Russ Smith

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Used tow car buyer’ written by Russ Smith
   
We're big fans of the Nissan X-Trail here at Practical Caravan, but what tow car might does it have as a used buy? Russ Smith looks at the second-gen model

Well, it certainly looks the part, but what tow car ability does the 2007-2014 Nissan X-Trail have?

The second-generation X-Trail may look just like the original, but it was actually a completely new car. And slightly larger and with much more refinement than its predecessor.

That revamp made this Toyota RAV4 and Land Rover Freelander rival popular with buyers, who discovered that beneath all the X-Trail’s off-road good looks was a very smooth, competent family road car.

In addition, without being unwieldy, the X-Trail was longer than both of its main competitors, a design that helped to make it more stable as a tow car. It also came with a very handy towing limit of 2200kg.

The biggest downside to all of these cars in the used market is how well they hold on to their values. If you can step up to the mark, however, that can pay off later when the time comes to sell your car.

You can add Nissan’s enviable reputation for reliability to all of this – but how far does that extend into X-Trail ownership? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Model history

The Nissan X-Trail went on sale in September 2007, with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines and three trim levels.

The petrol units were a 139bhp 2.0-litre (only on the base-spec Trek model) and a 166bhp 2.5-litre.

The far more popular diesels – we’re talking about 98% of UK sales – were both 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, but with a choice of 147bhp/236lb ft or 170bhp and 266lb ft of torque.

If the latter choice seems like a no-brainer, it originally came as a £1000 upgrade, which means that there are plenty of the lesser units about. That was also the only engine with which you could order the optional six-speed auto gearbox – the standard spec was a six-speed manual, which around four out of five buyers chose.

As well as Trek, the other trim levels (in ascending order) were Sport, Aventura and Aventura Explorer. These changed in April 2009, when Trek and Sport were replaced by the Acenta, and the Aventura Explorer by the rather more succinct Tekna.

There’s no need to get too hung up on spec, though, because all models came with climate control, alloys, Bluetooth and all the airbags. April 2009 also marked the point where Nissan gave up trying to sell petrol versions.

The inevitable mid-term facelift came in August 2010, and featured a front-end restyle, lots of upgraded LEDs, and a more upmarket feel to the interior design and materials. This included a glovebox that kept its contents warm or cool.

The diesel power outputs remained the same, but along with the gearboxes they were refined to improve efficiency, resulting in lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel economy – almost 5mpg better for the 147bhp engine.

Trouble spots

The main issue causing grumbles about Nissan X-Trails seems to be the diesel particulate filters (DPFs) on 2007-’09 cars. These appear to choke up easily and the regeneration cycles for them produce mixed results.

In fact, for this Nissan has revised its advice for the procedure from the ‘drive above 40mph for 20 minutes’ given in the handbook to ‘above 2000rpm’. Even then, on some cars this fails to clear the DPFs and they have to be replaced, which can cost £700-£1000.

The problem is more prevalent in cars that run a lot at lower revs: around town or, as is often the case, when towing. So beware of any car if the ‘regen’ light is on, and don’t take any flannel about it! The revised engines of later cars don’t seem to be affected in the same way.

Check the area around the tailgate handle because the metal here is prone to flexing if mistreated, which can crack the paint and lead to rust.

While you’re in the area, check that the rear wiper and high-level brake light work. If either doesn’t, it’s probably breaks in the wiring where it runs between the body and tailgate – not uncommon, but you’ll need to get a new section of loom fitted, so negotiate some discount for that.

The rest of the electrics so far appear to be Nissanly robust, but higher trim levels bring lots of powered extras, such as electrically adjusted and heated seats, sunroof, sat-nav and so on. Make sure that it all works correctly before you buy.

Another small but significant possibility is a leak from the plastic fuel tank, so check that there’s no whiff of diesel about the place. If there is a leak, it usually means that a replacement tank is needed – at a cost of around £1000.

Verdict

Because of the ongoing DPF issue with earlier cars, we’re going to err on the side of caution and recommend that, for towing purposes, you only consider a Nissan X-Trail from 2010 or later. By avoiding potential problems it will likely work out to be a cheaper option in the long run, and should save you money on fuel, too.

That aside, we like the X-Trail a lot and would choose one over both the Freelander and RAV4 mentioned in our introduction. It’s an excellent car both on- and off-road, and is very well made.

From the 2007-2014 Nissan X-Trail range, the 2.0 dCi Tekna 173PS is our top pick. Well, you might as well go for the one with all the goodies – the price difference between it and the base model has fallen from £3500 when new to £1200 now.

The model we'd avoid is the 2.0i Trek. It’s hard to find anything positive to say about this except that, if you find one, it will be cheap to buy and is economical for a petrol engine.

What you need to know

How much? Used X-Trails cost somewhere between £3750 and £18,000.

OK, we’ll admit that we couldn’t actually find a 2.0i for sale, just a couple of 2.5i models in decent low-mileage nick for around £7000-£8000. The low end of our price range will get you a dCi, but with over 155k on the clock.

There’s a large jump to £6500+ for one with anything like average mileage. The full and fruity Tekna 2.0 dCi picked out as our Top tug starts at £8750-ish, or closer to £10k for a five-year-old one with average miles: the price we saw for a fully loaded one-owner car with 64k on it.

Here are some useful figures (for a 2010 Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Tekna 173PS):

  • Kerbweight 1615kg
  • 85% match 1373kg
  • Towing limit 2200kg
  • Noseweight limit 100kg
      

Now we know what tow car ability the Nissan X-Trail has, but if you're going to tow, you'll have to fit a towball. So we've got some quotes from PF Jones to help you budget for it. We were told that a Witter flange towbar will be £132.00 and a Westfalia detachable towbar will be £215.40 (fitting extra).

What about servicing? For the X-Trail 2.0 dCi, an interim service will cost £130.23 and a full service will be £200.36, according to quotes we received from Servicing Stop.

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