One of the fastest growing sectors in the UK car market these days is the crossover. With the dimensions of a family hatchback but a higher roofline for some more room and a loftier driving position, they’re rapidly becoming the default choice for the nuclear family.
For those with a more extended family though, the standard five seats aren’t enough. Good news comes from Nissan and Hyundai, who both offer seven-seat – or rather 5+2 seat – crossovers, which give more pews (although the back two are usually quite small).
Nissan’s old X-Trail was a boxy beast, but the new car is a totally different proposition. Granted, the front end is a little on the corporate side so the X-Trail is a little bit hard to tell apart in the rear view mirror from the Qashqai and Pulsar, but it’s not a bad thing – it’s a handsome beast. It cuts a strong profile too, but the rear end is perhaps a little under-styled and bland. Still, there’s a good selection of strong colours so there’s no excuse for picking a silver or white one.
If you think the X-Trail’s transformation from the previous generation is impressive, wait until you see the Santa Fe. If anything the front end is even better than the Nissan’s – it’s extremely bold – with an equally impressive profile but, unlike its rival, the back end is just as sharp as the rest of the car. The palette isn’t as bold though, so pick wisely.
It’s actually pretty hard to choose between the updated Hyundai and Nissan interiors – you could switch the badge on the steering wheel and never notice. If we’re being ultra-picky, the Nissan perhaps has the edge on materials and is slightly less fussy when it comes to shapes and buttons.
The Hyundai comes out as the slightly better specified model of the two, but the Nissan is able to offer more equipment for less money, simply through having a far less potent engine. Make up the difference in the options list and you’re looking at a pretty toyed-up car – and make sure you get the Around View Monitor – the 360-degree camera view is invaluable when it comes to parking such a massive truck.
Stick with the five-seater models and the Santa Fe nicks the load-space crown, able to swallow up 585 litres next to the X-Trail’s 550 – but fold the back seats down and it’s 1,982 vs 1,680 litres in the X-Trail’s favour. There’s also a neat compartment system in the X-Trail which allows you to sequester small items rather than have them rolling about.
Having the rear seats installed chews into the load space of both cars somewhat, knocking the Santa Fe back to 516 litres and the X-Trail down to 445. With the seats up of course, there’s a derisory breadbin of a boot on both cars.
The middle row of seats on the Santa Fe have a 40:20:40 split which allows for easier access to the boot or rear seats. This is missing on the X-Trail which makes do with a standard 60:40 split, though the seat back for the middle pew doubles as a very wide armrest and ski-hatch which is almost as good.
If you’re a keen driver, there’s not a lot to excite from either car, but that’s not exactly unexpected – they’re built for comfort, not for speed. In both cases they’re perfectly happy on the motorway or around town and they’re light and easy to drive but the X-Trail has a mild edge for driver involvement. If you absolutely have to get away from the lights as fast as possible, it’ll be the Santa Fe you want which, thanks to a lot of extra power, cracks the 0-60mph sprint a second quicker.
Ordered with four-wheel-drive and taken off the road, the X-Trail beats the Hyundai. Both will easily swallow up the worst conditions that any of us are likely to experience, but the Nissan will take you further into (and back out of) the middle of nowhere should the challenge arise, although the Santa Fe has a greater wading depth.
There’s only one choice of engine for each, both diesel – but they’re not wholly comparable. The Nissan unit is a version of the latest generation 1.6-litre dCi it shares with Renault, producing 128hp and 258lb ft, while Hyundai’s is a 2.2 CRDi with 187hp and 311lb ft.
This gives the Hyundai a marked advantage in performance and towing, and it’s able to pull 2.5 tonnes behind it compared to the Nissan’s 2.0 tonnes – dropping to 2.0 vs 1.5 tonnes for the automatic cars, still in Hyundai’s favour.
Fuel economy varies quite wildly between the two cars; Nissan claims that the X-Trail gets 53.3-57.6mpg, and Hyundai says the Santa Fe get just 41.5-46.3mpg. The Hyundai’s big engine is somewhat loud too – the Nissan feels markedly more refined.
Value for Money
It’s a surprising win for Nissan here. The Santa Fe can’t be bought for less than £27,800 and at that price point only the more expensive ntec and Tekna models of X-Trail remain beyond budget – the basic five-seat, two-whee-drive X-Trail is £23,195 and not significantly more poorly equipped for it.
The seven-seat option is £800 in the X-Trail, but £1,200 in the Santa Fe. If you need or want an automatic, that’s £1,350 in the X-Trail, but £1,710 in the Santa Fe. Four-wheel-drive is standard on the Santa Fe, and even though you’ll need to spend £1,700 to get it on your X-Trail you’ll still be saving money over the equivalent Hyundai. Surprised? So are lots of other buyers!
It doesn’t end there – the running costs for the Nissan will be cheaper than the Hyundai too, it’s an all-round win for the X-Trail.
While the Hyundai has a great deal to recommend it – and indeed outscores the Nissan in our aggregate wowscore by 7.9 to 7.0 – it doesn’t manage to make for quite as compelling a package as the X-Trail.
The Santa Fe scores well for practicality and is pretty dashing, but the X-Trail is more capable on and off the road and much cheaper. Our advice? Budget for the Hyundai, spec the X-Trail up with the price difference and pick a decent colour.