What Car? says...
SUV means ‘sports utility vehicle’, and the Nissan X-Trail is a large SUV that looks geared up for a lifestyle featuring beaches, surfboards and cars loaded up with trekking equipment or mountain bikes.
To add to its appeal, the X-Trail can also be had with up to seven seats, making it an attractive alternative to an MPV. In other words, it's aimed at biggish families who want to go adventuring together.
In fact, unlike plenty of SUVs, it really is ready for an adventure if you go for the right version, because Nissan sells it with what it calls E-4orce. That version has an electric motor on both the front and rear axles to give you four-wheel drive for extra traction.
Oh, yes, the electric motor(s). All versions of the X-Trail have some form of hybrid electrification, from the entry-level mild-hybrid to the part-electric e-Power. We say ‘part-electric’ because the wheels of the E-Power are driven solely by electric motors, but the battery gets charged up by a turbocharged petrol engine.
Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Even so, the Nissan X-Trail has an army of versatile rival large SUVs and seven-seaters to contend with. It will have to tame the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Mazda CX-60, the Kia Sorento and the Peugeot 5008 if it’s going to come out on top.
So, should you buy an X-Trail? That's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this review. We'll cover performance and handling, practicality, interior quality, efficiency and more. We'll also tell you which version offers the best value.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
You can have your Nissan X-Trail in two different flavours, the first of which is a mild hybrid. That version, badged the VC-Turbo, gets its power from a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a small electric motor to boost efficiency. With 161bhp, there’s enough grunt for normal driving, but it needs working quite hard if you’re in a hurry and, in part because of a hesitant gearbox, it generally feels a bit laboured and jittery in its power delivery.
Then there’s the e-Power engine, which sits somewhere between the world of normal cars and electric cars. It has a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that never interacts with the front wheels directly. Instead, the engine charges a battery which then powers a 201bhp electric motor on the front axle. Because it mostly feels like an electric car when you drive it, it's significantly smoother and more pleasant than the mild-hybrid VC-Turbo.
We think that e-Power version is punchy enough, but there's also a more powerful four-wheel-drive version. The e-Power e-4orce has two electric motors, one for each axle, and 210bhp. It’s the most powerful X-Trail, and managed to sprint from 0-60mph in 6.9sec in our tests. While it never feels all that fast, the accelerator pedal is more responsive than in its hybrid car rivals, and it's more eager to pick up speed from stationary, with plenty of oomph for motorways.
Suspension and ride comfort
The X-Trail proves an effective shield from imperfections, only thudding through the worst potholes. It’s well controlled too. Despite the soft suspension, it never feels as floaty as the Citroen C5 Aircross and doesn't exhibit the same side-to-side sway over undulations.
If comfort is important to you, we suspect that sticking to the smaller 18in alloy wheels, which come as standard with all the trims below Tekna, will help to make the X-Trail even more comfortable. Alternatively, you might want to take a look at the better-riding Skoda Kodiaq.
As with most big SUVs and seven-seaters, the X-Trail wasn’t designed for driving thrills, and that shows on a twisty road. Body control is slightly better than in the Santa Fe, but the light, slow steering makes it a bit more tricky to place on the road.
If you decide to go for a spirited drive, it's not hard to find the limits of grip, and it doesn't take much use of the accelerator pedal to make the front end push wide.
If handling is important to you, we’d definitely turn your attention elsewhere. Specifically, we’d point you towards the CX-60 or Kodiaq.
Noise and vibration
Driving the X-Trail e-Power is a calm experience while you’re cruising or tootling around, and not asking too much of the engine. That's when the electrified set-up is in its element, and even at motorway speeds, the X-Trail is among the quietest large SUVs out there.
The single gear set-up makes it a smoother experience when accelerating, but when you ask for a sudden burst of power, it's not quite so calm. That’s because the engine fires up to charge the battery at a constant rate, so it does drone a fair bit in the background until you ease off the pace. It’s a much smoother and quieter setup than the VC-Turbo mild hybrid, though, which makes more engine noise and even sends some vibrations up through the pedals and steering column if you’re accelerating hard.
Better news is that there’s little wind or road noise in whichever version you go for. And in the e-Power model the brakes are easy to modulate whether or not you have the E-Pedal mode switched on. E-Pedal maximises regenerative braking and means the car slows to a crawl when you lift off the accelerator pedal so you rarely need to touch the brakes. The X-Trail could be smoother and more reassuring under harder braking conditions, though.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
All trim levels of the Nissan X-Trail have a height-adjustable driver’s seat, as well as reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel. Adjustable lumbar support for the driver is standard from second-rung Acenta Premium trim up, while Tekna and Tekna+ come with electronically adjustable front seats with memory function.
The dashboard is clear and logically laid out, with controls placed within easy reach. The buttons and switches are all large and easy to operate while you’re driving, as well as positive and precise in their actions.
While many cars have done away with physical controls for their air-con systems, we like that the X-Trail comes with proper buttons and rotary controllers. They’re far more user-friendly on the move than having to search through multiple menus on the touchscreen infotainment system.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The X-Trail’s high driving position and broad windscreen provide good forward visibility, so you’ll never have trouble seeing out at junctions.
Rear visibility could be better, because of the large rear pillars partially blocking the view over your shoulder. Luckily, blind-spot monitoring and rear parking sensors are fitted as standard, and Acenta Premium trim adds front parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
To aid visibility when you’re driving at night, bright LED headlights with main-beam assist are standard across the range. Tekna trim and above comes with 'adaptive driving beam', which allows you to drive with your full beam on without blinding other drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
Unlike the climate control, which is adjusted using proper switches, the infotainment is controlled through a touchscreen, which measures 8.2in with Acenta Premium trim and 12.3in with other versions. So far, we’ve tried the bigger screen, and while the graphics could be sharper, it's easy enough to read, and responds quickly to your prods.
