-drive system kicking in automatically when the terrain requires it.

It can also be locked into four-wheel drive for those serious middle-of-nowhere moments.

What’s the 2014 Nissan X-Trail like to drive?

While the X-Trail's on-paper credentials suggest it's a sophisticated on-road SUV, its hefty proportions, relatively slack suspension and slow steering make it feel more like a traditional 4x4 to drive.

It leans heavily in corners, and the body wobbles as you go over bigger bumps, despite having a system that applies incremental braking forces in response to big bumps in the road's surface, to try to reduce the amount of body movement.

Still, that’s the biggest criticism you can level at the X-Trail. The flip-side of the soft suspension is that it absorbs ruts and creases in the road, making it comfortable most of the time, even on the UK’s torn-up roads, despite the occasional jarring moment as it struggles to cushion sharper-edged potholes.

Although the light steering needs lots of twirling even for gentle corners, it does deliver enough bite and feedback at higher speeds, while also allowing for easy manoeuvring in town. 

Don’t be afraid to go for the front-wheel-drive models, either; this set-up offers plenty of grip, and you’re unlikely to notice any difference in road-holding unless you regularly drive in icy conditions or on tough off-road tracks.

The 129bhp 1.6-litre diesel motor is the only engine option from launch, and comes as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s not fast, and it feels quite flat at low revs, but you do get a progressive surge of acceleration. Once you get it going, there’s enough mid-range response to make the X-Trail feel punchy and relaxing to cruise around in.

An automatic CVT gearbox (dubbed X-Tronic) is available as an option on the front-wheel-drive models, and does a good job of making the X-Trail easy-going to drive. It doesn’t over-rev noisily if you ask for steady acceleration, and in normal use it keeps the engine in its sweet spot, making it easy to drive the car smoothly.

Refinement is perfectly acceptable, but not outstanding. Regardless of which gearbox you choose, engine noise is a constant companion at low speed, and it's very gruff even under moderate acceleration. However, it does quieten down at a steady motorway pace, and wind and tyre noise are easily ignored, making the X-Trail one of the quieter long-distance cruisers in a class of fairly unrefined cars.

What’s the Nissan X-Trail like inside?

This is where the new X-Trail has made a giant leap forward over its predecessor. There’s a good variety of material textures, it feels solidly put together and all the essential driver’s information and controls are easily understood – and where they should be.

All models get a height-adjustable driver’s seat and front armrest which, combined with the airy, spacious cabin, makes things very comfortable for those sitting up front.

The middle row of seats can be slid and reclined in a 60/40 split and, provided the seats aren’t as far forward as possible, there’s plenty of head- and legroom for tall adults to lounge in comfort; even three adults should be satisfied.

Getting into the third row of seats (if you’ve paid the £700 extra to get them) requires some serious dexterity, because you have to step up into the car head-first and duck through a fairly narrow gap behind the folded-forward middle seat.

Once you’ve clambered in, there’s a reasonable amount of headroom compared with other seven-seat SUVs – enough even for the average adult not feel hemmed in – but legroom is quite poor, as the floor is high, leaving very little footwell, so most passengers will have to tuck their knees up into their chests.

With the occasional seats folded, you have a flat floor and a big, 445-litre, well-shaped boot. Opt for the five-seat model, and you get a 550-litre capacity, with much of the extra space in a very convenient, two-box underfloor storage compartment.

Even base Visia cars get 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth, a USB input, air-conditioning and cruise control. Acenta is the best value, because it adds parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, sunroof, and auto lights and wipers, but most buyers will opt for one of the higher-level trims to get the big colour touch-screen and sat-nav system shown above.

Should I buy one?

If you want to carry seven people on a regular basis, you’re better off with a conventional MPV such as a Seat Alhambra.

However, if you’re set on the added versatility and cache of an SUV, the X-Trail is one of the better options out there. The way it drives is no revolution, but it’s comfortable, stable and classy inside, not to mention big and practical in both five- and seven-seat guise.

Not only that, but it’s also good value, particularly if you go for Acenta trim.

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Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCi Visia 2WD five-seat Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £22,995
Power 129bhp
Torque 236 lb ft
0-62mph 10.5 seconds
Top speed 117mph
Fuel economy 57.6mpg
CO2 129g/km

Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCi Acenta XTronic (2WD) auto five-seatEngine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £26,145
Power 129bhp
Torque 236 lb ft
0-62mph 11.4 seconds
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 55.4mpg
CO2 135g/km

Nissan X-Trail 1.6 dCi 4WD Acenta five-seat
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £26,495
Power 129bhp
Torque 236 lb ft
0-62mph 11.0 seconds
Top speed 117mph
Fuel economy 53.3mpg
CO2 139g/km