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Nissan X-Trail ST 4WD review

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    The X-Trail is affordable, well equipped and very family friendly.

Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the Nissan X-Trail ST 4WD.

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  • Practical
  • Versatile
  • Features
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  • Not pretty
  • Limited offroad ability
  • Vague steering

SUVs may create false illusions of ruggedness but still have a city role for families. The illusion that you spent weekends hunting bears - but really were a downtrodden wimp who yearned a physical sense of highway authority - spawned the SUV in the US.

That was decades ago and most of the delusional buyers have since either been eaten by a bear (at the zoo) or perished in a highway rollover. Now there's a new generation of buyer. Egged along by car companies who simultaneously axed their station wagons, buyers now appreciate that an SUV - ghastly term but we're stuck with it - offers versatile, flexible and a reasonably comfortable alternative for the family.

Nissan's X-Trail has been here a decade and is still pulling crowds. Last year, after getting an all-new model for 2008 that looked exactly like the old model, it was Australia's third best-selling compact SUV.


There's good reason for the X-Trail's success. It's affordable, has a cheaper front-drive option, is well equipped and very family friendly. The latest 2011 model goes up a bit in price but get extras - 17-inch alloys, pretty chrome bits and leather trim for the steering wheel and handbrake lever.

The base 4WD model tested here, the ST, sells for $32,490 as a manual and an extra $2500 for the competent CVT auto. That is smack-bang in the middle of a voracious field of rivals. The X-Trail meets them on features and performance but is dulled by its dated, boxy and - to be frank - ugly looks.


The latest model looks like the original model of 2001 but doesn't share one component or one dimension. It looks the same because Nissan though the old one was selling so well it feared change would kill the golden goose. But it's physically bigger and roomier inside.

The dashboard is less quirky - the original had a central instrument panel - but retains lots of storage areas. The cooler tubes in the dash for softdrink cans have been replaced by a cooling or heating function within the glovebox.

The rear seats split 40/20/40, fold flat and the boot has a false floor hiding drawers and lockers. Neat!


Not anything to write home to Mum about but the 2.5-litre engine is an economical, simple yet durable mill. The all-wheel drive system works really well but isn't a cure-all for anything off the bitumen. Don't expect sunset dune runs because the shadow of the shovel will mar your picture.

Drivers can keep it in 2WD (front drive) or switch to 4WD and then, as the sun sets, to 4WD Lock. The latter locks the centre diff allowing power to transfer to all wheels with traction. It's only a low-speed option. Steering is electric-assist, making it a quite vague, while the suspension is conventional coils and struts.


The entry-level X-Trail ST 4WD gets a four-star crash rating and comes with six airbags, electronic stability control, brake assist and ABS, with off-road aids like hill descent control. The manual transmission model tested also has hill hold, which locks the brakes when stationary on an incline to give you a couple of seconds to get your left foot off the brake and onto the clutch. It all helps.


This didn't thrill me but I appreciated its effort. The gearbox and engine relationship is cordial and the light clutch action confirmed that this is an easy wagon to drive.

There's sufficient low-end kick in the engine to make it sparkle off the lights but it doesn't encourage higher revs. That's fine by me - it keeps fuel consumption and engine noise to a minimum. The steering is too light - and vague - to return a positive feel which diminishes the driving experience. However, for general punting around the suburbs, it's fine.

Good visibility, a high seating position and simple controls will endear this car to the family taxi driver. Comfort is surprisingly good. The seats are soft though there's sufficient side bolster in the front seats to support the body.

Ride and handling is pretty good - but I've driven better - but on the other side of the ledger, it absorbed the bumps better than some on the market.


It's all a neater version of something we're already comfortable with, though isn't as snappy as its sister, the Nissan Dualis SUV.




Origin: Japan
Price: $32,490
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cyl
Power: 125kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 226Nm @ 4400rpm
Fuel: Standard unleaded
Fuel tank: 65 litres
Economy (official): 9.1 litres/100km
Economy (tested): 9.9 litres/100km
Greenhouse: 216g/km (Corolla: 174g/km)
Transmission: 6-speed manual; part-time 4WD
Brakes: 4-wheel discs, ESC, ABS, EBD, brake assist
Turning circle: 11m
Suspension: MacPherson struts (front), multi-link, coils (rear)
Wheels: 17-inch alloy, 225/60R17 tyres; full-size steel spare
Dimensions: 4635mm (l), 1790mm (w), 1700mm (h)
Wheelbase: 2630mm
Ground clearance: 212mm
Weight: 1496kg
Tow (max): 2000kg
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km, roadside assist
Service: 15,000km


  • Climate airconditioning
  • 4-speaker 6-CD iPod/USB/Bluetooth audio
  • 6 airbags
  • Cruise control
  • Heat/cool glovebox.


