Words by Dean Mellor via Practicalmotoring.com.au
REVAMPED FOR 2018, the Nissan X-Trail continues to grab a big slice of the medium SUV pie. The X-Trail ST-L is described as the model’s mid-spec variant, but it’s packed with enough comfort, convenience and safety features to give some top-spec SUVs a run for their money.
What is the 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L?
The Nissan X-Trail is pitched as a sub-$40k Medium SUV and year to date (May 2018) it’s the third best seller in this segment of more than 20 vehicles, racking up 8373 sales for an 11.7% segment share - that’s behind Mazda CX-5 (10,711 sales/15%) and Toyota RAV4 (9080 sales/12.7%) but ahead of Hyundai Tucson 8280 (sales/11.6%) and Honda CR-V (6810 sales/9.5%).
Many of the vehicles in the segment are available in both 2WD and AWD variants, and this is the case with the X-Trail, with drive to front and rear wheels adding $2k to the purchase price. The X-Trail comes in five trim levels (ST, TS, ST-L, Ti and TL), so the ST-L model tested here sits right in the middle of the range. While there are 2.0L petrol and turbo-diesel engines in the range, as well as a manual or Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the ST-L is only available with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to the Xtronic CVT. The X-Trail is also available with seven seats, but this option can only be mated to ST and ST-L models with the 2.5L petrol engine and CVT.
Despite its mid-spec standing, the X-Trail ST-L is loaded with equipment. Standard comfort and convenience features include seven-inch colour touchscreen, six-speaker sound system with DAB+, Bluetooth phone connectivity, satnav with traffic monitoring, six-way power-adjustable driver seat and four-way passenger seat, heated front seats, leather accented seat trim, leather accented steering wheel, heated and cooled centre console cupholders, keyless entry with push-button start, cruise control, automatic headlights, two front 12V power outlets and one in the cargo area, second-row air vents, speed-sensitive electric power steering, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, privacy glass and heated door mirrors.
What’s the interior like?
Surrounded by lots of quality trim, soft touch materials and pleasant design, sitting in the X-trail ST-L’s driver’s seat is a pleasant experience. The seat itself is covered in nice leather accent trim and offers a good range of adjustment including height and lumbar. The steering is adjustable for rake and reach and all the controls and switches are logically positioned and clearly marked.
X-Trail’s seven-inch colour touchscreen is nice and bright but navigating your way through some of the functions takes a little getting used to. The ‘Nissan Connect’ app isn’t as intuitive as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, but it does allow you to access certain phone apps via the X-Trail’s touchscreen.
The satnav features traffic monitoring and there’s a trick ‘eco score’ function to promote economical driving, but the best thing about the touchscreen must be the Intelligent Around-View Monitor with Moving Object Detection. When you’re trying to park up close to a gutter it shows exactly where the wheels are, or when you’re backing into a spot at the local shops it offers a virtual view from above the X-Trail so you can clearly see all obstacles around the vehicle.
If you’re carrying passengers there’s enough width across the second-row seat for three adults on short journeys but, as is the case with many back pews, it’s far more comfortable seating just two. The centre position’s backrest doubles as fold-down armrest when not in use, which is never ideal for comfort if you happen to be seated there. Nevertheless, there’s good leg room in the back, rear air conditioning vents and big door pockets with cup holders. Getting in and out of the back seat is made easy by the big back doors which open to an impressive 77 degrees.
The cargo area is a decent size, offering 565 litres of space when the back seat is in use, expanding to 945 litres with the seat folded flat. There’s a flat load floor when the seats are folded too, and the cargo area offers four luggage tie down points, a 12V power outlet and ample lighting. It also features Nissan’s ‘Divide-n-Hide’ system, which is essentially a couple of liftable/removable panels beneath which is a hard plastic ‘wet’ area, ideal for stowing things like wet cossies and damp towels after a trip to the beach. Sure, the name is a bit gimmicky, but it’s practical features like this that really come in handy when you own an SUV wagon like the X-Trail.
What’s it like on the road?
