2020 Nissan X-Trail review

The world's most popular SUV, the mid-sized Nissan X-Trail is spacious and good to drive and is available with seven-seat versions, all-wheel-drive, and a gutsy diesel engine.

Nissan X-Trail review Australia
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Flexible interior
  •   7-seat option
  •   Turbodiesel engine, AEB as standard
Not so much
  •   Dated petrol engines and infotainment, foot-pedal park-brake

What stands out?

The world's most popular SUV, the mid-sized Nissan X-Trail is spacious and good to drive, with all but the least costly variant offering part-leather trim and satellite navigation. Seven-seat versions are available, as is all-wheel-drive, and a gutsy diesel engine. Autonomous emergency braking is standard.

What might bug me?

Getting what you want from the parking brake – and remembering to release it. You operate it with a left-foot pedal, and like most of its type it is hard to control with precision and easy to overlook.

The engine stopping as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, thanks to auto-stop function. This is designed to save fuel by turning the engine off, when you stop, and on again when you press the accelerator. It’s OK at traffic lights but a little frustrating when it cuts the engine while edging into a tight parking space. Fortunately, there is a button to override this feature.

The antiquated infotainment system that lacks Apple CarPlay/Android Auto that's now available in the smaller Nissan Qashqai.

Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare, until you can repair the full-sized flat tyre.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

The X-Trail is available in front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive.

All-wheel drive X-Trails can drive their front wheels only (for best fuel efficiency), or their rear wheels also whenever the car thinks that’s helpful, or (at low speeds) all four wheels all the time. You choose from these three options (2WD, Auto, and Lock) with a switch on the centre-console.

The X-Trail is classified as a medium SUV, lower priced.

What features do all X-Trails have?

Cruise control, and smart key entry – which allows you to unlock the doors with the key safe in your pocket or bag. A reversing camera.

An MP3 compatible sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD player, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and at least six speakers.

A touchscreen for controlling entertainment and other cabin functions. Smartphone integration through NissanConnect.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which carries buttons for operating the cruise control, the sound system and your phone.

Three 12-volt power outlets in the cabin.

Headlamps that switch on automatically when it’s getting dark. Daytime running lights, illuminated by very long-lived LEDs.

Aluminium alloy wheels (which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels), and a space-saver spare wheel.

Hill-start assist, which controls the brake automatically to help you start from rest on uphill slopes.

Intelligent Ride Control, and Intelligent Trace Control – Nissan technologies that micro-adjust the engine and brakes automatically, with the aim of steadying the ride and helping you steer into turns.

Autonomous emergency braking, which can prevent you from crashing into a car ahead that has slowed suddenly.

Six airbags. Electronic stability control, which is mandatory on new cars and can help control a skid or a slide. (For the placement of airbags, and more on X-Trail safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

The X-Trail is covered by a five-year, 100,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 2.0-litre diesel uses least fuel of the three engines offered with an X-Trail, consuming as little as 6.0 litres/100km on the official test (city and country cycles combined).

This turbocharged four-cylinder became available with the Series 2 midlife update of mid-2017, replacing the 1.6-litre diesel supplied previously.

It’s an excellent engine, producing noticeably more power than either petrol alternative. Like many turbo diesel engines there is a moment’s hesitation when you press the accelerator, but it is has plenty of get up and go once you’re moving. The truck-like diesel sound is a louder than the petrol engine, but it’s not out of place in a rugged, high-riding SUV like this.

The main reason you would not choose a diesel is that you want to pay less for your X-Trail. Diesel versions cost about $3000 more than similarly equipped petrol X-Trails. And the diesel engine is not an option if you want seven seats, or the mid-level features of the ST-L.

Of the two petrol engines, the 2.5-litre four cylinder is the stronger choice and it comes with every petrol X-Trail but one. On the official test, it uses 8.3 litres/100km when powering an all-wheel drive X-Trail, and slightly less in front-wheel drive form.

