If you’re thinking of buying an SUV, it is easy to assume the only sensible option is a diesel engine. Diesels typically use less fuel than their petrol counterparts and they often have much more torque, making them ideal tow cars or perfect for those who often carry a full load of passengers.
In recent weeks, however, the popularity of diesel engines has suffered a setback since it’s emerged that some companies are cheating emissions tests. Many manufacturers offer their SUVs with petrol engines that, traditionally, have been the left field choice. Now diesel is on shaky ground, is it time to reconsider an SUV that drinks from the green pump?
To help us decide, we’re driving the latest Nissan X-Trail. Previously only offered with a 1.6-litre diesel engine, the model is now available with a 1.6-litre 161hp turbocharged petrol engine. If you’re taken with this chunky off-roader, put the Nissan X-Trail in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save.
Petrol engines cost less to buy
Compared to their diesel brethren, petrol engines are often simpler in design and don’t require the same levels of exhaust emissions treatment. This means it’s often cheaper for manufacturers to produce petrol engines than diesel ones.
The X-Trail is no exception – the new 1.6-litre petrol model costs £21,995, £1,460 less than the 1.6-litre diesel. The majority of motorists who cover average milages will find they’ll need to own a diesel X-Trail for quite a few years before they make up its added purchase price in fuel savings.
They use almost as little fuel
No one can question that diesel cars use less fuel then their petrol counterparts. That’s not to say, however, that modern petrol engines can’t be fuel efficient. The X-Trail’s petrol engine returns an average of 45.6mpg, 12mpg less than the 1.6-litre diesel.
That might sound like a big difference but, when you consider that, for the average driver, it only equates to a £266.33 saving over the course of a year, the gap seems less severe. For the majority of buyers who’re probably more concerned with their monthly outgoings, the diesel’s fuel savings seem somewhat less significant.
They can be faster
Yes, diesels produce more torque than petrol engines and, in some cases, can produce as much power. Few, however, are faster than their petrol counterparts. Faster throttle responses, higher RPM limiters and the fact that petrol units tend to be lighter than diesels means petrol cars can often accelerate faster.
The X-Trail follows this pattern – its 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine helps it hit 62mph from rest in 9.7 seconds. The diesel manages the same benchmark in 10.5 seconds but also feels more lethargic in response to jabs of the throttle pedal. The petrol still suffers some lag when you floor it but, compared to the diesel, its responses are faster, making the car feel more sprightly.
They’re better suited to cities
Many cities such as Paris and parts of London are considering banning or limiting the use of diesel engines due to the high levels of other pollutants they emit – especially nitrogen oxide. Thus city-dwellers should consider the petrol because it shouldn’t be affected if legislation changes in the future. Equally, the typically faster responses afforded by petrol engines make it easier to exploit gaps in traffic.
We were thankful of the X-Trail’s rapid responses while threading it through tight Alpine villages. At mini-roundabouts where locals only give way to the bold, the X-Trail pulled out confidently and without threat of stalling and, with its long first gear, can easily keep up with city traffic without needing lots of gear changes.
They’re often more refined
Many things affect how refined a vehicle is beyond simply the level of noise emitted by the engine. The design of the wheelarches, windscreen and firewall separating the engine from the passenger compartment all contribute to how much engine noise makes its way into the cabin. In general, however, petrol engines emit a smoother, quieter noise than their diesel siblings.
The diesel X-Trail is hardly an unrefined car but, when accelerating onto a slip road or when performing a fast overtake, it emits a noticeable diesel clatter. The petrol, on the other hand, is so quiet that you can sometimes forget to change into the next gear. Only when you really push it does it make its presence known and, even then, it isn’t terribly intrusive.
Put the Nissan X-Trail in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. For more options, head over to our deals page or, if you still need help picking your next new car, check out our car chooser.