Nissan X-Trail review
The Nissan X-Trail is a big practical family SUV that’s available with seven seats. Its interior is pretty boring, however, and it’s not fun to drive
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The Nissan X-Trail is a large family SUV that you can specify with five or seven seats. It’s been around for a while now, having been introduced in 2013, although it was refreshed in 2017.
As befits what is the grand-daddy of the large SUV class, everything’s very sensible inside, and it all feels chunky and solid. Most of the plastics are soft and forgiving, although a few brittle materials let the side down slightly. They’re mostly confined to the back seats and doors. Only top-spec Tekna versions come with leather seats as standard.
Acenta Premium cars and above get a slick seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite-navigation as standard. It comes with handy shortcut buttons that help make it easy to use on the move but it still lacks any modern smartphone mirroring systems.
It’s easy to get comfy in the front whichever model you pick, thanks to the standard seat-height adjustment and loads of headroom – although the panoramic glass roof you get with Acenta Premium, N-Connecta and Tekna models does reduce headroom slightly. There’s enough room for tall adults to get comfy in the sliding middle row of seats, too – although carrying three abreast is a tighter squeeze than in a Skoda Kodiaq.
If you need space for more passengers, you can get two extra seats as a £1,000 option, turning the Nissan X-Trail into a seven-seater – but this rear row is only really big enough for kids and eats considerably into the available boot space.
With just five seats in place there’s more than enough room for a baby stroller and some large soft bags. With the back seats folded in a handy two-way (60:40) split, there’s space for a few bikes, too – you don’t even have to remove their wheels.
Driving The X-Trail’s not exactly fun – but does that really matter when it’s as big as a removals van and has space for seven?
You can get the Nissan X-Trail with one petrol or one diesel engine. The 1.3-litre petrol – that’ll return 32mpg in normal driving compared to Nissan’s claimed 38.5mpg – is best for pottering around town while the slightly noisier 1.7-litre diesel will be more suitable if you do lots of long journeys. It’ll return around 43mpg in real-world conditions, but feels quite lethargic while doing so.
Avoid four-wheel drive versions if you want to maximise fuel economy – it’s only worth going for if you often drive on slippery roads or tow a trailer. It also best to give the optional CVT automatic gearbox a miss because it holds the engine at high revs when you accelerate hard and feels a little dim-witted around town.
As a family car, though, there’s not much else to put you off X-Trail ownership. Euro NCAP awarded it a five-star safety rating in 2014, which is impressive even though tests have become stricter since. Acenta Premium models and above come with bundles of extra safety kit including automatic emergency braking that can stop the car if a collision is imminent.
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There’s ample space in the X-Trail for adults and its boot is pretty spacious, but the third-row seats impact luggage-carrying ability.
There’s loads of space to get comfy in the front, even if you’re over six-foot tall. Both the seat and steering wheel come with plenty of adjustment as standard but you’ll have to pick a Tekna car if you want extra lumbar support – a feature that’ll help prevent backache on long journeys.
These top-spec cars also come with heated front seats and height adjustment for the passenger seat, but the panoramic glass roof – fitted to all but entry-level models – eats slightly into available headroom.
Space in the middle row of seats is almost as generous as in the front and they too can slide forwards and backwards to give your taller friends more legroom. This comes at the expense of a little boot space and knee room if you have people in the rear two seats, however.
Sadly, carrying three abreast is a little more cramped. There’s plenty of elbow room but the large lump in the floor means your centre-seat passenger doesn’t have anywhere to put their feet. The middle seat isn’t quite as soft as the outer two, either, and its lumpy headrest will dig into your taller passengers’ backs.
You can get all Nissan X-Trail models with two more seats in the back for an extra £1,000. Clambering in past the middle row of seats is a little tricky, however – even after sliding them forwards – and they’re only really designed for kids.
The middle seats come with two sets of Isofix child seat anchor points as standard. Unfortunately, they’re hidden under the backrest padding which makes fitting the seat base rather tricky. The Nissan X-Trail’s wide-opening doors do make it easy to lean in and strap in a child, however, and the car’s height means you won’t crick your back doing it.
The Nissan X-Trail’s roomy cabin is peppered with handy cubbyholes. Its door bins are big enough for a large bottle of water and the two cupholders in the centre console are very nearly as generous.
The glovebox is large enough for another big bottle and the storage bin under the centre armrest is wide and deep. It comes with a USB port for charging your phone and is easily big enough for hiding large valuables, such as a camera, safely out of sight.
