Nissan X-Trail Review: the petrol-swilling electric SUV

Published: 19 June 2023 Updated: 09 October 2023
2022 Nissan X-Trail driving front 3/4
  • At a glance
  • 2 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Alan Taylor-Jones

New cars editor, seasoned road tester and automotive encyclopaedia.

By Alan Taylor-Jones

New cars editor, seasoned road tester and automotive encyclopaedia.

Mild or full hybrid only
► Five or seven seats
► X-Trail comes with front or four-wheel drive

Believe it or not, the Nissan X-Trail has been around for 21 years. Now entering its fourth generation, it retains its position as the more rugged and spacious bigger brother to the Qashqai. That means an optional third row of seating, hybrid power and the availability of four-wheel drive.

It might sound like a familiar proposition, but this is an all-new car on a new platform that’s been designed with electrification from day one. Shared with the Qashqai and Ariya, it ditches diesel entirely and offers only hybridised turbocharged petrol engines.

All X-Trails get a 1.5-litre turbo three-pot with a variable compression ratio to improve efficiency or performance depending on the situation. At the bottom of the range it gets a relatively simple 12v mild-hybrid boost and powers the front wheels via a CVT gearbox. Alternatively, there’s the full hybrid e-Power.

2022 Nissan X-Trail rear doors open

A wheeled power station

These e-Power models do things rather differently. Here the petrol engine has no direct connection to the wheels, with two-wheel drive models being pulled along by a single 201bhp electric motor on the front axle. This gets power from a small battery that’s charged by the engine and regenerative braking.

Opt for e-4orce (groan) four-wheel drive and you gain another electric motor on the back axle that generates another 134bhp, although in total both generate a maximum of 210bhp. Why bother with the hassle when you could just have a conventional transfer case, prop and rear diff? In a word packaging.

Trying to squeeze a 2.1kWh battery pack, a third row of seats and conventional four-wheel drive in a relatively compact crossover would have been tricky, although the larger Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento prove that it’s not impossible.

2022 Nissan X-Trail driving rear 3/4

What’s it like to drive?

Despite being bombarded by product presentations that promised the immediate response of an EV and snappy reactions from the four-wheel drive system, this is by no means a fun car to drive. So far we’ve only sampled the e-4orce and found the performance to be good, although quite deceptive.

In isolation you get a surge of electric torque after a moment’s hesitation should you floor the throttle, but it certainly doesn’t feel as swift as the 7.2 second 0-62mph time of our seven-seater would suggest. However, the way it whips past slower moving traffic confirms it’s by no means slow.

If you do clog it, you’ll find e-Power does a remarkably good impression of a CVT gearbox. This is particularly noticeable climbing up steep hills with the engine revving away quite coarsely under the bonnet. It’s not the most offensive three-cylinder thrum on the ears, but the vibrations being sent through the steering wheel are certainly noticeable.

2022 Nissan X-Trail front cornering

Of course, your average X-Trail owner isn’t going to be driving everywhere with the throttle pinned to the bulkhead. On less mountainous roads at slower speeds, the car happily potters along in electric mode with the engine quietly joining in to supply the battery with a bit more charge. Indeed, it’s really rather pleasant around town.

Corner time

The four-wheel drive system is able to react in a lightning 1/10,000 of a second, and torque vectoring by braking is there to help turn-in. Even so, you won’t find loads of power being fired at the outside rear wheel when you’re trying to have fun. It certainly helps boost traction, but it doesn’t take much to send the nose washing wide frustratingly early.

Still, the steering has a pleasant enough weight and has plenty of precision to make placing the X-Trail on the road easy, and it keeps excess body movements in check. In other words, it’s absolutely fine but in no way shape or form entertaining. Try a Seat Tarraco if you want sharper handling.

Comfy, then?

The X-Trail feels right at home on the motorway, with enough pliancy to the suspension and good refinement. The engine does still moo if you trample the throttle, and even at a constant cruise you hear it in the background like a two-stroke radio controlled plane held 100 yards in front of you.

As for the ride, it can thump and thud through potholes, while poorly surfaced roads cause some fidget, but our test car was on the biggest 20-inch wheels. A chat to a UK-based Nissan engineer confirms their choice would be one fitted with 18 or 19-inch wheels. So equipped, it could be a much sweeter thing on patchy roads.

2022 Nissan X-Trail driving profile

Let’s off-road!

