Nissan X-Trail Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Saturday 25th March
The X-Trail is an interesting take on range anxiety-free EV motoring

Good stuff

Most of the pleasure of EV motoring with none of the pain

Bad stuff

Powertrain gets distractingly noisy on occasion


What is it?

It’s the only seven-seat electrified SUV in its segment. Quite what segment that is exactly seems open to debate, though: as rivals, Nissan cites Toyota’s RAV4 - which it used as a benchmark for this fourth-generation X-Trail - as well as the likes of the Skoda Kodiaq, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan Allspace. We’d chuck the Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Highlander and Kia Sorento into that mix too, although Nissan reckons they’re too large to count as direct contenders.

The X-Trail has always suffered something of an identity crisis: it arrived in the UK in 2001 as a tall, gently-rufty-tufty estate car with extra ground clearance, all-wheel drive and salt-of-the-earth aspirations. Trouble is, Subaru’s courageous Forester 2.0-litre Turbo had already had its towel on that sun-lounger since 1998 and was, frankly, more fun.

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Understandably Nissan decided the X-Trail might be better off positioned as something of a Qashqai with knobs on, and by its third generation it had the job of replacing both the Mk2 X-Trail and the Qashqai+2, and sizeable psychiatry bills.

Anyway, mild role-in-life and segment placement dust-ups aside, enter the Mk4 X-Trail, which has shed its crossover pretensions in favour of added SUV chunkiness and also boasts a self-charging, electric motor drive powertrain.

So just another hybrid, then?

Well, in as much as both internal combustion and electric power sources are involved, yes. But in this case, Nissan’s gently novel e-Power system relegates a 1.5-litre variable compression ratio, turbocharged petrol engine to the sole job of charging the 2.1kWh battery, while power is provided to the front wheels by a 150kW electric motor delivering peak output of 201bhp.

We’ve already seen this e-Power system in the Qashqai, but the X-Trail variant we’re driving here features a first in the form of four-wheel drive, called e-4orce, which adds a 100kW electric motor to the rear axle for a total system output of 211bhp and the promise of 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds with enhanced traction, handling and ride comfort.

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Not expected to shift in any great quantity, a third, more conventional powertrain is also available – the same 1.5 litre turbo mated to 12V mild hybrid technology, generating 161bhp to power the front wheels.

But what’s so special about e-Power?

Quite. Why not a conventional EV or a standard, run-of-the-mill hybrid? It’s all about driving feel, Nissan tells us. e-Power combines the most efficient use of the petrol engine with a small battery and a quiet, smooth EV driving experience.

Nissan also points out that, as ‘bridge technology’ e-Power is a better proposition globally as a stepping-stone to full electrification than either a plug-in hybrid or a full EV; sound thinking given the sparsity of charging posts.

Largely, the system works well. Power delivery is indeed smooth and quiet; with the engine only operating to charge the battery, you are spared those accompanying hybrid noises that suggests there’s an episode of Bonanza being filmed under the bonnet, though protracted periods of hill climbing will still elicit mooing as the engine perks up somewhat vocally to keep the battery topped up.

But this isn’t a car set up to encourage Axminster crushing, and if you drive it with an ear on keeping things muted in the engine room it rewards with tidy handling, light, precise steering, well-controlled cornering posture and a supple ride, the underlying firmness of which only surfaces on the very worst, um, surfaces.

Any other ‘bridge technology’ on board?

More ‘extending the hand of friendship to the elderly’ technology… Mercifully, Nissan is one of the manufacturers that, having seen what a mess others are making of their touchscreen-only infotainment operations, is happy to leave the important knobs alone, including the air-conditioning controls and a centrally located audio volume control.

There’s no evidence of the Qashqai parts bin here save two 12.3-inch screens, which serve the driver and a central multi-information system, while a whopping 10.8-inch head-up display occupies so much windscreen space you’ll want to dim it almost to the point of obscurity. Nissan boasts that this all adds up to ‘35 inches of infotainment’; a statement we shan’t dwell on… Connectivity includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - the latter wireless - and in-car wi-fi for up to seven devices.

What's the verdict?

It isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it has been pretty carefully crafted

By equipping the new X-Trail with both e-4orce electric all-wheel drive and seven seats, and styling it more like an SUV than a crossover, Nissan clearly hopes to prise open the gap between this car and the Qashqai to give it a tad more of a fighting chance on the showroom floor.

It isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it has been pretty carefully crafted to offer as close to all things to all family members as any car in this class could hope to. Sure, anything with electric-motor drive which still bangs out CO2 at the rate of 147g/km is bound to elicit some head scratching, but you’ll forget all about that once you’ve tried it.

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