The Nissan X-Trail was one of the original members of the booming mid-sized SUV class. Once a semi-capable off-roader, the third iteration has morphed into a softer family wagon.
To make sure it stays relevant, Nissan last year announced a new N-Trek model grade for Australia. With a range of minor upgrades and a name borrowed from the Navara, it’s just $1000 more than the lower-spec ST-L.
Is it enough to liven up the ageing Nissan X-Trail range?
Pricing for the X-Trail N-Trek AWD kicks off at $40,700 before on-road costs, or $1000 more than the ST-L on which it’s based.
If you don’t want all-wheel drive, the N-Trek can be had for $38,700 before on-roads.
Given it’s based on the ST-L, the N-Trek is well equipped. The seats are trimmed in leather and heated up front with power adjustment, and niceties include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, and privacy glass.
A 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard across the X-Trail range, although it includes DAB radio and satellite navigation here.
Also shared with the ST-L is the standard suite of semi-autonomous safety equipment.
Autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, a surround-view camera, and parking sensors are all included as well.
Jumping to the N-Trek gets you 19-inch alloy wheels, an eight-speaker Bose sound system, a bonnet protector and weather shields for the windows, floor mats, and kick plates on the door sills.
It’s getting long in the tooth, but the X-Trail has always been big. At 4690mm long, 1820mm wide and 1740mm tall with a 2705mm wheelbase, it’s 205mm longer than the Kia Sportage, and almost 100mm taller.
The exterior doesn’t try too hard to look coupe-ish, which means there are big windows for a light, airy feeling inside. The boot holds 565L of kit with the rear seats in place and 945L with them folded, and there’s a capacious plastic-lined storage space under the carpeted floor.
We’d just bin the false floor panels and run with the boot in its most spacious configuration all the time.
The back seat is a good place to be by mid-sized SUV standards. The tall roofline makes for good headroom, and there’s enough legroom for rapidly-growing teenagers to sit behind tall adults.
If practicality is the name of the game the X-Trail ticks a lot of boxes.
Front passengers sit in heated seats, and the driver grabs a lovely flat-bottomed steering wheel trimmed in what feels like quality leather.
Taller drivers will have no trouble getting comfortable, and the X-Trail proved comfortable even for protracted highway stints. Also handy on long highway runs are the cooled cup holders and generous door pockets.
Nissan hasn’t got everything right though. For starters, the foot-operated parking brake is an anachronism in 2020.
The X-Trail is yet to receive Nissan’s latest infotainment setup, instead featuring a 7.0-inch touchscreen without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Having inbuilt satellite navigation is nice, but it feels old.
The graphics are basic, the Bluetooth streaming slightly buggy. Nissan needs to invest in a new surround-view camera, too, because the grainy setup it uses at the moment is miles off the pace.
The X-Trail has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on testing carried out in 2016.
Along with the aforementioned semi-autonomous safety assists, the X-Trail has seven airbags.
Power in the N-Trek comes from a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine, putting 126kW and 226Nm to all four wheels through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
Front-wheel drive is standard, but our tester was fitted with optional all-wheel drive.
It can be locked into front-drive, switched into a mode which detects slip on the front wheels and brings the rears into play, or locked into full-time all-wheel drive using a rotary dial on the transmission tunnel.
Nissan claims 8.3L/100km on the combined cycle, we saw 7.1L/100km on a pure highway run and an average of 9.4L/100km over a week of mixed driving. Expect to see closer to 10L/100km in the city.
Don’t expect much excitement. The engine in the X-Trail packs modest outputs, and they translate to modest performance.
The engine is smooth and quiet around the city. It doesn’t put much of a foot wrong when you’re gentle with it, but isn’t a willing participant when the time comes to really get moving.
Lean too hard on the accelerator and the CVT slingshots into the middle of the rev range, backed by a coarse soundtrack. It gets the job done, but in the least inspiring way possible.
Although it isn’t particularly keen to get there quickly, the engine fades into the background at a cruise. In fact the cabin is relatively quiet on the highway, although less tyre roar on rural roads would be nice.
The lack of adaptive cruise control is a bit annoying, given it’s offered elsewhere in the X-Trail range.
With no pretence of sportiness the X-Trail should have a cushy ride and, for the most part, it does.
The suspension is soft around town without feeling floaty or loose, and the X-Trail feels planted on the highway – even when it’s being battered by crosswinds.
Occasionally a sharp bump will thwack into the cabin in the city, but that’s an inevitability when manufacturers sacrifice sidewall at the altar of stylish wheels.
The steering is light, making it perfect for scything through the city and slotting into tight parking spaces. It’s a shame the surround-view camera is so shoddy, because the X-Trail is otherwise very easy to park.
Servicing for the 2020 Nissan X-Trail takes place every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. The first five years of maintenance will cost $1916.
The X-Trail runs on the cheapest 91RON regular unleaded petrol.
The new N-Trek model offers some handy additions, and doesn’t struggle to justify the $1000 it asks over the closely-related ST-L.
There are better options out there if you want a bit more from your car than rational, unexciting transportation though.
The Mazda CX-5 is more interesting to drive, the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson have better infotainment, and the Toyota RAV4 can be had with an excellent hybrid powertrain.
In the context of these rivals, the X-Trail feels its age. It’s heavy on practicality, but light on innovation or excitement.