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Used car review Nissan X-Trail 2001-2003

Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the Nissan X-Trail 2001-2003, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you're buying it.

The SUV phenomenon started back in the 1970s with intoxicating images of peaceful places far way from the hustle and bustle of the city and has since become a tidal wave that has flooded our every day lives.

The weekend getaways to the beach or bush have given way to the trek of a lifetime for baby boomers who have taken to the open road in huge numbers, but the SUV has also set down roots in our towns as more and more families turn to it for day-to-day family transport.

SUVs, or Sports Utility Vehicles, like the Nissan X-Trail have become the enduring phenomenon of modern day motoring and there’s no sign they’re going to lose favour with car buyers any time soon.


With the evolution of the SUV have come a number of variations on the theme as carmakers have striven to meet the expectations of a wide variety of buyers.

What was once a rough, tough four-wheel drive designed to do the hard yards in the bush is now a jacked-up wagon with town manners that struggles for survival once the black top stops.

Most carmakers give their SUVs the look of an offroader, but it’s what’s underneath that separates them from the real bush bashers. Nissan attempted to give the X-Trail, the compact soft-roader SUV it launched in 2001, a degree of off-road credibility with its smart drive selection system.

A dial on the dash allows the driver to select their desired drive for the conditions. Select ‘2WD’ and all the drive is directed to the front wheels for regular driving when the rear wheels are just there to keep the back bumper off the bitumen.

When the road was wet and slippery there was the ‘Auto’ setting, which engaged the centre viscous coupling and drive was electronically distributed front and rear as needed. For more tricky going the drive could be locked, which set the torque split at 53 per cent to the front and the rest to the rear. It was effective up to 30 km/h. It was a pretty good compromise that delivered decent smooth-road manners and reasonable capability off the road.

The X-Trail’s four-cylinder engine was on the money when it came to output, which ensured it had plenty of performance available under the right foot when desired. The double overhead camshaft engine delivered 132 kW at 6000 revs along with 245 Nm at 4000 revs, which was enough to have it doing 100 km/h around 11 seconds after launch.

X-Trail buyers had the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed auto, the latter being the choice of most townies. Manual gearboxes are normally preferred for control when driving off-road, but even in auto form there was good control of the gears.

Inside there were comfortable seats and roomy accommodation for five, although the centre rear seat passenger had to make do with a lap belt only. The dash was rather unusual with the dials located in a centre cluster, and there was a second glove box located ahead of the driver. The rest of the controls were housed in the centre console along with a couple of drink holders and other switches, including the drive mode control.


The entry ST model can be found for $13,000-$17,000; the better equipped Ti will cost $2000 more, while the Ti-L will absorb an extra $5000 over the ST.


As with all SUVs a check underneath is mandatory. Any time an SUV is driven off-road it’s susceptible to damage from sand blasting or flying rocks, so check for damage to the underbody, suspension, drive shafts, and exhaust system etc. If you find no damage it’s a good bet it hasn’t gone off the black top. Few SUVs actually do, the most severe use they are usually subjected to is the school run.

The X-Trail is generally robust and reliable if serviced according to Nissan’s recommendations, so check for a service record to make sure it has actually seen the inside of a workshop. Servicing is even more crucial if a vehicle is used off-road, even if it appears undamaged from the experience.


Dual front airbags provide protection for the driver and front seat passenger, while standard ABS antiskid brakes and EBD electronic Brakeforce Distribution kick in when things are looking like going pear shaped on the road.


While its performance is impressive for an SUV it’s fuel economy isn’t bad either. Average drivers should be able to achieve 11.0-11.5 L/100 km around town, and better on the open road, which is quite good for an SUV. There are owners, however, who are unhappy with the economy, but the X-Trail is in line with the average SUV. LPG systems have been developed to meet the demand from some owners who want to save on fuel expenses, and these work well.


Neil Ricketts reckons the X-Trail’s engine is powerful, but also economical. A keeper of fastidious fuel consumption records, Ricketts gets around 11 L/100 km around town and 8.5 L/100 km on a trip. He particularly likes the X-Trail’s versatility, as on a trip it can go places a normal car can’t. He’s had it on the Bloomfield track north of Cape Tribulation, which involved creek and dry riverbed crossings and last winter being exempt from carrying chains he was able to drive on snow and ice in the NSW snowfields without any problem. The extra traction also comes in handy in wet weather driving in the city.

• User-friendly drive mode system
• All-wheel drive security
• Good performance
• Reasonable fuel economy
• LPG systems available

• Honda CR-V – 2001-2004 – $14,000-$22,000
• Subaru Forrester – 2002-2004 – $17,000-$23,000
• Mitsubishi Outlander – 2003-2004 – $15,000-$21,000

A good blend of town manners and bush capability makes the X-Trail a good family all-rounder.


Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 16 comments

  • Hi Ina B of Ballarat. We've just bought a 2002 Nissan X-Trail, and on reading the comments are pleased. Just wondering if you still have it? We too live 15 kl out of Ballarat, would love to compare notes with you, and hear more, wondering how we could do that? Or if you are willing to do that? Cheers, Anne

    Anne Marie of Ross Creek Posted on 06 January 2014 9:40pm
  • Please where can I get a LHD dashboard for Nissan X trail 2002 model at a good price

    ebuka OZUGHA of United Kingdom Posted on 20 September 2013 12:27am
  • Please where I get a LHD dashboard of Nissan X trail for a good prive

    ebuka OZUGHA of United Kingdom Posted on 20 September 2013 12:26am
  • we bought an x trail second hand and it has done over 287,562 km the car gets good mileage 10lt per 100km and 6.2litres/100km on open country roads we met a the person who owned and he was a yabby farmer he also went extreme fishing in it was covered in red dust when we brought it great car we are now thin king of buying one for my daughter

    kathleen walker of skipton victoria Posted on 01 May 2013 6:29pm
  • bly car we also been told he went extreme fishing it has a few scratches but we love it . the milage is great 10 litres per100km city and country8.2 litres 100km we run ours on 98 vortex and we streched the cam chain and had to replace it but we are now thinking of buying one for our daughter we have done 287,562 km

    kathleen walker of skipton victoria Posted on 01 May 2013 6:17pm
  • I Have a 2002 Nissan X Trail and would like to find out how many kl per litre

    Barbara Cruickshank of Albany W.A, Posted on 17 April 2013 6:02pm
  • Love mine - the two ton towing capacity is also worth a mention. The last 300 kg is a dicey at times.

    Andrew Little of Brisbane Posted on 29 October 2012 9:50pm
  • i bought a second hand xtrail 2001 model and still going strong with no such major problems. like this car

    b of darwin Posted on 07 August 2012 10:45pm
  • I have had my Xtrail for 10 years, 230,000kms. It has been trouble free and a great car. I installed an auto transmission oil cooler and heavy rear shocks and towed a single axle pop top caravan for years. No problems at all, I could overtake other caravans with ease, never overheated even in really hot weather.

    peter hall of perth Posted on 03 July 2012 4:45pm
  • Had mine for a year with NO problenms at all... a great car to drive and an economical car to run...

    Michael Johansen of Richmond, NSW, Australia Posted on 20 February 2012 6:30pm
  • I'm pretty sure the Auto is a CVT transmission, as my neighbor went through 2 of them under warranty and got rid of his x-trail after the third gearbox was installed....

    Del of WA Posted on 30 October 2011 1:51pm
  • I've never owned a single car beyond 16 months before. I've been driving 40-odd years too, and bought my X-Trail in 2003 (now on 116Kms/75,000miles) and since, I'd only go out and buy another of the same. What's the point of changing and passing on a totally trouble-free machine to someone else. Best all-rounder I've ever come accross!

    Rob McClair of FRANCE Posted on 25 August 2011 3:22am
  • had mine since 2003 with no issues grate car good in the snow done 70 thousand miles in it so far

    bazza of kent england Posted on 19 August 2011 8:54pm
  • Bought my X-Trail ST manual new in 2003, have just clicked over 100,000 kms with no dramas what so ever. Great car to drive, doesn't feel like a truck, but you get the versatility of 4wd which is great for wet or unsealed roads. But best of all is the load space, the rear seats fold down flat and I am constantly surprised at the amount of stuff I can get in the back. A brilliant car and I'm in no hurry to replace it.

    Steve B of Forestville Posted on 14 July 2010 10:30am
  • Excellent review, Graeme. We purchased our basic st x-trail in 2003 and have had an excellent run so far. Two years ago we decided on lpg conversion and glad we did. We don't drive off road but do tow a caravan a couple of times a year. so far we've driven less than 100,000. On a trip towing the van (tare 860kg), we average approx 10L / 50 - 55 km. Without the van, we get around 10 L / 110. Overall, I would say that this is one of the best cars we've owned over the years.

    Ina B of Ballarat area Posted on 21 June 2010 3:37pm
  • Good story,Graeme,I have 2003, how do I stop the idling surge,1oo,ooo on the clock,its been looked after, bought it recently, can you advise on web info for a pensioner,to fix problem, the used car dealer left town, Regards ,Ned Fenton.

    Ned Fenton of Queensland Posted on 18 April 2010 9:59am
Read all 16 comments

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