Being a Nissan X-Trail when there’s a Qashqai around must feel a bit like being Frank Stallone. You’ve got a sibling who’s super-famous and whom everybody wants to meet, so you’d hope that visual similarity and a sprinkling of good luck will help you through life.
However, as with Grammy-nominated Frank, that would be to do the X-Trail a disservice – because it’s actually good vehicle in its own right, and one that tow car buyers should not dismiss out of hand.
What’s it like inside?
It’s pretty big, for a start. The X-Trail was offered with the option of seven seats, but the rearmost pair are cramped and steal boot space, so we’d stick with a five-seater.
As such, this is a properly roomy car, with loads of space up front, plenty of head- and legroom in the back, and a 50-litre boot behind. The optional panoramic sunroof doesn’t impact too much on the space.
Nissan pushed the boat out a bit with the X-Trail’s interior, which felt cosseting, luxurious and well-made from new. Yes, the earliest cars are seven years old now, so they might feel a little dated; but squeaks and rattles should be largely absent, and everything should work as it’s meant to. There are even air-conditioned cupholders to keep your drinks cool.
If your budget can stretch to it, the X-Trail was facelift in 2017, and received a bigger central touchscreen, flat-bottom steering wheel, and on-board tech and connectivity that’s easier to use than that of earlier cars.
How does it drive?
Should you be considering the purchase of a pre-facelift X-Trail, the engine of choice would be the 128bhp 1.6-litre diesel, which is actually, comparatively strong, despite its small(ish) capacity.
It also marries this with good economy, although anyone expecting anything more than relaxed acceleration when hitched up will be disappointed.
This was the most popular pre-facelift X-Trail, so there will be plenty of examples available for you to look at.
Those thinking about a post-facelift car will be better served by the 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel model, which generates 280lb ft of pulling power, and so makes impressively light work of towing. This is also available with four-wheel drive, which will help on slippery campsite grounds. A 1.7-litre diesel was introduced last year, which is excellent, but very expensive to buy at the moment.
All X-Trails remain stable in lane-change manoeuvres, and they’ll stop you quickly in an emergency, even when hitched yup, but they can be affected by the old crosswind.
When solo, the suspension deals well with rougher surfaces, although the downside is plenty of body lean around corners. The steering is also vague and rubbery, although parking requires little effort.
If you want a quiet, comfortable and unobtrusive tow car with lots of standard equipment, the Nissan X-Trail is well worth a look, but if you have a liking for any kind of driving enjoyment, try elsewhere.
NEED TO KNOW // NISSAN X-TRAIL
What will it tow?
Running costs (2.0 dCi Tekna)
The Nissan X-Trail has been affected by a grand total of two recalls – pretty good for a vehicle that’s approaching its seventh birthday.
The first concerned a faulty oxygen sensor that required the car’s ECU to be reprogrammed.
The second recall focused on the hydraulic;ix supports for the tailgate. There were found not to comply with anti-corrosion standards, so were at risk of rusting and failure.
Full details can be found at www.check-vehicle-recalls.service.gov.uk
What to pay
Or you could try…
KIA Sorento (2015-2020)
This generation of Sorento was a classy vehicle to live with and drive. It’s big, so offers plenty of space, and it has seven seats – although those in the back might not want to be there for long. Still, this is a capable tow car, with 85% of its kerbweight at around 1660kg. Better still, it had a seven-year warranty from new, so any car you buy will have some remaining.
LAND ROVER Discovery Sport (2014-present)
Avoid the very earliest cars with their outdated 2.2-litre diesels, and go for one with the newer 2.0-litre diesel.
The Disco Sport is a very stable tow car, at speed and during manoeuvres. It also looks great, and most come with plenty of kit, plus the flexibility afforded by seven seats. Being a Land Rover, it’ll go anywhere you point it.
MAZDA CX-5 (2017-present)
There are two diesel options for the CX-5, but we’d choose the more powerful 175bhp, which is strong, stable and brisk even when hitched up.
Better still, this version has four-wheel drive as standard, so you’re unlikely to struggle on slippery surfaces. The CX-5 is fun to drive solo, and Mazda is renowned for reliability, so you can relax on each trip, knowing you’ll get where you’re going.
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All X-Trails remain stable in lane-change manoeuvres, and they'll stop you quickly in an emergency, even when hitched up