The rear door bins aren’t quite as capacious as those in front but you do get a fold-down armrest with two large built-in cupholders as standard on all models.
Pick a seven-seat Nissan X-Trail and the two extra perches in the back cut into the available boot space considerably. With six passengers on board you’ll have barely enough space for a few small bags, and carrying a baby buggy will be a very tight squeeze. The third row of seats does easily fold away in a two-way (50:50) split, however, leaving a 445-litre boot so you can carry five passengers and a few suitcases at once.
Five-seat cars have a more practical 565-litre boot. There’s no annoying load lip to lift heavy luggage over, either, and the boot’s square shape makes it easy to carry bulky items, too. The middle seats fold in a handy two-way (60:40) split as standard, so it’s a breeze to carry a few passengers and some long luggage simultaneously.
Unfortunately, folding them down takes both hands – you have to push a catch beside the headrest and pull some hard-to-reach straps down by the floor at once. It makes you appreciate the easier system you get in a VW Tiguan.
Once you’ve faffed about with the seats, you’ll have access to an almost completely flat 1,996-litre loadbay. It’s easily big enough to carry two bikes with their wheels attached and it’s only slightly smaller than the Kodiaq’s cavernous 2,065-litre boot.
There’s absolutely loads of handy storage under the Nissan X-Trail’s boot floor, too – especially in five-seat versions. You can rearrange its various compartments in 18 different ways to hold smaller items securely or use the folding boot floor as a handy divider to stop your shopping rolling around. A few tether points mean you can safely strap down heavy or fragile luggage.
The Nissan X-Trail is just as comfortable cruising on motorways as it is pottering about town. It’s not quite as frugal as some alternative family SUVs, however
You can get the Nissan X-Trail with one petrol or one diesel engine and with either a manual or an automatic gearbox. Diesel versions are also available with four-wheel drive.
The 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol’s best if you spend most time pottering around town. It’s much quieter and smoother than the diesels and costs less to buy, too. Nissan claims it’ll return 38.5mpg but expect to see around 32mpg in real-world driving.
The 150hp 1.7-litre diesel will be more suitable if you regularly cruise up and down motorways. It has just enough grunt to keep up with fast-moving traffic – even with lots of passengers on board – and returns around 43mpg in the real world compared to Nissan’s claimed 47.7mpg.
The Nissan X-Trail’s raised driving position gives you a good view out over the road ahead. Unfortunately, its thick rear pillars (where the doors meet the roof) limit rear visibility.
Thankfully, all but entry-level Visia cars come with front and rear parking sensors as well as a handy 360-degree camera system that displays a bird’s-eye view of your car and its surroundings on the central infotainment screen. It makes it easier to avoid kerbing your wheels than sticking your head out the window. Top-spec Tekna versions even come with an automatic parking system that’ll steer for you into both bay and parallel parking spaces – all you have to do is accelerate and brake while the car turns the steering wheel itself.
The Nissan X-Trail’s soft suspension helps it take rutted roads in its stride. It’s just as comfortable around town as it is on the motorway and only starts to wallow slightly if you hit a particularly monstrous pothole. Top-spec models have 19-inch alloy wheels that look great but send jolts through the cabin over smaller bumps – you’re better off sticking to the smaller 17 or 18-inch wheels and saving some cash.
You’ll hear more wind noise on the motorway than in a Skoda Kodiaq but the X-Trail’s a touch quieter than the likes of the Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe. Its light controls help make long journeys pretty stress-free, too.
Less relaxing is its tendency to lean in tight corners. It’s not particularly noticeable from the front seats but your passengers in the back may start to feel a little car sick after a few miles on winding country roads. It’ll head down A-roads at a steady pace, but you’ll have no desire to drive it any faster than that.
At the end of the day, it’s a family car so the X-Trail’s five-star Euro NCAP award is more relevant than its cornering prowess. It’s worth noting that the tests have been made significantly stricter since 2014, so for a little extra peace of mind, pick an Acenta Premium model or above. They come with automatic emergency braking, which will apply the brakes to prevent a collision if it detects an obstacle in your path, plus lane-departure warning and traffic sign recognition as standard.
The optional ProPILOT system helps make the Nissan X-Trail both more relaxing to drive and a touch safer, too. It’ll accelerate, brake and even steer for you on motorways and in stop/start traffic – providing you keep your hands on the steering wheel.
There’s plenty of standard equipment in the Nissan X-Trail, but it’s pretty dull in there.