Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There are two engines to choose from: one diesel and one petrol. The 148bhp 1.7-litre diesel has enough power to get you up to motorway speeds and easily keeps up with other cars in start-stop traffic, but some of the X-Trail’s rivals, such as the Skoda Kodiaq, offer peppier diesels for similar money.
There’s also a 157bhp 1.3-litre petrol unit, which is shared with the smaller Nissan Qashqai. It hesitates when moving the heavy X-Trail from a standstill and requires you to push the accelerator hard before it springs into life. When on the move, though, it pulls surprisingly hard for its relatively small capacity and shows real willingness to be revved hard.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on diesel models; it’s slick, with a relatively short throw. A CVT automatic is an option in conjunction with four-wheel drive. The petrol engine is available only with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which is relatively swift to respond.
Diesel versions of the X-Trail with a manual gearbox can tow up to 2000kg. That should be plenty for towing a horsebox or caravan, although the Hyundai Santa Fe’s higher limit of 2500kg will give it an edge for some buyers. Choose the petrol engine or a diesel with the automatic gearbox, and the X-Trail’s towing limit drops to as low as 1500kg.
Suspension and ride comfort
The X-Trail is softly sprung, so you’ll notice it bounce a bit over big potholes. You’ll also find that it takes a few moments to regain its composure. Sharp-edged, mid-corner bumps will also cause it to thump and shudder, too, and it only feels truly settled on motorways if the surface is dead smooth.
You can make the best of things, though, by choosing an X-Trail with 17in wheels, or at least avoiding the larger 19in rims, which serve only to exacerbate the ride issues. For SUVs that simply ride better, look at the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq.
The X-Trail’s soft suspension causes it to lean heavily in corners, and light, low-geared steering means you have to turn the wheel quite a long way, even for shallow corners. Here the X-Trail feels somewhat behind the times, lacking the composure of SUVs such as the Kodiaq and 5008.
X-Trails with four-wheel-drive actually send all their power to the front wheels in most normal on-road situations. Only when the system senses slip does it send power to the rear wheels as well. This setup makes for reassuring traction on the road, and you can lock the system in four-wheel drive mode if you’re planning to cross a muddy field or tackle a steep dirt track. The X-Trail’s abilities will go far beyond the requirements of most SUV buyers, but if you need to tackle tougher tracks, you'd be better off with something like a Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Noise and vibration
The diesel is a little gruff under acceleration and never really fades away on the motorway. The 1.3-litre petrol is quieter and sends less vibration through the steering wheel than the diesel, too. Whichever engine you choose, though, the X-Trail generates far more wind and road noise at 70mph than rival SUVs.
With the 1.7-litre diesel, the optional CVT automatic gearbox causes the engine to rev noisily under hard acceleration. The 1.3-litre petrol’s optional dual-clutch gearbox is the automatic to go for, smoothly shifting though its ratios and keeping engine revs relatively low. It’s a shame you can’t have it with the diesel engine.