David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Does the 2.0-litre diesel engine transform the facelifted Nissan X-Trail? Let's hitch up with this 175bhp SUV to see what tow car ability it has

Overview

Nissan has facelifted the X-Trail SUV, but you’ll need to look closely to spot the changes.

In our tow test, we’re more interested in the 2.0-litre diesel engine, which was already part of the range before the facelift, but which we’ve never had the chance to try.

We are keen to see what tow car might this engine gives the X-Trail.

It has much more power and torque than the smaller, 1.6-litre diesel, and should give the X-Trail’s towing credentials a boost.

We’re testing the car in top-of-the-line Tekna 4WD specification, with a price tag of £36,620 (which includes the extra pair of seats).

The 1.6-litre X-Trail gave a decent account of itself, and we’re expecting the more powerful 2.0-litre model to offer a lot more.

Towing

Nissan doesn’t include 75kg for the driver in its published kerbweights, so adding that to the figures in the brochure gives a kerbweight of 1700-1795kg.

Work from the lower weight and you have an 85% match figure of 1445kg – well within the 2000kg maximum towing weight.

These are respectable numbers for a 4x4 of this size, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the Nissan costs more than £36,000.

For this sort of money, bigger and heavier 4x4s are available which make a sensible match for a wider range of caravans.

We matched the Nissan to our long-term test fleet’s Bailey Pursuit 570-6 with a MiRO of 1272kg and the Nissan handled things comfortably.

With 280lb ft of pulling power at 2000rpm, the X-Trail has enough muscle to tow this Bailey caravan from 30-60mph in 11.3 seconds.

That’s quick enough to suggest the X-Trail should build speed at a respectable rate even while towing a heavier tourer.

In the hill-start test the Nissan coped reasonably – with a couple of reservations.

The electronic parking brake held car and caravan still on the 1-in-10 gradient and released smoothly, and the car pulled smoothly to the top of the hill.

However, we needed to slip the clutch a little more than we’d have expected and there was a slight hot smell from the clutch when we completed the test.

We tried again, making a point of lifting our left foot earlier, but found that unless we slipped the clutch the engine would bog down.

The lane-change test gave us no cause for concern. Yes, the X-Trail leaned a lot and needed a big turn of the wheel before it would change direction in a hurry, but it settled into the manoeuvre and found plenty of grip.

The stability control intervened as we swerved a second time, reducing the outfit’s speed without fuss.

The hill-start and lane-change were performed on a largely dry track, but when we tested the X-Trail’s deceleration, rain had dampened the track’s surface.

Even so, the Nissan stopped well, needing just 10.7 metres to come to a halt from 30mph.

In regular towing we found the brakes easy to apply smoothly.

Our testing took place on a still day, and we found the Nissan X-Trail was stable at up to 70mph at the test track, and very comfortable at 60mph out on the road.

However, when we’ve towed with other X-Trails in breezier weather, we have felt some movement in crosswinds.

Everyday driving

So, we know what tow car ability the latest Nissan X-Trail has, but what is it like solo?

There’s no doubt the X-Trail’s suspension is softer than many of its rivals’, which is both good and bad, depending on the road and your driving style.

Compared with a Mazda CX-5, for example, the Nissan travels more smoothly over speed bumps and other obstacles.

However, it can fidget over patchy surfaces – the 19-inch alloys fitted to our test car probably don’t help.

The steering feels rubbery and slow-witted, and there’s considerable body lean if you corner at speed – a steadier approach suits it better.

Without the weight of a caravan, the 2.0-litre engine has enough punch for quick and decisive overtaking.

However, it’s not the quietest thing, sounding clattery at low revs and strained at higher speeds.

Once settled to a cruise, the engine is more muted. Wind and road noise are reasonably well contained, too, so the X-Trail is a capable long-distance car.

Around town the Nissan is easy to drive, thanks to a light clutch and all-round parking sensors which help make up for restricted rear visibility.

Being that bit smaller makes the X-Trail easier to park than bigger 4x4s such as the Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento.

Space

As a five-seater, the Nissan X-Trail makes a very practical car.

It only really makes sense as a seven-seater if the seats are there for occasional use.

There’s very little legroom in the third row – even for children – unless the middle seats are slid forward on their runners.

