2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

The X-Trail may be new to the Canadian marketplace, but it has been in production for almost five years. This means that we catch the X-Trail after it has been up-dated and refined, and all the bugs have been worked out.

Nissan offers the X-Trail in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations, as well as three distinct trim levels – XE, SE and LE. I was lucky enough to draw a top-of-the-line X-Trail LE from the media pool, a model that only comes in all-wheel-drive form and fitted with an automatic transmission.


Nissan’s recent resurgence in the sales game is proof that shared platform construction and distinctive styling can work wonders on the showroom floor.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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However, when I first laid eyes on the X-Trail, I immediately thought of Honda’s venerable CR-V. The boxy passenger compartment is capped at the rear by tall pillar-mounted taillights similar to those of the CR-V, while the front looks a bit more aggressive than its closest rival through the addition of a bold grille, big headlights and wheel flares. The tall greenhouse, long nose and narrow width do conspire to give the X-Trail a top-heavy appearance, but its excellent chassis and vehicle dynamics proved otherwise during my week-long test.


The X-Trail features a 2.5-litre 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder engine that generates 165-horsepower and 170-lb.-ft of torque.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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This is one of Nissan’s bread-and-butter engines as it is used in several of its passenger cars. As a result, it offers a very car-like driving experience. Nissan’s Continuously Variable valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) keeps the unit operating as efficiently as possible, while advanced balance-shaft technology keeps vibration to a minimum.

Power comes on smooth and strong, but at highway speeds, engine noise permeates the cabin much more than in competitors like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Mazda Tribute. The 4-speed automatic is well matched to this engine under normal circumstances, but it did seem to hunt for the correct gear when faced with long climbs and full loads. It wasn’t a lack of grunt, just the need for another gear.

With front and rear independent suspensions aided by stabilizer bars, the X-Trail does a good job of absorbing bumps while keeping its wheels on the ground. Ground clearance is a respectable 7.8 inches so speed bumps, parking curbs and potholes don’t cause much duress.


Stopping duty is handled by four-wheel disc brakes complete with ABS, Brake Assist and Electronic Braking Power Distribution. Buyers who choose the top-of-the-line LE can also order traction control and Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control as an option.

Standard equipment

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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The standard equipment list for the X-Trail is long for a vehicle in this category. The driver’s seat in the LE is power adjustable no less than eight ways and includes a lumbar support, while lesser models are manually adjusted. The other four seating positions are equally comfortable and in the case of my loaded test vehicle, were cloaked in durable leather. XE and SE models only come with cloth seating, but leather in a vehicle of this type seems somewhat out-of-place.

The X-Trail keeps everyone comfortable with its standard A/C, complete with Microfilter to reduce the intrusion of allergens and rear privacy glass. Its operation is manual on XE and SE models, while LE models get automatic climate control. An enormous power glass roof panel (Pana-Roof) opens the sky for both front and rear passengers, but is only available on SE and LE models.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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Electrical accessories include power windows and locks, mirrors, outside temperature display and cruise control. Entertainment is handled by a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD system in all X-Trails, but SE and LE versions benefit from a 6-disc changer and cassette player.

Other niceties usually unseen on an entry-level SUV are colour-keyed bumpers and body side mouldings, as well as matching outside mirrors. The latter also are both power adjustable and heated.

Large 16-inch wheels, roof rails and chrome door handles and lift-gate trim complete the standard package, while LE models also sport a rear spoiler.

Interior impressions

The seats sit high, offering the driver and passengers excellent sight lines. This proved invaluable on narrow trails and when parking.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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The tall windows and narrow pillars give the interior an airy feel, especially when the Pane-Roof is open. Rear seat occupants will find that the elevated front seats open up the area around their feet while the tall roofline serves up abundant headroom.

The X-Trail is well put together. The quality and feel of the switchgear, controls, and panels is worthy of note. Everything is within easy view and reach of the driver, but it did take a little while to get used to the centre-mounted instrument cluster. It is slightly angled towards the driver, but its odd placement will be the first thing noticed by your neighbourhood driveway inspector. Cost-conscious designs like this allow the X-Trail to be quickly adapted for other markets where the right-hand drive layout is the norm.

Innovative features

All X-Trails feature body-coloured polyurethane front fenders which offer the advantage of both reduced weight and rebound.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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By rebound I mean that they are cleverly designed to return to their original shape should they be involved in a minor bump. This should prove invaluable if tight city parking spaces are part of your daily routine.

The floor in the X-Trail’s cargo area is lined with something Nissan calls Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP), which is a strong, scratch and water resistant material designed to protect your interior from premature wear. It can be easily removed for cleaning so you won’t have to fret too much about hauling your wet dog or sports gear home from the beach or slopes.