Both petrol engines are little changed from those in the Series-1 X-Trail. In a real-world comparison conducted for the August 2014 issue of Wheels magazine, an AWD X-Trail with the 2.5-litre engine consumed 11.5 litres/100km on average, about the same as an accompanying 2.5-litre Subaru Forester and a little more than a 2.5-litre Mazda CX-5.

The other petrol engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, comes with only the least costly X-Trail, the five-seat ST two-wheel drive manual. It is less responsive than the 2.5 litre, and it uses about as much fuel.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox. Every other X-Trail uses a CVT, or continuously variable transmission. The CVT does without the fixed gear ratios of a conventional automatic, instead adjusting in small increments to meet the driver’s requirements.

(Power outputs and all other Nissan X-Trail Series 2 specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly X-Trail is the ST 2WD manual, which has cloth-covered seating for five people, a 5.0-inch touchscreen, and 17-inch wheels. It drives only the front wheels, with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, through a manual gearbox, and it has the other features you get in any X-Trail.

You can spend a bit more for an X-Trail ST 2WD auto, which gets you the 2.5-litre engine and CVT auto transmission. And for a bit more again you can have an ST 4WD auto, which adds all-wheel drive.

Spend some more on an X-Trail ST-L and you get satellite navigation and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. You also get Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which uses multiple cameras to create an overhead view of the vehicle for help with parking, and reverse parking sensors. There is dual-zone air-conditioning, which lets you and your front passenger set different temperatures. Front seats are heated and power-adjustable, and there is leather on all the seats and the steering wheel. Roof rails help you mount the optional roof racks.

The ST-L also gains three sensor-based safety systems, in addition to the auto braking that comes with an X-Trail ST: Blind-spot warning; Rear cross-traffic alert; and Moving object detection. (For more on X-Trail safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

ST and ST-L 2WD auto models (only) can be ordered with seven seats.

Spending more on the TS brings the diesel engine with all-wheel drive, however you only get the same level of equipment as the five-seat ST.

The X-Trail N-Sport is a special edition version that's based on the five-seat 4x2 ST-L but has a bolder look through the addition of blackened exterior features such as the grille, roof rails, door mirror surrounds, bumpers, and wider-diameter 18-inch alloy wheels,

Cough up for an X-Trail Ti and you get a lot more luxury, and enhanced active safety.

The Ti comes with a sunroof, and has a power-opening tailgate that you can trigger with your foot (in case your hands are full). Headlights use very bright and long-lived LEDs, adjust their beams so that they shine into corners, and switch to low beam automatically to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. Wipers operate automatically when it rains.

Complementing the heated front seats, which you also get with the ST-L, are heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. There is a better sound system from audio specialist Bose.

The wheel rim diameter grows to 19 inches, and tyres have a slightly lower profile – this is mainly a visual change. Intelligent cruise control can adjust your cruising speed automatically to maintain a safe distance from a slower vehicle ahead.

A Ti also adds to the sensor-based safety features of the ST-L a more sophisticated auto-braking system that can respond to pedestrians, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist.

The most expensive X-Trail is the TL comes with the diesel engine and the equipment that comes with an X-Trail Ti apart from lane departure prevention and adaptive cruise control.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

If you choose a seven-seat X-Trail you cannot get an all-wheel drive system. Seven-seaters also lose underfloor storage in the boot.

The sunroof on Ti (and TL) models reduces headroom, something more noticeable in the second row of seats.

There are three standard colours – red, white and black – with the remaining four costing extra.

Upgrading to the diesel means missing out on equipment. The TS costs more than ST-L but has ST equipment levels, while upgrading to the diesel TL from the TI means missing out on lane departure prevention and Intelligent cruise control.

The 17-inch wheels use a more popular tyre size, so there are more tyre brands to choose from and these tyres could cost less to replace than the 19-inch tyres used on the Ti (and TL). You feel the bumps a bit more on the 19s also, because their shorter sidewalls leave less air and rubber between you and the road.

How comfortable is the X-Trail?

For a mid-sized SUV, the X-Trail has a big cabin. Oversized sun-visors are a win for short drivers. The central touchscreen is easy to navigate, thanks to the host of menu buttons surrounding it. The ventilation controls below the screen are nicely presented and user friendly.

