Off-road Test: Nissan X-Trail


Words and image by Andrew Middleton

The first X-Trail, launched in 2001, was a distinctive and practical softroader − classed as such thanks primarily to sharing a platform with the Almera sedan. Its boxy design, rugged looks and outdoor-lifestyle advertising ensured its popularity, but it lacked true 4×4 capability when compared to its larger SUV cousins.

For 2015, and its third X-Trail iteration, Nissan has dropped the boxy design and off-road pretence with a model that replaces not only its predecessor, but also the seven-seat variant of the smaller Qashqai. An important model for Nissan then, but also one with a seemingly narrower scope of ability than the old one – which was considered a creditable performer off the tar, and particularly in sand and snow and on our typical gravel back roads. To test it, we took the X-Trail on a variety of surfaces to see if it had lost its individuality, or not.


Just as the exterior is a complete redesign of the old version, the interior, too, shares little or nothing with its predecessors. Interior cues show a European design influence and come directly from the smaller Qashqai; and, although the X-Trail is a good place to spend time, rivals such as the (smaller) Tiguan offer a more upmarket feel. In replacing the old Qashqai +2, the new X-Trail is given the burden of having an extra two kids in the boot when it’s ordered with the seven-seat option.

The most recent previous generation had a generous split-level boot, cementing its family SUV positioning, and the latest version’s extra space comes partly thanks to a 76mm longer wheelbase. In our more basic ‘SE’ specification, the rear end was unfortunately bereft of a third row of seats; however, they’re best used for children or the occasional short trip.

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