On all but the entry-level version you get wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, allowing you to use Google Maps and other apps through the infotainment screen. That’s handy because you have to upgrade to the mid-level N-Connecta trim to get built-in sat-nav.
You can add a head-up display and an upgraded Bose sound system with 10 speakers by splashing out on a top-of-the-range trim.
The X-Trail feels quite solidly put together. The dashboard makes good use of textured, soft-touch plastics and the switches are reasonably well damped. In fact, while you can find some less desirable and scratchy plastics, they’re hidden low down and you’ll have to search for them.
Materials further back in the car are more durable than they are plush, but you won’t find any exposed metalwork or sharp edges, even if you make a concerted effort to look for them.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
When you compare the Nissan X-Trail to rivals including the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento you’ll find that it has a fraction less head room to offer in the front. Regardless, this is a large SUV so there’s still plenty of room, and even six-footers won’t find they’re struggling for space.
Sticking to the X-Trail’s target audience of adventurous families, you’ll find a generous amount of storage places in the front, including two fixed cupholders in the centre console, a large open space under the centre console, decent-sized door pockets and a deep storage area in the central armrest.
The doors open very wide and the seats are set high, making the X-Trail a good option for those who usually find cars difficult to get in and out of.
The middle section of the X-Trail’s second row bench flips down to form an armrest, complete with two fixed cupholders, and the two sections of the rear bench each recline for added comfort. Rear seat access is very good, because the doors open to nearly 90 degrees, making it a doddle to put a child seat in the back.
The good news continues when it comes to the space available, with even six-footers sitting in the two outer seats getting enough head and leg room to make a long journey comfortable. Leg room can be extended by sliding the rear seats back.
If you can go for the seven-seater option (not available with the two-wheel-drive e-Power version), the seats in the third row are really best suited to children. Adults can squeeze in for short trips, but only if you slide the second row of seats forwards to create a bit more leg room. The standard third-row seats of the Sorento are far more accommodating.
Seat folding and flexibility
As standard, the second row in the X-Trail is split 60/40 unless you opt for the top two Tekna and Tekna+ trim levels, which both get the more versatile 40/20/40 split like the Skoda Kodiaq. Regardless, the X-Trail’s seats fold flat, meaning there’s no awkward step in the floor when you load long items.
If you want a little extra space but don’t want to fold the middle row seats down, you can slide them forward, making the boot larger at the expense of leg room.
On versions with optional third-row seats, they are easy to lift into place and drop flat into the boot floor.
The X-Trail has a 575-litre boot, which is not the largest load bay in the large SUV class. The Santa Fe has 634 litres and the Sorento – which swallowed 11 carry-on suitcases when we tested it – has an impressive 813 litres.
Even so, it will easily swallow eight carry-on cases, lots of shopping or a couple of buggies, and has no lip at the boot entrance to lift heavy items over.
If you don’t go for the optional third-row seats, you gain storage space under the boot floor. With the sixth and seventh seats in use, the boot is smaller than the Santa Fe's, with space for a few shopping bags (a buggy will be a squeeze).
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
As a cash purchase, the Nissan X-Trail looks to be competitively priced with the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq but you can’t have those rivals with hybrid tech. In fact, if you want a seven-seater with a hybrid engine, you’ll have to spend plenty more on the Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento.
Even better news is that the X-Trail is predicted to hold on to its value with the same vigour as the Kodiaq, so it shouldn’t lose too much money over three years, and should depreciate slower than the Santa Fe. That’s good news because it’ll help when buying on finance. When it comes to fuel economy, the four-wheel-drive e-Power e-4orce managed 36.7mpg on our test route (the hybrid Santa Fe managed 32.9mpg). The two-wheel-drive e-Power model should be more economical, while the VC-Turbo mild hybrid is the least economical option.
The two-wheel-drive e-Power will also be a better choice as a company car because it has the lowest CO2 emissions figure, and therefore the lowest company car tax monthly payments. Do take a look at the Santa Fe plug-in hybrid (PHEV) too though, because that will keep payments even lower.
Equipment, options and extras
If you want to keep costs down, we’d suggest avoiding the entry-level Visia trim (which covers all the basics and not much else) and going for Acenta Premium instead. That trim adds extra kit including dual-zone climate control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Next up the ladder is N-Connecta, and we think it’s the trim to go for because it balances cost and equipment well, upgrading the infotainment system to the larger touchscreen and adding navigation. It also replaces traditional instrument dials with a 12.3in digital display and adds equipment including keyless entry and start, rear privacy glass, wireless phone-charging and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Top-of-the-range Tekna and Tekna+ add more luxurious features, such as a powered tailgate, larger 19in or 20in alloy wheels, a head-up display and, on Tekna+, an upgraded stereo system. They make the car pretty expensive, though.
Nissan offers a three-year/60,000-mile warranty that includes roadside assistance and a courtesy car. You can extend the cover to up to six years, but doing so is quite pricey compared with extended warranty deals on some rivals.
Hyundai offers a standard five-year warranty on the Santa Fe, while Kia trumps that with a class-leading seven years on its Sorento.
Safety and security
Every X-Trail comes with plenty of safety kit, including all important automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure prevention and traffic-sign recognition with speed-limit adjustment.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
No. The front-wheel-drive X-Trail E-Power is not available as a seven-seater. Currently, all other engine options are available with the optional third row of seats.
The mild hybrid petrol X-Trail has an official fuel-economy figure of around 39mpg, while the e-Power versions range from the mid to high 40s.
|RRP price range||£32,890 - £49,370|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||37.2 - 48.7|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£2,200 / £3,310|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£4,400 / £6,620|