The weather conditions over the 2023-2024 Christmas and New Year period were shocking for most of the country – and particularly bad for those north of the border.
So, with some trepidation, I contemplated the drive back down south to visit relatives and friends in England – which would include a ¼-mile, steep, rough track leading to my sister’s farm in Yorkshire.
So, thank goodness my press car for the festive period was a Nissan X-Trail, with the bonus of it being the AWD e-4ORCE version. Sorted.
The X-Trail is Nissan’s largest SUV, the Qashqai being the mid-sized one that you see everywhere; so much so that I’m surprised Nissan hasn’t renamed it the Qash-cow.
However, the X-Trail is the one to have if interior space is your top priority or 7 seats are a must.
It’s also a chunky-looking beast; sitting high with a well-sculpted front end which, although somewhat similar to its Qashqai sibling, looks grander and more purposeful. It’s one of the better-looking family SUVs on the market and to my eyes trumps both the Skoda Kodiaq and the Citroen 5008 – two of its main rivals.
My higher-end, 4WD Tekna model looked particularly good, being finished in the optional Two-Tone Champagne Silver with a Black metallic roof – which adds a hefty £1,095 to the price tag, bringing the on-the-road price to just over £47k
But you can get behind the wheel of a Nissan X-Trail for just £32,890 which gets you a 2-wheel-drive Visia with a mild hybrid petrol engine which pushes out 163PS.
Rising up the ranks you then have the Acenta Premium (from £34,565) which introduces the option of an e-Power unit which provides all-electric running (204PS). It uses a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine acting as a generator to keep the battery topped up or helps to provide power to the electric motor. This takes the price to £36,965, but if you like the way an electric vehicle drives but don’t want to suffer range anxiety, then this could be the perfect option for you.
You can also add another electric motor to the rear axle, making all 4 wheels driven. This is the 213 PS 4WD e-4ORCE option (£39,165 with Acenta Premium trim). All 3 powertrain options are available on all models, barring the entry-level Visia.
The N-Connecta model (from £37,390) takes the middle ground and adds some extra kit to an already well-specced X-Trail.
My 5-seater Tekna model (from £40,710) sits just below the range-topping Tekna+ (from £43,380) and comes with bigger 19in alloys, black synthetic leather upholstery, wireless Apple CarPlay (wired Android Auto), Tri-Zone climate control, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charger, Black wood dashboard trim and a host of driver aids such as LED headlights with Adaptive Driving Beam, head-up display and ProPilot Park, to name just a few.
So, did the Nissan X-Trail live up to its cossetting, but rugged reputation or did it prove to be a wash-out during my festive road-trip?
Well, in a nutshell, it was an excellent cruiser, if a little thirstier than I was expecting.
With strong winds and heavy rain on the M8 making driving conditions difficult, the X-Trail felt like a safe and steady place to be sat. Most of the 300-mile trip was motorway and mostly done at around 50mph due to the conditions. Still, I was expecting a little more than the 44mpg we averaged.
The return trip, a few days later, was blessed with better weather and a quicker time to complete – but mpg was down to 40. Not great for a hybrid vehicle but I suppose the X-Trail isn’t a lightweight at around 2.5 tonnes.
Running costs aside though, the X-Trail was impressive in all other respects.
The cabin feels plush with fit and finish top notch. Hard, nasty plastics are hard to find, with door tops, centre dash and centre console all being satisfyingly squidgy when pressed. I even liked the brown trim on the dashboard top and doors. It broke up the predominantly black interior, although there are some neat chrome highlights.
The 12.3-inch digital dash is clear and configurable, while the 12.3-inch infotainment screen is well thought out with sensible touch-sensitive shortcuts available down one side of the screen.
Even better, there is a large rotary volume button sitting just in front of the infotainment screen, with two large buttons on each side for fast forward, rewind, camera view and night/day settings, while all the climate controls are clearly laid out in the lower dash.
The front seats are super comfy with plenty of electrical adjustment which includes lumbar support.
The head-up display meant being able to concentrate on the road ahead was less stressful than it might have been under such awful conditions, while the Traffic Jam Pilot reduced stress even more when things did come to a stop.
I’m also a fan of Nissan’s e-Pedal which makes day-to-day driving so much easier as you can use the accelerator to both speed up and slow down, thus making the brake pedal redundant much of the time.
It works by decelerating when you lift off the accelerator pedal. How much braking force you wish to apply is governed by how much you lift off. It sounds radical but is surprisingly easy to get used to.
The e-Pedal is de-selected each time you start the car, but I found myself reaching for the little blue button – just in front of the gear selector – every time I went for a drive.
Monsoons aside, the Nissan X-Trail is a refined drive both around town and on faster roads. You are well insulated from noise, even at speed. My only criticism would be the sensitivity of the adaptive cruise control. It’s a bit nervous about cars slipping into the gap in front of you on motorways and tends to hit the brakes a little harsher than needed, resulting in some neck-jerking for driver and passengers alike. It’s not Wayne’s World levels of head-banging, but still a bit annoying.
The X-Trail is no slouch. The 0-62mph sprint takes just 7.2 seconds with almost instant pick-up from the electric motors. It’s easy to control too, with the assurance of four-wheel-drive keeping things nice and tight on twistier roads.
Body roll prevents you from getting silly with cornering speeds, while the steering can take you a little wide if pushed too hard. But most X-Trails won’t be pushed too hard. It encourages a more serene type of driving – which benefits everyone.
Ride comfort is on the soft side but is all the better for it. Potholes are despatched without a fuss and the X-Trail remains unruffled on the worst of roads – like my sister’s driveway, which is a steep, quarter-mile of rough trail with some very deep ruts. This would be torture for anything without 4×4 in its title.
For this challenge, I changed the X-Trail’s drive mode to “Off-Road” and there was no drama at all. There was no diff to lock and no chassis to raise. The e-4ORCE system adapts all four wheels to the conditions, so all you have to do is steer. The X-Trail’s ground clearance dealt easily with the worst ruts.
I should have tried out the “Hill Descent” mode on the return journey, but I forgot and just left it in “Off-Road”. No matter, all you need to know is that the X-Trail has it.
What it also has is plenty of space. The boot has 1,396 litres with the seats folded down and 575 litres with them up. Our luggage-for-two and various sizes of Christmas presents looked lost in the back of the X-Trail, even with the sliding rear seats pushed back to provide maximum leg room for passengers.
I imagine the access for seats 6 and 7 would be quite tight and probably only suitable for children or athletes, although, the middle row of seats folds and slides out of the way easily enough.
Second-row passengers have no worries with lots of headroom and generous amounts of legroom to stretch out in. With reclining backrests and independent climate controls, you shouldn’t hear any complaints from back there regarding comfort.
Our festive jaunt down South was most definitely enhanced by the Nissan X-Trail. It felt solid and stable in awful conditions and was a delight to drive every other time. It provided a wonderful experience thanks to its excellent visibility, comfort and refinement.
I was genuinely sorry to let it go. It’s a great family SUV with class-leading technology that not only entertains and pampers, but also makes life easier for the driver – which ultimately enhances safety for everyone.
AT A GLANCE:
Nissan X-Trail Tekna e-POWER 213 e-4ORCE
OTR Price: from £45,310
Engine: 1.5 VCR Turbo e-POWER
Power: 213 PS
0-60mph: 7.2 secs
Top Speed: 111 mph
Combined Economy: 42.2 mpg