Also worth noting is the fact that the rear bench seat offers a few degrees of recline, making those naps on long trips a little more comfortable.

Storage and cargo

The X-Trail has been designed with organization in mind. In short, it offers enough glove-boxes, cup holders, and storage cubbies to keep almost everything safely stowed away. Both front seatbacks feature map pockets and all four doors have bins. The absence of the cluster immediately in front of the driver opens this space up for a second glove box, in reality a third when you find the passenger-side unit has two separate doors.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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A clever centre console offers a storage bin underneath the armrest, as well as a sizeable tray separating the front seating positions. A bi-fold door at the base of the centre stack slides open to reveal a deep recess large enough for a six-pack. This clever compartment, as well as the two dash-top cup-holders, is connected to the HVAC system, which means you can keep your drinks cool in warm weather or your coffee warm when it is cold.

The rear seat is a bench design of a 60/40 split configuration. When both seat backs are folded they produce a near-flat cargo floor that offers over 2000-litres of stowage space. Lift height is low, so loading cargo should be less taxing, but unfortunately there is no separate lift-window in the upward swinging hatch. There is however, a folding centre armrest incorporated into the seat which reveals a pass-through for long cargo like skis.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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A cargo net comes standard and can be clipped to a variety of mounting points integrated into the floor and ceiling, while a roll cover can be used to conceal your cargo from unwanted eyes.

Roof rails are standard on all X-Trail models, and Nissan offers a wide array of brackets and carriers to help you tailor the system to fit your individual hauling needs.

Off-road performance

I had the opportunity to take the X-Trail off road for an afternoon of exploration. While the vehicle proved to be surprisingly adept when the pavement came to an end, serious off-roaders will probably spring for Nissan’s more rugged Xterra model.

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE

2005 Nissan X-Trail LE
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Unlike some of its immediate rivals the X-Trail can be operated as a two-wheel drive vehicle (FWD) which will definitely cut down on fuel costs, but when the going gets tough, the X-Trail’s all-wheel-drive set-up is very user friendly. A simple 3-position switch on the dash is all that is required to select either the ‘automatic’ AWD setting for light conditions, or to lock the transfer case for more treacherous terrain or steep descents. The system features an active torque distribution management system which incorporates an electro-magnetic clutch, ensuring that operation will be seamless. This system will send torque where needed when it detects wheel slippage ensuring that the vehicle will continue to move forward and not bog down.

My test unit handled sandy loam, gravel and slick mud strewn trails with equal abandon, as well as a shallow stream crossing and a natural staircase of rocks and timbers. As long as I kept an eye on the orientation of the vehicle’s front wheels and kept the speed in check, the X-Trail proved to be more machine than I expected. Its compact dimensions, good ground clearance and tight turning diameter (10.6-metres) made it possible to take the X-Trail up trails I had been unable to explore in other vehicles. The vehicle’s design also makes for excellent approach and departure angles. Choosing a more aggressive all-terrain tire than the OEM Bridgestone all-season units would help to make the X-Trail’s off-road skills really come through.

X-Trail pricing

2005 Nissan X-Trail pricing is as follows: XE FWD $25,998; SE FWD $28,498; XE AWD $27,398; SE AWD $29,898; and LE AWD $33,298.


The X-Trail offers excellent ergonomics and quality construction in a compact package. Add to this all-wheel-drive, a torquey 165-hp engine and a host of standard equipment and you have a great value.

Technical Data: 2005 Nissan X-Trail LE AWD

Base price (LE AWD) $33,298
Freight $1000
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $34,398
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact SUV
Layout transverse front engine, FWD/optional 4WD
Engine 2.5 litre 4 cylinder, 24 valves, DOHC
Horsepower 165 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 170 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic (5-spd manual standard on AWD XE and SE)
Tires P215/65R-16
Curb weight 1,528 kg (3,369 lbs)
Wheelbase 2,624 mm (103.3 in.)
Length 4,455 mm (175.4 in.)
Width 1,765 mm (69.5 in.)
Height 1,674 mm (65.9 in.)
Ground clearance 198 mm (7.8 in.)
Towing capacity 907 kg (2,000 lbs)
Cargo capacity 827 litres (29.2 cu ft) rear seat up
  2,061 litres (72.8 cu ft) rear seat down
Fuel consumption City: 10.8 L/100 km (26 mpg) Imperial gallons
  Hwy: 8.1 L/100 km (35 mpg) Imperial gallons
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 powertrain

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