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Nissan X-Trail 2018 review: ST-L N-Sport

The N-Sport version of the Nissan X-Trail is based on the ST-L, and adds some styling extras to separate it from the pack.
EXPERT RATING
7.1
The Japanese mid-size SUV has been a popular model here for years, and now there's a limited edition N-Sport model based on the popular ST-L grade that adds some further appeal.

Thinking about a Nissan X-Trail? You’re not alone. 

It's one of the best-selling mid-sized SUVs in Australia, often duking it out for top honours with the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Mitsubishi Outlander.

It’s not only locally that the X-Trail is proving popular: Nissan claims this vehicle was the best selling SUV on the planet - well, that’s if you include the Rogue, as it’s known in other markets. 

And now for Australia there’s a new special edition N-Sport model, based on the mid-spec ST-L petrol five-seater. Let’s go through what’s different about it, and perhaps more importantly, what isn’t…

Nissan X-Trail 2018: ST-L (2WD) N-SPORT
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$31,998

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The Nissan X-Trail N-Sport model is based on the mid-spec ST-L petrol, retaining the same 2.5-litre engine and CVT auto, available with two-wheel drive (2WD) at $39,250, or four-wheel drive (4WD) for $41,250 (before on-road costs). 

There will be 600 examples of the ST-L N-Sport available, and the price increase over respective donor ST-L 2WD ($37,200) and 4WD ($39,200) models is $2050.

You can have the X-Trail N-Sport in four colours, and none will cost you any extra. You can have the X-Trail N-Sport in four colours, and none will cost you any extra.

So, in addition to the sports pack/black pack elements and bigger wheels, what does the ST-L N-Sport come with as standard? We aren’t doing a full model comparison here, but the ST-L grade comes in midway through the model range, and is decently equipped.

Standard gear includes leather seat trim, heated front seats, a leather-lined steering wheel and gear knob, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, USB input and Bluetooth (but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto phone mirroring), DAB+ digital radio and a six-speaker sound system. 

The N-Sport pack clearly adds 18-inch wheels (the ST-L usually rides on 17s) and there’s still a space-saver spare under the boot floor. Auto headlights are standard, but auto wipers aren’t, and nor is an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The ST-L grade (and the ST and TS versions) have LED daytime running lights and LED tail-lights, but they don’t get LED headlights, which is a shame.

The N-Sport pack essentially brandishes a black pack over the ST-L model, with 18-inch black alloy wheels (stepping up from 17s on the ST-L). The N-Sport pack essentially brandishes a black pack over the ST-L model, with 18-inch black alloy wheels (stepping up from 17s on the ST-L).

However, the safety game is pretty strong for the 2018 X-Trail range - and we’re not just talking about the surround view camera fitted to the ST-L grade. Read more about X-Trail safety equipment in the safety section below.

How many seats in the Nissan X-Trail? Well, if you’re choosing the N-Sport, the maximum is five, but you can get an X-Trail ST-L with seven seats if you need that.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   6/10

Nissan has added the N-Sport models to its X-Trail, Pathfinder and 370Z ranges to ‘up the cool factor’ of each of the respective donor cars. But is there anything more uncool than trying to be cool?

Teenage insecurities aside, the X-Trail N-Sport essentially brandishes a black pack over the ST-L model, with 18-inch black alloy wheels (stepping up from 17s on the ST-L), gloss black mirror caps, a lower body kit with dark metallic front and rear bumper finisher and black side skirts, and a dark chrome front grille and black roof rails.

  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.

You can have the X-Trail N-Sport in four colours, and none will cost you any extra – 'Diamond Black' (which seems a bit pointless), 'Gun Metallic' (grey), 'Brilliant Silver' or 'Ivory Pearl' (white). 

It’s not the most attractive of the mid-size SUV set to begin with, and the N-Sport model arguably doesn’t make it any prettier, either…

And you don’t get anything else different, and the cabin remains identical - check out the interior pictures for proof.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The X-Trail’s cabin offers one of the roomier spaces in the mid-size segment: it’s a thoughtful cabin, and family buyers will be well served by it.

There is storage for bottles in all four doors, there are cupholders between the front seats and there’s a fold-down centre section of the back seat with cup storage, too (not an armrest, but a small portion that also doubles as a ski-port). There’s a pair of map pockets for those in the back, and good loose item storage up front, with a nice cubby in front of the shifter and a good covered centre bin.

While some versions of the X-Trail come with seven seats, the N Sport doesn’t. While some versions of the X-Trail come with seven seats, the N Sport doesn’t.

Space in the rear is pretty good for the class, with easily enough room for me - a 183cm human adult man - to sit behind my own driving position very comfortably, with enough leg, head and toe room for long trips, and there’s enough width to the cabin to account for three adults, too.

There are the usual kid seat fittings - ISOFIX and top tether attachment points - and there are rear air-vents too.

While some versions of the X-Trail come with seven seats, the N Sport doesn’t. But it does have sliding second row seats to allow extra boot space or more legroom, depending on your requirements.

The boot space luggage capacity increases to 945L with the seats folded down. The boot space luggage capacity increases to 945L with the seats folded down.

The boot is very clever - offering an adjustable false floor system known as 'Divide-n-Hide' that can be configured to suit whatever you’re carrying. The boot space luggage capacity is 565 litres with the back seats up, and that figure increases to 945L with the seats folded down.

There’s a space-saver spare under the boot floor, too. 

