In the past, the Nissan X-Trail and Nissan Qashqai were two completely different types of car – the Qashqai was an affordable, family-sized crossover to replace the ageing Terrano, and the X-Trail was a boxy, utilitarian off-roader.
The Qashqai was built to excel in an urban environment whereas the X-Trail provided vast levels of practicality but possessed the talent to be let loose into the rugged countryside. In terms of the target market, these two cars weren’t even in the same ball-park.
Now though, Nissan has brought new versions of both models to the market. On the face of it, the differences between the two are marginal and the similarities obvious. So, on that basis, we’ve decided to pit them against each other to help you choose the right one.
Ever since the Qashqai was launched back in 2007, it’s been a huge sales success for the Japanese company. Even in the last year of the old-model’s life, it was ranked at number six in the UK best-sellers list.
Naturally, it only seems right for Nissan to follow the Qashqai’s philosophy when creating the X-Trail, and that’s exactly what the marque has done. At a glance, you could easily mistake one for the other – they look that similar. This is by no means a bad thing – critics say the chrome trim, LED daytime running lights and “attractive detailing” made using “sharp lines” give both cars a “sophisticated” look.
However, if you look really carefully, you can distinguish between the two by their subtly different designs for the front bumper as well as the rear light clusters.
The main difference between the two is their size – the X-Trail is 100mm longer than the Qashqai, as well as being slightly wider and taller. This is to accommodate an extra row of seats in the back to make it a seven-seater. So you can think of the X-Trail as a replacement for the Qashqai+2 rather than a true X-Trail replacement.
Like the exteriors, the interiors on both cars are extremely similar. So similar, in fact, that if you were to sit in both cars without looking at their exteriors, you really wouldn’t be able to tell which you were sat in (note the fractionally different moulding around the gearstick).
Again, this isn’t a bad thing – road testers have commended the “high-quality” and “plush” materials, the soft-touch plastics and “classy looking dials”. While other critics agree, they say there’s a “conspicuous lack of imagination”, but this makes it more “business-like” and arguably easier to use. One critic even commented on how “European” the cabin felt – which, presumably, is a compliment.
For both cars, you get excellent standard equipment levels even in the most basic models. Bluetooth phone connectivity, air-conditioning and cruise control are all standard. Buyers have the option of specifying things such as satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof in more expensive models.
This is where the differences between the X-Trail and Qashqai start to show. The main one being the extra pair of seats the X-Trail can occupy in its boot – a £700 option.
Without the extra row of seats, the X-Trail’s boot space is 550 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,982 litres with them folded down. The seven-seater model, however, looses a little because the mechanism for the third row eats into boot space making it shrink to 445 litres. Boot space in the Qashqai is rated at 430 litres with the seats up and 1,585 litres with the rear seats folded.
Thanks to the larger dimensions of the X-Trail, it has a more airy cabin with class-leading levels of rear legroom and it also has a bit more rear headroom than the Qashqai.
When the rear seats are folded down in both cars it creates a flat loading bay which aids packing larger items.
Engine and gearbox
The X-Trail is a little disappointing in this regard; the only engine available is a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 128hp and 236lb ft of torque. In two-wheel drive form with the six-speed manual gearbox, it accelerates from 0 to 62mph in 10.5 seconds, emits 129g/km of CO2 and returns 57.6mpg on the combined cycle.
Adding the four-wheel-drive system increases the 0-62mph time to 11 seconds while also increasing the CO2 figure to 139g/km, and increasing the fuel consumption to 53.3mpg. For a premium, a CVT automatic transmission can be specified but only on two-wheel drive variants. This increases the 0-62mph time to 11.4 seconds whilst producing figures of 55.4mpg and 135g/km of CO2.
The Qashqai, on the other hand, has the choice of three petrol engines and two diesels with one being the same 1.6-litre unit found in the X-Trail. In the Qashqai, however, it’s faster as well as being cleaner and more efficient.
For buyers at this end of the market, the last word in driving dynamism is not usually at the top of the list of priorities. With this in mind, however, a car that drives badly is a car not worth buying at all.
Thankfully, both of these cars are up to the task. The Qashqai is the more sporty of the two – though you wouldn’t associate it with being a sporting car. Critics say the body roll and handling response of the Qashqai is comparable to its hatchback rivals. The X-Trail on the other hand has a bit more body roll in the corners – which isn’t a surprise considering its larger dimensions – but still provides plenty of assured grip.
Road testers also say both cars go down the road with excellent refinement, though some mentioned the Qashqai being a “little fidgety” over rough ground. Try to avoid the 19-inch alloy wheels in more expensive models for both cars as they compromise the ride comfort, but nothing to worry about too much.
Both cars are very easy to drive thanks to light but accurate steering and an “unobtrusive” manual six-speed gearbox with a “slick and assured action”. Some critics weren’t impressed by the CVT automatic gearbox, saying it feels “old-fashioned” compared to rivals, but others say it’s as easy to use as ordinary automatics.
Which should I buy?
It depends if you really want – or need – the extra space and extra pair of seats. The X-Trail starts from £23,195 which means it costs nearly £5,000 more than the Qashqai. That seems a bit steep when you consider they both look pretty similar to each other and they both have identical interiors.
Let’s sum up – the Qashqai provides extra versatility over its hatchback rivals with more ground clearance and all-weather drivability without the shortfalls in handling that plagues most SUVs and without the increased running cost. Plus it’s well priced – no wonder it won carwow’s 2014 car of the year.
The X-Trail is more practical thanks to its larger dimensions but the trade-off is blunted handling and efficiency. However, it’s cheaper than most of its rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Land Rover Discovery Sport, while still providing all the luxury they offer.
So essentially, whichever car you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
Check out our reviews of the Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail then head over to the car configurator to see how much you could save on your next car. Don’t forget to check out our car deals page for our latest discounts.