While e-4orce certainly doesn’t turn this into a high-rise GT-R on the road, it’s an impressive system on dirt. Combined with clever traction control and an off-road mode, it’s able to keep going even with a wheel or two dangling in mid-air. Just to be awkward, we ignore the instruction to keep going at 10km/h on a particularly tricky stretch and come to a dead stop. Even then it’s able to brake the airborne wheels to get us moving again.

A large mound of dirt confirms it won’t fall over on a 30 degree tilt, and e-4orce provides good traction when accelerating albeit with a definite front bias. Hill descent control skilfully tweaks the ABS to make steep downhills far less nerve-wracking than they should be, and it’s able to haul itself up a steep incline from a standstill even with the left hand tyres on a surface even more slippery than loose dirt.

In other words, it’ll probably be more capable than you ever really need but is still limited by relatively meagre ground clearance and suspension travel.

2022 Nissan X-Trail dash

Tell me about the interior

It’s certainly a big step on from the old X-Trail, with a greater spread of soft-touch plastics, sharper digital displays and a classier feel all round. Harder plastics are evident on the doors and lower down the dash, but it’s par for the course in this class. A Peugeot 5008 is posher still, but the Nissan does at least come with actual physical controls for the heating and stereo. Hurrah!

Opt for N-Connecta or above and infotainment is taken care of by a large 12.3-inch touchscreen with easy to follow sat nav and responsive software. It’s certainly preferable to Volkswagen’s latest generation infotainment, although we’d say Kia and Hyundai still have an edge at this price point. Crucially for a family car, there’s plenty of easily accessible storage and flexible rear seats that both slide and recline if you opt for a seven-seater. There’s also a useful 40/20/40 split fold which makes carrying all your long lifestyle items (skis, anyone?) a doddle.

2022 Nissan X-Trail boot

But what about space?

Front space is plentiful, and with the rear bench slid all the way back you’ll get a couple of six-foot adults in without complaint. It’s even alright for three abreast thanks to a wide, flat centre seat and minimal transmission tunnel. This does all mean the rear chairs are a bit flat and shapeless, although they are easily accessed thanks to rear doors that open to an impressive 85 degrees.

However, the X-Trail shouldn’t really be considered a seven-seater, more of a five-seater with two occasional chairs in the boot. Nissan says they’re best for those under 160cm tall, but you have to slide the middle row forward quite a bit to get any legroom in row three.

As for the boot, that entirely depends on spec. Mild-hybrid models get the most space with 585 litres, with e-Power dropping this to 575 litres. Want a seven-seater? That’ll drop boot space to 485 litres, none of which are particularly amazing for the class, but are by no means bad.

2022 Nissan X-Trail driving rear 3/4 2

Nissan X-Trail e-Power: verdict

There’s no doubt the X-Trail makes for seriously sensible family transport and it’s managed to shuffle slightly closer to the pointy end of the class. While we could complain about the tight third row, rivals such as the Seat Tarraco and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace offer similar space back there, while you’d need to jump to a larger Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento to get an electrified seven-seater with the option of four-wheel drive.

However, while the X-Trail’s powertrain impresses with its refinement when you’re gentle, it’s not actually all that efficient. Even a 2WD e-Power manages a best of 48.6mpg and 132g/km while real world economy wasn’t particularly stellar either. No wonder Nissan aren’t expecting many fleet sales.

In summary, the X-Trail is a perfectly pleasant family wagon with the option of some four-wheel drive ability. Don’t expect too much from the driving experience and you’ll be totally whelmed.

More Nissan reviews, news and spyshots by CAR magazine


Price when new: £38,340
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1498cc, 12v, turbocharged, three-cylinder, petrol, with two e-motors, 210bhp, 243lb ft (front), 144Ib ft (rear)
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Performance: 7.2sec 0-62mph, 111mph, 43.8mpg, 146g/km
Weight / material: 1886kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4680/2065/1725

Photo Gallery

  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail driving front 3/4
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail driving rear 3/4
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail front cornering
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail driving profile
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail driving rear 3/4 2
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail rear doors open
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail dash
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail digital dials
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail infotainment
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail front storage
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail third row seating
  • 2022 Nissan X-Trail boot

By Alan Taylor-Jones

New cars editor, seasoned road tester and automotive encyclopaedia.