On paper, the 2.5-litre engine’s peak power and torque outputs look quite modest at 126kw at 6000rpm and 226 Nm at 4400rpm, but the X-Trail offers surprisingly spritely acceleration, thanks in part to the clever Xtronic CVT that ensures the engine is always at the right revs for road conditions and driver demands. In other words, if you’re driving along with the cruise control set at 100km/h and you start to climb a hill, engine revs will steadily rise to maintain the set speed. For those used to a traditional auto that would kick down a cog or two in such a scenario, the CVT can feel a little strange, but it’s certainly an effective system.
Scroll through the settings menu and there’s a box that can be ticked for ‘Intelligent Engine Braking’. When engaged, the CVT assists in braking effort and also helps to maintain a set speed on big downhill runs.
Overall gearing is quite tall and the X-Trail will happily lope along at 100km/h with just 1700rpm showing on the tacho, which no doubt contributes to the reasonable claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 7.9L/100km for the 2WD model and 8.3L/100km for the auto. And unlike some Euros, the X-Trail is happy to run on 91RON fuel.
Another setting in the menu switches on Intelligent Trace Control, which applies braking force to individual wheels when cornering to help reduce understeer. With ITC engages, the X-Trail certainly offers sharp handling when pushed along damp, twisting backroads. Body roll is also well controlled in such conditions and while you wouldn’t really describe the handling as sporty, it’s still sharp for an SUV wagon.
The ST-L model grade’s 17-inch alloy wheels are shod with sensible 225/65R17 Goodyear Assurance tyres, and ride quality over bumpy surfaces is pretty good, but tyre noise is pronounced over coarse bitumen and there can be a bit of booming through the cabin when the X-Trail hits big road-surface irregularities. Wind noise, however, is very well suppressed, and on smooth surfaces such as freeways, noise in the X-Trail’s cabin is nicely subdued.
The X-Trail’s electric-assisted variable power steering offers nice weighting at highway speeds and lightens considerably when negotiating tight city streets and parking around town.
If you’re likely to drive on gravel roads or take trips to the snow, the AWD version of the X-Trail ST-L would be well worth the extra $2k spend. The AWD system has three modes: 2WD, Auto and Lock. In 2WD, drive is sent to the front wheels but will automatically engage all-wheel drive if wheel slip is detected; in Auto mode the system constantly monitors all four wheels and apportions torque to each of them as required; and in Lock mode, drive is sent 50:50 between front and rear wheels up to a speed of 40km/h, after which the system automatically reverts to Auto mode. The AWD X-Trail also features Hill Descent Control.
What safety features does it get?
The X-Trail was awarded a five-star ANCAP score in June 2017. In ST-L specification the X-Trail is loaded with safety features including: ABS; EBD; BA; Intelligent Trace Control; Intelligent Engine Brake; Intelligent Ride Control Hill Start Assist; Intelligent Emergency Braking; Blind Spot Warning; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; LED DRLs; LED taillights; door mirror LED turn indicators; rearview camera with predictive path technology; Intelligent Around-View Monitor with Moving Object Detection; front, front-side and side curtain SRS airbags; Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control System; Forward Collision Warning; three-point Emergency Locking Retractor front and rear seatbelts; and outer ISOFIX and three top-tether child-seat mounting points.
If you want Lane Departure Warning and Intelligent Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, you’ll have to opt for the Ti model, while the TL also gets Intelligent Lane Intervention.
So, what do we think of the 2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L?
Packed with high-end equipment and safety features at a competitive price, it’s little wonder the X-Trail is proving so popular with the Australian car-buying public. We reckon the ST-L variant hits the sweet spot, so the only decision to be made is whether to settle for the 2WD model fork out an extra $2k for the AWD version.
2018 Nissan X-Trail ST-L
Pricing $37,200 (2WD); $39,200 (AWD) Warranty 3-years/100,000km Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Safety 5 star ANCAP (2012) Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 126kW at 6000rpm Torque 226Nm at 4400rpm Transmission CVT Drive front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive Dimensions 4690mm (L); 1820mm (W); 1740mm (H) Turning Circle 11.3m Ground Clearance 210mm Kerb Weight 1493kg; 1549kg GVM 1995kg Payload 502kg; 446kg Cargo space 565L/945L Towing Capacity 750kg/1500kg Tyres 225/65R17 Spare Space-saver Fuel Tank 60L Thirst 7.9L/100km; 8.3L/100km (combined)