26 September 2023

Oldie, Not A Goodie

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By Paul Gover.

There are two ways to know the Nissan X-Trail is going to be replaced at the back end of this year.

The first is to read the official announcement from Nissan Australia and the second – unfortunately – is to drive it.

Although the X-Trail has a solid reputation and sells well, it has been well and truly left behind by the current crop of mid-sized SUVs.

It’s now more than eight years old and, even in the car world, that’s a lifetime. It has been given some minor tweaks for its final year, including CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as extra driver assistance systems, but the basics are tired.

The cabin still looks good, with a bigger infotainment system and quality materials, but it’s noisy and a bit basic.

Compared with a Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage, which currently rate at the top of the mid-sized SUV class, it feels basic. It’s not that the X-Trail is bad, just that its rivals are better and have got a lot better.

In some ways the X-Trail also reminds me of the new Mitsubishi Outlander. It was the most-improved SUV I drove through 2021 but mostly because it was landing off a very low base.

We can expect similar things later this year when the all-new X-Trail arrives. And also because the Outlander is now a twin-under-the-skin with the X-Trail because Nissan and Mitsubishi are part of the same global conglomerate.

Right now, there is good value in the X-Trail with pricing from just over $30,000 before on-road costs. That buys a front-wheel drive model with a 2-litre petrol engine and, very unusually these days, a manual gearbox.

Jump to the top of the X-trail family and the Ti all-wheel drive flagship with a 2.5-litre engine gets close to $50,000. But that’s not a huge spend by the standards of 2022 and it’s much easier to get a Nissan than stand in the giant lines for a new Kia or Hyundai.

The basics of the X-Trail are just as I remember, although the Ti test car is nicely flashy with plenty of chrome on the outside and niceties like the electric rear tailgate.

It gets along well enough, too, with a 2.5-litre petrol engine that has solid torque for acceleration and can run smoothly with relatively good fuel economy.

The cabin is one of the roomier in the class, with everything from good headroom to three-wide seating in the back with reasonable space for everyone.

It also rates a five-star safety score from ANCAP and the Ti on test has everything from a surround-view camera to auto safety braking and rear cross-traffic alert for parking lots.

But, then it comes to the buts.

Dig below the surface and the age and quality of the X-Trail shows, from a dated foot-operated safety brake – usually only found in the USA – to switchgear that feels cheap and clunky.

Although the infotainment screen is clear and well placed, it is well behind the efforts of many rivals including the Ford Escape.

Dynamically, the X-Trail is a bit bouncy in the suspension, teeters a bit in corners where rivals feel planted, and its CVT transmission can be ponderous.

And that’s where it always goes.

If you look at the X-Trail without considering the opposition, it looks fine. It drives well enough, too, on a short test drive.

In some ways the X-Trail is like an MG.

It’s an ok car, definitely not good, but sells because it is good value, has a long warranty and comes from a trusted brand.

But the mid-sized SUV scene is torrid and competitive, with dozens of contenders, and the X-Trail is now well back in the pack.


Position: family SUV

Price: from $30,665

Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol

Power: 1256kW/226Nm

Transmission: CVT, 4-wheel drive

Plus: roomy and good value

Minus: mostly outdated


Score: 6.5/10

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