Nissan X-Trail review: High-class cruiser built for sense

The Nissan X-Trail was once a simple workhorse but has now gestated into something altogether more premium
Nissan X-Trail review: High-class cruiser built for sense

Nissan X-Trail

Nissan X-Trail




from €59,245 - €66,245 as tested in SVE spec


there is one, but it doesn’t drive the wheels. A neat take on the hybrid genre

The Spec

seriously thorough at this level


a thoroughly sensible car for sensible people

Change, as we know, is one of the few constant factors in everyone’s lives and so, as we move towards different sorts of mobility solutions to cope with the vicissitudes of our lives these days, nobody should be surprised that a form of motoring which was with us for over a century has now been completely demonised.

It is, of course, diesel motivation of which we speak and it seems incredible to think it is less than six years since the story of the Volkswagen Group’s ‘dieselgate’ scandal broke and ultimately spelt the beginning of the end for a source of power that had a global reach – from Malin to the Malvinas.

Despite many dieselheads holding on to their precious oil-burners, despite the apocalyptic environmental warnings of experts and bandwagon-jumpers, most motorists have abandoned the fuel quicker than account holders at a dodgy bank.

Diesel engines are simply no longer being offered by a majority of car makers as they try and shift us into cars said to be much more friendly to our environment. Nissan, once a purveyor of many great diesel engines, no longer offers them as part of their mainstream range.

That line-up includes the Juke we reviewed not so long ago, the best-selling Qashqai (which we will be testing soon) and – this week’s tester – the X-Trail. The latter actually shares the same platform as the Qashqai and the electric Ariya.

This is a car which has been with us for 23 years now and is possibly one of the best things the company has ever produced, being a paragon of practicality, user-friendliness, reliability and build quality over four generations of cars, many of which were diesels.

But, in the search for environmental credibility, diesel is now gone and while Nissan has not yet gone all-in on electric (in fact it still makes only two EVs, the Leaf and the Ariya), the company has developed a new hybrid system – called ePower – which it feels will appeal to those who want clean motoring but don’t want to buy an EV.

Nissan X-Trail spacious interior
Nissan X-Trail spacious interior

You can look at this two ways: first, Nissan didn’t want to shoulder the massive R+D bills associated with making electrics (and especially so when its co-operative alliance with Renault was looking dodgy, but which has now been sorted); or, second, it felt it spotted a niche in the market whereby there was a huge amount of people out there who didn’t yet want to venture into the world of electric.

Either way, they’ve come up with a pretty decent solution, although as with all hybrids there are downsides. But as is also the case with hybrids as they have developed, they have become somewhat more sophisticated and the dreaded bovine ‘mooing’ you get when you’re looking for some acceleration is still a factor.

When talking about the X-Trail it has to be noted that a car which was once just a simple workhorse has now gestated into something altogether more like a premium product and the finished product of this, the fourth generation of the nameplate, is an altogether more glossy prospect than ever before.

It also comes with a seven-seat option and the choice of two or four-wheel drive, which offers potential customers plenty of options when deciding which is the best suited for them.

Our tester was the 4WD e-4orce version and once you get over the terrible punning name and look into the detail, the system presents itself as a clever one. Essentially, it comprises of a 1.5 three-cylinder engine, a small battery and electric motors on the front and rear axles which power the four wheels.

The total output of the system is 210 bhp, but the trick here is that the engine is there only to charge the battery and has nothing to do with the wheels being driven, as that is left to the two electric motors. All of that is tied up with an auto gearbox.

While we found that this was a really nice car to drive in certain circumstances, it was not great in others. In fact, it underlined the point we’ve been making for quite some time about hybrids, that whatever you felt about knowing how to drive, driving a hybrid is a whole different thing and you will have to re-learn everything if you’re to get the best from it.

The 0-100 km/h time is a very respectable 7.2 seconds, but oddly it doesn’t feel like it is that quick and in many ways that is a common characteristic with the X-Trail, because it has such a relaxed demeanour that when you think you’re merely tootling along, you look at the speedo (or the excellent heads-up system) and think, crikey, I’m going quicker than I thought I was.

When you do shoe it, however, it does hold on to cogs for longer than you might like and you get that awful mooing referred to earlier as the system does its best to ape a CVT box, which is the more common form of gearbox found in hybrids.

Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail

Find a hilly road and you’ll be in bovine mode before you know it and you’ll hear the engine revving away coarsely. In truth, it is not the most offensive sound you’ll ever hear, but it certainly does get annoying. Similarly if you’re in a hurry anywhere and need things to as brisk as possible.

On the road the car is similarly a little frustrating and while grip levels are generally good, but if you get too enthusiastic you will encounter a deal of understeer. But then, that seems to be the MO of this car: it is more about confident cruising rather than anything dashing.

That said, it is a terribly relaxing car to drive and this is very much aided by the quality of the interior which is as plush as anything with premium ambitions should be. The quality of the materials used is top drawer and the level of tech is equally impressive.

Essentially this is a high-class cruiser and not something you’d be in any way inclined to thrash, although it must be said that the 19” alloys cope really well with our road network and all its foibles, so you and your (up to) six passengers will never be overly discombobulated.

Boot space is good without the rearmost seats in use, but when they are being utilised space is tight back there, so they are really only good for smallies.

It is also worth pointing out that this thing has reasonably impressive off-road chops as an adroit traction control system will keep you on track and the choice of off-road modes will keep you going in the desired direction. In fact this is so good that a majority of owners will never even know it.

More than anything else this is a truly sensible car and one which will meet every need and expectation of any sensible driver who gets behind the wheel. I do not pretend to be any such thing, but even so I really liked this car and even if there were one or two things I didn’t much care for, there was so much more that was good.

The X-Trail has changed quite a bit down the years, but the changes have largely made it a better car. 

And, despite not being a particular fan of hybrid cars, this thing had a fresh and innovative approach which made it a very nice thing to live with.

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