  • Honda CR-V from $30,990 (7/10)
  • Kia Sportage SLi auto from $31,990 (9/10)
  • Subaru Forester X from $30,990 (7.5/10)
  • Toyota RAV4 CV from $31,990 (8/10).

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 12 comments

  • Had one since 2004. Bought new, done 170,000km. Replaced suspenion with Pedders - handles and steers like on rails. Replaced front brakes and exhaust. Use synthetic oil, change coolant regularly and should last for almost ever. Smooth the shape and would be happy to have another anyway

    Garry x of South perth Posted on 31 May 2013 11:20pm
  • I have had it since July 2009, Done 120,000kms and still have original brakes, exhuast, gearbox and no motor issues. It has been a dream car and averaged 8.9lr/100km. No major problems at all and would recommend one. Great service at Coffs.

    M Wyborn of Coffs Harbour Posted on 03 April 2013 4:03pm
  • Can anyone comment on service and maintenance cost?

    C Gul of Adelaide Posted on 04 August 2012 6:44am
  • 2004 x-trail 2.5 ltr was good at first nothing wrong with it at first just serviced it regular then the motor started vibrating they call this mis fire took it to a nissan dealer had it checked out they said that the injector needed to be cleaned after cleaning it the car still had rough idling then they gave it a compression test and found out cylinder one and four were not given enough revs 1250 revs the revs should be 1500 another words the motor is stuffed thousands of dollars to fix only done 134,000 klms never frashed the car always looked after it .one owner brought it brand new cost $32,000.00 very disappointed with nissan making a car that wont last another piece of rubbish watch out dont be caught the motor not worth a pinch of shit

    george stone of chelsea Posted on 13 April 2012 11:43am
  • We purchased from new a 2008 X Trail ST. Great car at first. Started to develop a grinding noise in the CVT gearbox. Battled with the dealer for sometime to rectify. We were very fortunate to have G’box replaced. Fuel economy around 12L per 100ks. Not happy. Would not recommend to anyone.

    A Burton of Townsville Posted on 28 January 2012 9:11am
  • We just purchased a 2011 2WD ST petrol manual which is the base model.  It was a great price, far less than the other SUVs in the market with far better features for us - rear seats that go flat, 6 air bags for safety, seats that are comfortable, easy to drive, excellent seat height.  It is an old style station wagon on ‘steroids’ that is great for family use by people who need practical cars for everyday use, not a new design fashion statement.  Everyone has an opinion, and this just another one. The best car is the one that is in your price range, does the job that you want it to, at the time you want it done.

    Erik Krauklis of Bulleen Posted on 01 January 2012 7:50pm
  • I had my first Xtrail 2002 for 6 yrs, great all rounder, have 2009 now even better, it just goes to show the people who do the tests dont know much, the owners should be polled instead.

    Kevin Allen of Australia Posted on 16 December 2011 4:08pm
  • I have the 2009 model and before that the 2007, fantastic machine. I have towed a 16 foot caravan to north Queensland twice now averaging 11.9 litres to the 100 ks. I do a fair amount of soft off-roading and have not been caught in any situations, I got myself into more trouble with my old Rodeo. The only problem I can talk about is an annoying knock at the rear which Nissan cannot locate.

    dave legge of leeton nsw Posted on 10 August 2011 10:18am
  • I am located in Middle East and I have a 2010 model. It performs nice on road and has decent off road capabilities. I really don’t think its that bad off road. I have taken it to dunes and it performs acceptable. Obviously its no match to a true off roader with low 4wd gears.

    vinaykdeshpande of qatar Posted on 05 August 2011 6:22am
  • Being an owner of the current Ti X-Trail, I think you’ve been very harsh. It drives beautifully and looks great. The boxy look you refer to makes it look like a real 4WD instead of a girly curvy oversize hatch. And what is your left foot doing on the brake?

    Graeme of Rowville Posted on 07 March 2011 4:53pm
  • Sam is right! I’ve been waiting for spare parts to arrive from overseas for 2.5 months. Wrote to Nissan - they could not care less. What’s the point of buying a Nissan if you have to drive hired Hyundai for months?

    not_impressed of Adelaide Posted on 24 February 2011 11:27am
  • Any one buying nissan cars should be aware they are short of spares in Australia.If you need any part ,you may have to wait 6-12 months .They have to get it from overseas.I found out the hard way after buying a New Nissan.Nissan ‘s after sales service is awful.

    sam of Adelaide Posted on 15 February 2011 9:06pm
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