There are three engines to choose from – two diesels and one petrol. We’ve yet to try the petrol, but the vast majority of X-Trail buyers will opt for diesel anyway. The standard 1.6-litre unit has enough power the make the X-Trail feel sprightly, even in fast-moving traffic. The more powerful 2.0-litre diesel has more low-end pulling power, but unless you plan on towing every weekend or filling all seven seats most days, you won’t feel its benefit, so we’d stick with the 1.6. It’s also worth knowing that rival 2.0-litre diesels such as that found in the Kodiaq pull from even lower in the rev-range.
You can also choose between front and four-wheel drive, and between a standard six-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox. The manual is slick and precise but the CVT revs noisily when you accelerate.
All diesel manual X-Trail models share the same 2000kg towing limit although the automatic gearbox this drops to 1650kg for the 2.0-litre and 1500kg for the 1.6-litre. The petrol model can pull 1800kg. The higher limits will be plenty for most horse or caravan fans, although the Hyundai Santa Fe’s higher limit of 2500kg may make the difference for some buyers.
Nissan X-Trail ride comfort
The Nissan X-Trail is softly sprung, so you notice it wobbling quite a bit as it goes over a big pothole or a speed bump, and it takes a few moments for it to regain its composure. The flip side is that it also soaks up most irregular surfaces very effectively, so it’s quite comfortable.
True, the occasional sharp-edged, mid-corner bump will cause it to thump and shudder, but it settles well on the motorway, making it an easy-going, long-distance cruiser.
Low to mid-spec versions ride on 17in wheels, which make for a largely comfortable ride. Top-spec versions ride on 19s. They fill the wheel arches more effectively but make the ride a little jittery.
Nissan X-Trail handling
The soft suspension means the X-Trail leans heavily in corners. And while light steering makes it relaxing to drive around town, you do need lots of lock, even for shallow corners.
Four-wheel-drive versions actually send all their power to the front of the car in most normal on-road situations. Only when the system senses slip does it send power to the rear wheels as well.
Fortunately, you can lock the system in four-wheel-drive mode if you’re planning to cross a muddy field of tackle a steep dirt track. But you'll be much better off with something like a Land Rover Discovery if you're after proper, hardcore, off-road ability.
Nissan X-Trail refinement
Both diesel engines are a little gruff under acceleration, although the noise does fade into the background at a cruise. Wind and road noise are more noticeable on the motorway, but they’re still more easily ignored than in most key rivals. Mechanical vibration is minimal, and the manual gearshift is light.
The optional CVT automatic gearbox is smooth enough in normal driving, but makes the engine rev noisily when you accelerate.
We’ve yet to try this option, but most SUV buyers will find most value in the diesel engine options.
1.6 dCi 130
This is the lower-powered diesel choice and is offered with a choice of front- or four-wheel drive when paired with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, or as front-drive only with the optional CVT automatic transmission. It pulls well from low revs, so you don’t feel like you have to work it hard despite it being lower on power than many rivals. It’s a relaxing motor to use generally, although it’s quite gruff under acceleration. Low running costs are sure to make up for it being a touch slower than its key rivals.
2.0 dCi 177
If you’re going to be towing often or regularly have all seven seats filled, then this engine will certainly give you more low-end pulling power, and at a cruise you barely have to touch the accelerator to make progress. If you don’t plan on filling the X-Trail to its brim, though, you won’t feel the benefit of more power.