Nissan X-Trail Wagon 2012 Review

Nissan X-Trail Wagon 2012 Review

The base model X-Trail was the ride of choice for a jaunt from Auckland to Pirongia Mountain on a beautiful winter’s Saturday. An X-Trail is a good starting point for any kind of road trip because this mid-sized SUV is one of the most versatile in terms of boot storage.

The flat boot floor conceals a drawer and cubby hole into which you can place items that might normally roll around in the boot; it also allows you to conceal items out of view. On the right of the boot there’s another small receptacle with a lid, too.

Its practical interior is enabled by a practical exterior. If you took a

box and rounded off the edges using a surform, you get the basic shape of the X-Trail. It makes for a car whose looks might be an acquired taste, but you do get a substantial 1773 litres of load space to make up for it. The interior fitout is pragmatic: the dashboard is made of fair hard plastic and the seats are cloth. Getting the right driving position was easy with the tilt/reach adjustable leather steering wheel, and all functions you’d need to perform (air conditioning and stereo) were within easy reach.

A long journey is a good opportunity to assess fuel economy. It is quoted at 8.4l/100km for the automatic on the combined cycle (a mix of urban and open road driving). The trip to Pirongia and back on a clear day with very light traffic, only two of us in the car with no luggage, and a stopover in Te Awamutu saw us get 8.6l/100km and that’s predominantly open road driving with the cruise control set to 105kph. To achieve 8.4l combined would mean gingerly pulling away from every set of traffic lights and that will just annoy other drivers and probably isn’t realistic, and not using cruise control because it tries to maintain a speed at all costs.

Being the base model it’s missing some of the fruit from the more expensive Ti, and TL models, like all-wheel drive, hill descent control, rain sensing wipers, climate control, keyless entry and start and electric seats. But the level of equipment is still everything you need, including heated/cooled cupholders in the front dash. You’ll also find Bluetooth phone integration and audio streaming, steering wheel audio controls, USB/iPod integration and the full cavalry when it comes to safety equipment.

As well as six airbags, there’s Active Brake Limited Slip Differential (ABLS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Program (ESP). The Wagon comes with an immobilizer, but no alarm like the diesel TS and TL. The X-Trail cared for our safety, giving an audible and visual alarm when the temperature hit a chilly 3 degrees on the way back from Te Awamutu.

The only problem with the X-Trail is its lack of power. The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine drives through an automatic CVT gearbox. It produces 102kW at 5200rpm and 198Nm of torque at 4400rpm, but has to fight against a kerb weight of 1426kg, plus whatever you’re carrying. If you’ve got a car full of people and/or luggage, you will struggle on long uphill stretches. The cruise control is unable to maintain a steady speed up hills and the CVT gearbox moans away, too, none of which helps overall fuel economy. Perhaps a better choice would be the manual version of this model which is $2000 cheaper.

This only slightly mars a vehicle which is extremely easy to drive. Unless you’re after overtaking prowess, which this doesn’t have, you can make comfortable progress along roads of any quality. The X-Trail understeers and rolls a little in the corners like any SUV. If you drive a lot of hilly routes then you will spend some effort keeping your speed even in the steeper places.

Despite its lack of grunt, the X-Trail will find fans. It’s extremely practical for families with kids, it fits larger adults in the front seats and it cruises well. The price point is sensible for a vehicle of this size and capability and that caps off a versatile and (slightly) rounded package.

If you’re looking for second-hand X-Trails, click here.

For full specifications, click here for the PDF. (note: this file may be updated by Nissan in the future)

Price: $38,990


  • Excellent driving position
  • Very practical load area
  • A lot of car for $39k


  • Underpowered
  • The CVT is whiny and the manual version at $36,990 might represent better value for money and a nicer driving experience
  • It would benefit from reversing sensors because the rear pillars are very thick. More expensive X-Trails have a reversing camera

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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