Occupants up front have plenty of headroom, and it is easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat. The broad seats work well on long trips, too.

The X-Trail feels light and easy to operate, and steers nicely. The suspension is fairly supple and does a good job of soaking up bumps, especially when paired with the 17-inch wheels on most versions. In a Ti (or TL) on 19s – which arrived with the mid-2017 Series 2 facelift – you won’t feel quite as settled.

On the motorway, the top-spec X-Trail Ti’s adaptive cruise control has trouble settling on the selected speed, which seems due to it sensing cars in adjoining lanes on gentle curves.

Nissan added sound insulation to the X-Trail with that update, but the 2.5-litre engine – the only engine offered at Nissan’s media introduction – still sounds a bit vocal and you will notice tyre noise. An interior freshen-up extends to an appealing new steering wheel and minor revisions to trim.

What about safety in an X-Trail?

Every X-Trail has stability control, six airbags, auto-on headlights, LED daytime running lights, a reversing camera, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB). It is a rounded package that emphasises crash protection, visibility, crash avoidance, and safe reversing.

Reverse parking sensors, which are now commonplace, are only available in the upper-spec ST-L and TI versions.

There are
ahead of the driver and front passenger, to protect them in frontal crashes; one outside each front seat about chest level to protect in side-crashes; and a curtain airbag extending down each side at head level to protect those in the front and second seat rows from side crashes.

The head-protecting side-curtain airbags do not extend to the third row of seats on seven-seat models, however. And while the front and second-row seats have seat-belt reminders, third-row seats have none.

The AEB fitted to every X-Trail uses a radar-type sensor and operates at city and highway speeds – any speed over 5km/h, Nissan says. It works in concert with a Forward collision warning, which alerts you if it thinks you are too close to the vehicle in front. If you ignore the warning and the system concludes a crash is imminent, it can apply the brakes automatically, either avoiding the crash or reducing your impact speed.

The X-Trail ST-L adds a blind-spot warning, which alerts you to the presence of vehicles near your rear corners that might not show in your mirrors. It also has a rear cross-traffic alert, which helps you avoid bingles when reversing from parking spaces (by warning of vehicles crossing behind you). And it gives you another reversing aid, labelled Moving Object Detection: this sounds a warning if something behind you is moving, which could help you avoid backing into a person or animal.

The X-Trail Ti takes sensor-based safety a step or two further. Its auto braking augments the radar sensor with a camera, enabling it to distinguish pedestrians, and if necessary brake automatically for them, at speeds up to 60km/h. It also monitors lane markings, warning you if you are drifting out of your lane on the highway (perhaps from distraction or fatigue), and attempting to steer you back on track by applying the brakes gently on one side.

It also has adaptive cruise control that allows the X-Trail to automatically match the speed of a vehicle in front of you.

The diesel-powered X-Trail TL, shares the safety features of the Ti except that while it will warn of your lane-drift, it will not attempt to correct it.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated the X-Trail at five stars for safety, its maximum score, in October 2014.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The 2.5-litre petrol engine teams nicely with the CVT auto to make for good response to the accelerator. The engine is fairly peppy and willing to rev hard for overtaking. It handles a full load with little fuss.

The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine does all of the above well, without the need to rev hard. It handles highway driving with ease. It is also pleasant around town, though the lag when you press the accelerator becomes more noticeable in stop-start traffic.

The body is generally well controlled and recovers quickly from bumps, but it will lean significantly if driven hard through a corner, something more noticeable when the road immediately turns the other way. Those body movements make the X-Trail feel less secure when driven assertively, although grip from the 19-inch tyres on Ti (and TL) models is good.

The update of May 2017 brought two technologies designed to improve the ride and steering: Intelligent Ride Control, and Intelligent Trace Control. Nissan says the former adjusts the engine output to diminish the rocking effect of some undulating surfaces, while the latter can brake each wheel selectively to help you steer the car more effectively. Neither system made itself felt in any obvious way on the winding media launch route through the Great Ocean Road and Otway ranges of southern Victoria, but the X-Trail felt secure and safe, on sealed and unsealed surfaces.

