2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD
Click image to enlarge


by Greg Wilson

In Canada, compact SUV’s are by far the most popular size of sport utility vehicle. According to Nissan’s Director of Marketing, Ian Forsyth, small SUVs make up 44% of the Canadian SUV market. That’s a much bigger percentage than in the United States where mid-size SUVs are more popular.

Perhaps that’s why, when Nissan introduced the X-Trail in Canada, they chose not to introduce it in the United States. The X-Trail is however available in other countries where small SUVs are appreciated: Japan, Europe, Mexico and Asian markets where it’s been on sale since the year 2000.

One good thing about a vehicle design that’s been around for five years: Nissan must have all the bugs, if there were any, worked out by now.

The X-Trail is similar in size and appearance to the Honda CR-V, and like the CR-V has a standard four-cylinder engine, and is not available with a six cylinder engine.

The X-Trail’s engine is big and powerful by four cylinder standards: 2.5 litres with 165 horsepower, which makes it one of the most powerful in its class. It’s also reasonably fuel-efficient for an SUV, averaging about 9.5 L/100 km (30 mpg).

X-Trails are offered in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions in XE, SE and LE trim levels (LEs come with AWD only) ranging in price from $25,998 to $33,098.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD
Click image to enlarge

Unlike the body-on-frame Xterra, the X-Trail is not designed for serious off-road trekking – it’s a unit body design with an automatic all-wheel-drive system that’s quite competent on gravel and snow-covered roads, while providing the ride comfort and fuel economy of a family wagon.

Like most small SUVs, the X-Trail is typically used as a daily commuter with the occasional foray into the off-pavement environment.

Interior impressions

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD
Click image to enlarge

Though its shape is kind of boxy, I like the X-Trail’s upswept nose, tall headlights, tall ‘greenhouse’, and high-mounted taillights (a la CR-V). The functionality of its boxy shape is undeniable once you get inside – the cabin feels very spacious.

The X-Trail has a low step-in height, and with its tall cabin and many windows, the driver has excellent visibility in all directions. A standard rear wiper with intermittent wipe setting and washer clears the rear window of frost, ice, snow, grime or what-have-you. Personally, I feel more secure driving a vehicle that has no ‘blindspots’.

The tall greenhouse also provides generous headroom for four adults, and only the narrow cabin width prevents it from being a true five-passenger vehicle. My only complaint is that the optional moonroof takes up one or two inches of headroom. The extra-large glass moonroof with a sliding sunshade is huge. With the sunshade open, both front and rear passengers benefit from the extra daylight. And surprisingly, with the glass roof open at freeway speeds, wind noise and buffeting is minimal.

The X-Trail features two raised markers on top of the headlamp covers which can be seen from the driver’s seat. These allow you to see the ‘corners’ of the vehicle when parking. At night, these markers are lit up by the headlights – a great idea!

The X-Trail’s interior is unique in many ways. Notably, the instruments (tachometer, speedometer, fuel/coolant gauges) are located in the centre of the dashtop. I found them large enough and legible enough to read at a glance, but it takes a while to get used to the central position.

A unique feature is a storage compartment at the bottom of the centre console that can be heated or cooled using the heating/air conditioning system. It’s not meant for open coffee cups, but it stores two pop cans or small water bottles, or other sealed containers. A tilting platform inside the compartment prevents the cans from sliding around, and two sliding doors keep the contents cool or warm.

Another unique feature is a covered storage compartment directly in front of the steering wheel (where the instruments would normally be). Inside is a 12-volt power point. Another special feature is an air vent directly behind the steering wheel which can be directed to vent cool air directly to the face, or in winter, warm air to the hands.

The X-Trail has really great seats – they hug your thighs and lower body, and are very comfortable. The power driver’s seat is height adjustable and has seat heaters with two temperature settings. The X-Trail’s outboard rear seats are comfortable too, and they can recline. One complaint: the rear windows roll down only 60% of the way.

My top-of-the-line test vehicle came with a 6-disc CD player, and AM/FM radio with great sound characteristics, but I found the LCD display difficult to read under certain lighting conditions due to glare. An open slot just below the CD player is perfect for storing a few CDs. Just below that are three simple dials that control the heating and ventilation system.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD
Click image to enlarge

Two flip-up cupholders are located on the extreme left and right sides of the dash – which means that the driver has to lift the cup with his/her left hand.

Safety features on the X-Trail include five three-point safety belts, five doughnut-style head restraints, active head restraints for front-seat occupants, childproof door locks and child-seat anchors on outboard rear seats. Front side airbags are available on the top-of-the-line LE model, but not on the XE and SE models. And curtain airbags are not offered at all.