As practical as the X-Trail is, it doesn’t feel overly special inside. The flat-bottom steering wheel is sporty and all, and the materials are all of a decent quality… but there’s no real wow-factor to be had here. Even little things like the digital driver info display being really crisp, and the touchscreen multimedia system being more pixelated - they don’t make it feel loveable, even if it is very likeable. 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The X-Trail ST-L N-Sport models are available only with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 126kW of power and 226Nm of torque. Those aren’t huge numbers, but it gets the job done just fine.

For the N-Sport model you can choose between the 2WD or 4WD model, the latter featuring Nissan’s intelligent shift-on-the-fly system, which will apportion torque between the front and rear axles as needed - but it’s a front-biased system.

Towing capacity for X-Trail models with the 2.5-litre engine is 750 kilograms for an un-braked trailer and 1500kg for a braked trailer. Towing capacity for X-Trail models with the 2.5-litre engine is 750 kilograms for an un-braked trailer and 1500kg for a braked trailer.

Both the 2WD and 4WD models come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Towing capacity for X-Trail models with the 2.5-litre engine is 750 kilograms for an un-braked trailer and 1500kg for a braked trailer.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Nissan claims fuel consumption of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres for the 2WD model and 8.3L/100km for the 4WD version, which is heavier. The kerb weight of the five-seat ST-L 2WD model is 1493kg, while the 4WD tips the scales at 1549kg.

During our time in the X-Trail ST-L N-Sport 4WD we saw about 9.0L/100km displayed most of the time, but that fell to 8.6L/100km on open road, limited traffic cruising with two on-board. 

It has a 60-litre fuel tank, which allows good cruising range, and happily drinks standard 91 RON unleaded.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Nissan X-Trail range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test rating when it was put through its paces in 2017. 

Commendably, and unlike some of its big-name competitors - yes, we're talking about you, Honda CR-V - every model in the X-Trail range has auto emergency braking (AEB), plus forward collision warning. 

The ST-L (and therefore the N-Sport) adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, but you have to shop up to the Ti and TL models to get pedestrian detection and lane departure warning, but no lane-keeping assist. 

All X-Trail models have six airbags - dual front, front side and full-length curtains. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

Nissan remains one of the few manufacturers to continue with a three-year/100,000km warranty for its models. Many competitors offer superior warranty plans, both in terms of duration and kilometre cover.

All X-Trails require servicing every six months or 10,000km, which is annoyingly short in terms of intervals, as plenty of competitors only need maintenance every 12 months/15,000km. However, Nissan’s capped price service plan covers six years/120,000km, which is better than the likes of Toyota (the current RAV4’s plan only spans three years/60,000km. 

X-Trail models with the 2.5-litre engine will cost you, on average, about $321 per service, or $642 per year. Not especially cheap - in fact, dearer than the likes of the German-sourced Volkswagen Tiguan.

Brake fluid top-ups are due every 24 months/40,000km at a cost of $32 each time. 

What's it like to drive?   7/10

In general there is nothing that the X-Trail does brilliantly in terms of the drive experience, but nor is there anything that it does really poorly. 

That’s true of the N-Sport model, too, even with the sportier exterior additions and bigger alloy wheels than the ST-L.

  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.
  • 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport. 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport.

It still rides fine - not exceptionally well, but with enough composure over bumps to feel well controlled and comfortable enough. The back seat experience is a little more lumpy, but not enough to make the kids complain. 

It exhibits a bit of body roll in corners, and while the twisty mountain roads near Cairns and Port Douglas in Far North Queensland would have been much better suited to the 370Z N-Sport, and while my time behind the wheel of the X-Trail through about 40km of cornering roads was tolerable and hassle-free, it wasn’t fun. That may matter to you, or not. 

The steering is decently weighted and responsive enough, but doesn’t have the lightness and accuracy of a VW Tiguan, nor the involved nature of the CX-5 or CR-V. There’s some understeer if you’re pushing it - but that’s not what this car is about.

Its drivetrain does an okay job in most situations. It will punch hard when you plant your right foot to overtake or get away from an intersection quickly, and while the CVT auto makes for a noisy experience in those situations, it deals with getting things going just fine. Again, the perky turbo in the CR-V or Tiguan will offer more engagement, not to mention more refinement, too.

Verdict

Should you buy a 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L N-Sport? If you can get your hands on one, then it could be a good option. The X-Trail in general doesn’t set any benchmarks in the mid-size SUV space, but it doesn’t do anything particularly badly, either. I guess that’s why it sells so well.

I would personally choose a Honda CR-V over it, or possibly a Mazda CX-5. But I could also be tempted to wait to see how the new-generation Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 models shape up…

Is the Nissan X-Trail N-Sport sporty enough for you? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$29,512
Based on 1759 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$21,650
Highest Price
$49,297

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ST (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $23,990 – 29,888 2018 NISSAN X-TRAIL 2018 ST (2WD) Pricing and Specs
ST (4WD) 2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $23,750 – 37,180 2018 NISSAN X-TRAIL 2018 ST (4WD) Pricing and Specs
ST 7 SEAT (2WD) 2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $22,450 – 32,000 2018 NISSAN X-TRAIL 2018 ST 7 SEAT (2WD) Pricing and Specs
ST-L (2WD) 2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $24,800 – 41,466 2018 NISSAN X-TRAIL 2018 ST-L (2WD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Price and features8
Design6
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership6
Driving7
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

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