All-wheel-drive X-Trails are capable of light off-tarmac duty such as snowy roads or dirt tracks. They are among the less effective of road-biased medium SUVs in rougher going, limited in particular by overhang at the front – the low front bumper is a long way ahead of the wheels. On the plus side, you can lock-in an even power distribution between the front and rear axles at speeds under 40km/h, which might help you where it’s very slippery. Should you get a puncture, you’ll be hoping you can get out of trouble on the skinny space-saver spare.

How is life in the rear seats?

Three across the rear (or middle row, in seven-seat models) is achievable thanks to the broad cabin. That pew sits slightly higher than the front seats, for a good view. Tall folk could have their hair touching the roof, but most will be content with the headroom.

Rear air-conditioning vents – in all X-Trails – create a good flow of ventilation around the cabin, while the backrest from the middle seat folds down to form a chunky arm rest.

That second row of seats can also slide forward and back, creating great leg room in its rearmost position. Those in third-row seats (where fitted) will be a lot less comfortable, with marginal leg room: these are best left for children.

If you are using child seats, they have to be fitted to the middle row of seats, which limits access to the third row (the easiest way in is then through the boot). Even without child seats, getting to that third row is best left to the very young: the passage between the tilted middle-row seats and the door frame is small.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The boot floor is flat and quite large, making it good for taking plenty of gear. Storage drawers under the floor are handy for messy or fiddly gear, and a sweet ‘Divide ’n’ Hide’ stackable storage system for the five-seaters lets you partition the boot for multiple items.

For seven-seat models, that underfloor area is consumed by the seats when they’re split-folded (50/50) into the floor.

While it has a narrow 135L of storage behind the third row of seats where fitted – to be expected in the medium class – there is capacious and stackable storage at 565 litres with just the five seats. Fold all flat, and the space is close to 2000 litres.

The middle-row seat also split-folds, and in a 40-20-40 configuration that offers fantastic load flexibility.

The X-Trail is rated to tow up to 1500kg with the petrol engine, and 1650kg with the diesel.

Where is the X-Trail made?

All X-Trails are produced in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

European styling, as featured in the Renault Koleos which actually shares the same chassis and powertrains as the X-Trail.

The ability to plug in your smartphone and display apps from it on the car’s touchscreen, controlling them from there (or by voice). The Koleos, Ford Escape, Holden Equinox, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan offer this, for example, via their support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Head-protecting curtain airbags for those in third-row seats. These are available on bigger seven-seat vehicles such as the Toyota Kluger, Holden Acadia, and Mazda CX-9.

Among other mid-size SUVs you might consider are the Mitsubishi Outlander and Honda CR-V (which also offer seven-seat options), the Mazda CX-5, and the Toyota RAV4.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The X-Trail ST-L with seven seats is good buying. The third row of seats makes it more useful for families, and it has leather trim, satellite navigation, the bigger control screen, and more active safety.

Unfortunately there is no diesel equivalent of the ST-L, which would certainly be our pick.

Are there plans to update the X-Trail soon?

The X-Trail went on sale in its current form about April 2014 with two petrol engines, adding a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel in October that year.

A significant upgrade arrived in May 2017, retaining the previous petrol engines, dropping the 1.6 diesel, and bringing a facelifted body and (on every X-Trail) auto-braking, among other changes.

A much more powerful turbo-diesel, the 2.0-litre X-Trail TS, joined the facelifted petrol X-Trails in June 2017, available only with an auto gearbox and AWD, and matching the trim level of the X-Trail ST. A luxury diesel, the TL, arrived in October 2017.

In April 2020 Nissan added reverse parking sensors to the ST-L and TI versions.

Special editions, including the 2018 and 2020 N-Sport and 2019 N-Trek have proved popular so expect to see more of these before an all-new model arrives some time in 2021.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Flexible interior
  •   7-seat option
  •   Turbodiesel engine, AEB as standard
Not so much
  •   Dated petrol engines and infotainment, foot-pedal park-brake


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