Cargo area

The rear hatch is easy to lift up, but it doesn’t have a separate opening rear window. At 29 cubic feet, the X-Trail’s cargo area is roomy and well-designed. The floor has a hard, plastic-fiberglass surface, with tie-down hooks to secure cargo, and under the floor is a full-size spare tire.

The cargo area measures 38.5 in. between the wheelhousings, 38 inches from the tailgate to the back of the rear seats, and 68 inches to the back of the front seats. A sliding privacy cover keeps valuable out of sight. My only concern with the cargo area is that the side walls are made of soft, scratchable plastic.

The 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks include a separate pass-through for skis – unusual in this class. To fold down the seatbacks, you pull up the seat cushions against the front seatbacks and then fold down the seatbacks. The only problem is that the rear head restraints have to be removed first and stored somewhere. Unlike some SUVs, the X-Trail’s right front passenger seat won’t fold flat.


Driving impressions

The X-Trail is a very easy vehicle to drive. With its elevated driving position, low steering wheel, and excellent visibility, the driver really feels in command. The passengers too enjoy a nice view and a roomy cabin.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD
Click image to enlarge

In city driving, the X-Trails 165 horsepower four cylinder engine has plenty of pep, and although it’s noisier than a typical V6 engine when idling, it’s really quite a smooth, quiet powerplant.

There is a buzz when accelerating, but it’s not too loud. 0 to 100 km/h takes 10.2 seconds, according to independent test figures released by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (www.ajac.ca): that’s faster than some V6-powered compact SUVs. At cruising speeds, the X-Trail is quiet and comfortable. At a steady 100 km/h, the engine does 2300 rpm, and at 120 km/h it does 2700 rpm.

The only thing I didn’t like about the X-Trail’s four-cylinder engine is that, while stopped at a traffic light in Drive, engine vibrations can be felt through the seats.

The automatic transmission in my car performed well, and it features an on/off overdrive button for locking out top gear when climbing a grade, or when doing stop and go city driving.

The towing capacity is 907 kg (2000 lb.), pretty good for a four cylinder SUV. The X-Trail offers good ground clearance (198 mm/7.8 in.) and relatively short front and rear overhangs.

With a simple dial, drivers can choose 2WD (front-wheel drive), Auto 4WD (all-wheel drive), and Lock (front and rear axles receive 50/50 torque split).

Nissan’s all-wheel-drive system features an active torque distribution management system with an electro-magnetic clutch. Though power is sent to the front wheels most of the time, under certain conditions such as starting from a dead stop, power is directed to the rear wheels too. And of course, in slippery conditions power is directed to the rear wheels when the front wheels slip.

The LE model is available with Nissan’s stability control system (Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)) that monitors vehicle stability through a variety of sensors. The system automatically reduces engine torque and brakes individual wheels to correct understeer or oversteer when cornering on slippery surfaces.

The X-Trail includes standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake force distribution and Brake Assist which automatically applies more braking force in a panic braking situation. In independent braking tests conducted by AJAC, the X-Trail stopped from 100 km/h in 122 feet, near the top of its class.

Ride and handling, though somewhat stiff at times, is not jarring or uncomfortable – and certainly more car-like than the Xterra or other 4X4s. The X-Trail’s suspension is independent MacPherson struts in front and independent parallel bars at rear with stabilizer bars both front and rear.


Verdict

In my view, the X-Trail is a winner: comfortable, roomy, relatively fuel-efficient, easy to drive and well-priced. The lack of side airbags in base models, the non-availability of curtain airbags, and engine vibrations at idle are my only complaints.

Technical Data: 2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

Base price (XE) $25,998
Base price (LE) $33,098
Options $800 (Vehicle Dynamic Control)
Freight $1,000
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $34,998
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact SUV
Layout transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.5 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, CVVT
Horsepower 165 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 170 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic (5 speed manual standard)
Tires 215/65R-16 Dunlop SP20 Grand Track all-season
Curb weight 1528 kg (3368 lb.)
Wheelbase 2624 mm (106.3 in.)
Length 4455 mm (175.4 in.)
Width 1765 mm (69.5 in.)
Height 1750 mm (68.9 in.) with roof rails
Cargo volume 827 litres (29.2 cu. ft.) rear seats up
  2061 litres (72.8 cu. ft.) rear seats down
Fuel consumption 10.8 L/100 km (26 m.p.g.) Imperial gallons
  8.1 L/100 km (35 m.p.g.) Imperial gallons
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Assembly location Kyushu, Japan

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