In fourth generation form, Nissan's Qashqai remains the definitive, volume brand mid-sized family SUV for up to seven folk, thinks Jonathan Crouch
Ten Second Review
Nissan's fourth generation X-Trail evolves into a more polished contender in the segment for family-sized SUVs offering up to seven seats. The cabin is nicer, the looks are sharper and you can have efficient e-POWER semi-electric petrol propulsion beneath the bonnet. Time to take this contender more seriously.
Lots of brands claim to offer the world's best selling SUV and Nissan is one of them, the brand's X-Trail angling for that title and now in its fourth generation. If you include the US market (where this car is badged as the 'Rogue'), over three-quarters of a million X-Trails are currently being sold globally every year. An awful lot of family buyers, it seems, like the idea of a mid-sized Qashqai-class crossover, but need one with a little more space and the option of a third seating row.
Seven-seat functionality hasn't always been an X-Trail trait. Earlier first and second generation versions in this model line (launched respectively in 2000 and 2007) didn't offer it, but sales took off when the third generation 'T32'-series version was introduced in 2013 with three seating rows. That model was updated in 2017 and it kick started demand for mid-sized SUVs that could seat seven. Rival SUVs like Peugeot's 5008 and three VW Group designs, the Skoda Kodiaq, the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace and the SEAT Tarraco, quickly provided attractive class alternatives. Hence the need for this fifth generation 'T33'-series X-Trail, announced early in 2021, but not on sale here until Autumn 2022.
Traditionally, almost all X-Trail sales have been of diesel models. No longer. It's an all-petrol line-up now, with the old dCi powerplants replaced by Nissan's latest e-POWER system, as used on the Qashqai. You can't plug this set-up in, but it's extremely clever, hence Nissan's claim that this is a battery car with a 460 mile range and 5 minute recharging. If you don't want to pay for that level of tech, there's an entry-level conventional 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 163PS, only available with front wheel drive and the brand's Xtronic CVT auto gearbox. It's quite a clever mild hybrid unit with a variable compression ratio that allows the engine to tailor its output based on either efficiency or power.
Much the same engine features in the two top e-POWER variants, but with these, it acts only as a generator, drive delivered instead by an electric motor - or two, depending on your choice of models. The front-driven version has its motor on the front axle and puts out 204PS. The AWD variant we tried adds a further electric motor on the rear axle, upping output to 213PS, offering a 0-62mph potential of 7.0 seconds and delivering permanent four-wheel drive. This e-4ORCE tech is able to respond to grip changes by altering front-to-rear torque distribution in less than a thousandth of a second. Plus with the extra rear motor comes a high-tech brake vectoring and brake regeneration set-up, which is supposed to deliver a more stable ride.
Design and Build
You'll notice plenty of design cues borrowed from Nissan's smaller Juke and Qashqai SUVs in this fourth generation X-Trail. Particularly in terms of the sharper front end grille and headlamp treatment. But the big differences lie inside. Perceived cabin quality was what hobbled the previous generation model in comparison to its key VW Group main rivals and in that respect, this replacement design is a huge step forward. The materials on show behind the wheel now feel much more premium, especially the soft leather upholstery of top variants. And of course screen tech dominates. The 12.3-inch centre monitor features functions with Amazon Alexa voice control. While the instrument screen, also 12.3-inches, can be paired up with a further 10.8-inch head-up display.
As before, there's a choice of either five or seven-seat versions, both offering generous second row room on the sliding bench. The optional third row, once again, isn't really for full- sized adults. Nissan says it's suitable for folk up to 5-foot 2 inches tall. Still, rearmost occupants are well looked after, with new climate controls and USB ports, plus there are sun blinds integrated into the rear doors. Owners will usually be using their seven-seat X-Trails trails with the third row seats folded flat and in this form, there's 585-litres of boot space (20-litres more than the previous generation model), plus a central ski hatch for longer items.
Market and Model
Pricing starts from around £32,000, which gets you entry-level 'Visia' spec. Most X-Trail customers though, are going to be choosing one of the mid-range 'Acenta Premium' or 'N-Connecta' models though, which sit in the £34,000-£37,000 bracket. Top of the line trim, as usual with Nissan, is marked by the 'Tekna' and 'Tekna+' grades. Once you've chosen your trim grade, choose you powerplant. To graduate from the base MHEV mild hybrid unit to the more efficient 'e-POWER' powerplant, you'll need around £2,500 more. To go from 'e-POWER' to an e-4ORCE' 4WD model, you'll need an additional £2,200 over that Hybrid unit. Most X-Trail customers will want seven seats rather than the standard five and with three rows fitted, you'll need an extra £1,000.
Customers clearly appreciate choice, so the new X-Trail will be available in 10 body colours with five two-tone combinations, creating 15 variations to choose from. A powered hands-free tailgate on plusher variants makes accessing the boot effortless when hands are anything but free. And semi-autonomous driving is possible via Nissan's 'ProPILOT assist with Navi-link' set-up, which can accelerate and brake the vehicle within a single-lane on a highway. The system can accelerate the vehicle to cruise at a set speed and can brake the vehicle down to 0mph in heavy stop-start traffic. The system can resume automatically if the vehicle has been stationary for less than three seconds and the traffic in front of the car moves away.
Cost of Ownership
Let's get to the figures. The entry-level conventional 1.5 litre mild hybrid petrol model with five seats returns up to 39.9mpg on the combined cycle and up to 161g/km of CO2 - or, if you specific seven seats, the figures are up to 39.2mpg and up to 164g/km. There's a useful improvement if you switch up to the five seat-only front-driven e-POWER model, which records up to 48.6mpg on the combined cycle and up to 132g/km. Finally, the e-4ORCE four-wheel drive variant with five seats delivers up to 44.7mpg and up to 143g/km - or up to 43.8mpg and up to 146g/km with seven seats. Insurance groups range between 21E and 31E.
Given that 70% of drive time is likely to be spent in suburban areas, Nissan developed a 'one pedal' driving experience for the e-POWER and e-4ORCE variants called 'e-Pedal Step'. Designed to improve efficiency and take the repetitive strain out of stop-start urban driving, where the driver is frequently moving their foot between the accelerator and brake, 'e-Pedal Step' allows drivers to accelerate and brake using only the accelerator.
The system must first be activated by the switch on the centre console and once engaged, the accelerator will deliver acceleration as usual. Upon release of the accelerator, e-Pedal Step will brake the X-Trail at 0.2g, enough to illuminate the brake lights, and reduce the speed down to a "creeping" speed, not a complete stop. This ensures low-speed parking manoeuvres are as smooth as possible. Drivers will quickly adapt their accelerator pedal inputs to maintain smooth travel, ensuring urban driving is more intuitive and less demanding.
We can see why his fourth generation X-Trail model could be so successful for Nissan. It offers enough crossover cues to make you feel acceptably trendy but also sufficient size and space to make owners also feel that they've bought into something smartly sensible. Plus of course it's perfect for those who've considered a slightly smaller Qashqai-class model - or owned one - but now need something more practical.
Of course, you can't have everything. This car doesn't drive with quite as much verve and flair as a smaller SUV, but we can't blame Nissan for that. Overall, the changes made to this 'T33' MK4 model haven't hugely changed its buying proposition, but it remains a starting point for anyone buying in this segment. If that's you and you're looking for an SUV of this kind, then 'X' may very well mark the spot.