There are two cupholders in the very back of the car, though, so passengers need not go thirsty even if they are cramped.

If the car is almost always going to be used as a five-seater, then everyone has plenty of space.

Middle legroom is very generous indeed with the seats all the way back, so much so that it’s no great chore to have the seats set further forward to improve luggage space.

Air vents between the front seats keep the middle row’s occupants happy.

Up front, there’s decent headroom even with the panoramic sunroof fitted.

The driving position is sound and the seats are wide and comfy.

Build quality is good, although there are some hard plastics on the doors.

Facelifted cars get a new, flat-bottomed steering wheel and redesigned controls for the trip computer, stereo and any connected mobile phone.

Boot space varies depending on whether you tick the box for the optional third row of seats (£660 on the Tekna, £1000 on other trim levels).

The five-seater has a very useful 565 litres of space, but the seven-seater has 445 litres.

Both of those figures lag behind the Škoda Kodiaq five- and seven-seat models, which offer 720 or 630 litres respectively.

With the middle row stowed as well, the Nissan X-Trail has a generous 1996-litre capacity.

Running costs

The X-Trail we have on test sits at the top of the range (save for the Xtronic automatic with the same engine and trim for another £1450).

That means a price tag of more than £36,000, including the price of the third row of seats.

So it’s around £5000 more than a top-spec Mazda CX-5 manual. Admittedly, the CX-5 isn’t available with the option of seven seats.

However, if you do need space for seven, the Kia Sorento has more room for a similar price.

In fairness to Nissan, the X-Trail does come very well equipped.

Adaptive front lights, a blind spot warning system, autonomous emergency braking, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated front and middle seats, an electronically adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth and a 7-inch touchscreen sat-nav and infotainment are standard.

Running costs should be reasonable. The official combined figure of 48.7mpg compares well with the equivalent Sorento’s 47.1mpg.

However, we achieved just 23.4mpg while towing on A-roads and motorways – a little disappointing.

This X-Trail version sits in insurance group 23, five groups lower than the equivalent Kia, so premiums promise to be cheaper than the Sorento’s.

Safety-wise, the pre-facelift Nissan X-Trail secured a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.

The test standards have been toughened up since the X-Trail was tested in 2014, but given that it scored so highly and has a long list of safety equipment as standard, we’d be surprised if the revised car didn’t still meet the grade for a maximum score.

Technical specs

Engine size1995 cc
Kerbweight1700 kg
85% KW1445 kg
Towball limit100 kg
Maximum towing limit2000 kg
Power175.0 bhp
Torque280.0 lb ft
Official MPG48.7 mpg
Towing MPG23.4 mpg
CO2153 g/km
30-60mph11.3 seconds
30-0mph10.7 m

Verdict

The 2.0-litre diesel engine improves the X-Trail as a tow car, and it costs only £1250 more than the 1.6-litre model.

However, the price of the X-Trail has risen considerably since we last tested it, putting the Nissan in a slightly awkward position.

It’s nothing like as heavy or powerful as a Kia Sorento, and the Nissan’s third row of seats is cramped compared with its Korean rivals.

Yet the Sorento and X-Trail are not far apart on price.

You could even have a Land Rover Discovery Sport for similar money, if you’re prepared to forego some standard equipment.

Live without the X-Trail’s third row of seats and you’ll save £660 and have more boot space into the bargain, but compare the X-Trail with other five-seat SUVs of similar size and the price tag looks very steep.

The Mazda CX-5 in particular is better value.

That’s a shame, because the X-Trail is a likeable car.

It makes a stable tug despite having relatively soft suspension, and we’d be happy to tackle a long-distance tow behind the wheel.

Think of it as a five-seater (or a 5+2 rather than a true seven-seater) and the X-Trail is practical, with a comfortable driving position and lots of space to stretch out in the middle row.

In Tekna spec it’s very well equipped, with plenty of driver aids and safety kit, as well as gadgetry for the tech-savvy.

With a lower price the X-Trail would score more highly.

However, judged against price-matched peers we think there are better buys.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It's a stable tow car
  • Comfort is good over long distances
  • Kit levels are impressive

Cons

  • Space in the (optional) third row is limited
  • Rivals represent better value and have better matching ratios