GRR Garage: Nissan X-Trail – a proper old-school SUV?

04th April 2018
Ethan Jupp

We’re nearing the end of our time with the X-Trail and, in-spite of a few stints in it, my experiences have gone little beyond the usual rigmarole of a daily commute.


No glamorous 2,000-mile jaunts to Geneva here – I’ll leave that to our esteemed colleague Gary “Globetrotter” Axon. Instead, I’ll regale my general impressions of the car complete with, what I suspect, will be praise that my colleagues don’t necessarily agree with.

It’s a big old brute, isn’t it? The side-road situation of my coastline digs means I usually try to reverse down to the end and parallel park. It was tight in the Passat, my Monaro, not so bad in the Clio – but the niggly little beginning and conclusion to my daily commute is most laborious when in the X-Trail.

It’s the nature of the beast, unfortunately – it’s a proper bulky SUV in that respect. The reversing camera and featherweight steering aid to an extent but if you’re urban-based, expect to sharpen your spatial awareness and parking skills if you get an X-Trail. Yet as a fan of a proper SUV, the bulk of the X-Trail appeals (more on that shortly…). It delivers that sense of dominance on the road even if it’s not quite an Autobiography Range Rover.

The beasts from the east with which we’ve been battling ever since Christmas have made me more thankful still for the X-Trail appearing to be a proper SUV. The clever all-wheel-drive system made short work of waterlogged fields and slushy roads alike.


The cabin is a nice place to be with a relatively intuitive in-car entertainment system, tactile control surfaces and an attractive fascia. There’re whiffs of quintessentially brittle Japanese quality but you have to scratch around a bit. We’d consider the odd bit of cheap plastic to be par for the course in anything below the German exec’ clique anyway. 

What of the powertrain? This is where it gets a bit contentious. See, the clatter of this diesel and the mechanical clunk of the shift are the subjects of perverse endearment for me. Having ran a 2002 Freelander as my daily for the better part of a year, these are comforting familiar attributes of a proper big SUV. That lack of refinement my colleagues might criticise is reassurance to me that the proper big luggers haven’t blended into crossover anonymity. True to that form, it's a bit thirsty, with a best of 35mpg achieved on a not-so-smooth commute. You’ll see over 40 on a motorway cruise.

The genre the original X-Trail, Freelander and more unwittingly inspired hasn’t consumed them just yet. Behind that deceptive smooth Qashqai-like face there is something resembling a proper old workhorse. A leap of the imagination too far? Granted, it’s hardly a reborn Patrol but in a world consumed by crossovers, the tall, big, cumbersome and slightly clattery X-Trail affords me some comfort. 

If you buy one over a Qashqai you’re one on the side of keeping the product lineups of all manufacturers just that little bit more diverse.

MPG this week: 35mpg

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