Few medium SUVs offer seatbelts for seven, but the 2017 Nissan X-Trail ST-L does and they certainly are cheap seats.
Within a broad and popular X-Trail lineup that contains petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmissions, and choice of front- or all-wheel drive, the entry ST and middle-tier ST-L (as tested here) are the only duo with seven-seat capability.
A 2.5-litre petrol, automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and front-drive are also the only options if hauling more than five bodies is required.
Both model grades are inexpensive, however. Taking each X-Trail from five to seven pews asks a $1500 premium – resulting in $31,990 and $38,090 (plus on-road costs) for the ST and ST-L respectively.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $38,090 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 126kW/226Nm 2.5 4cyl petrol | automatic CVT
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.1 l/100km | Tested: 10.6 l/100km
The only other medium SUV to offer seven-seat capability is the Mitsubishi Outlander. It undercuts the Nissan with a $30,500 (plus orc) starting price, but it only gets a weedy 2.0-litre engine. Choosing a 2.4-litre petrol necessitates taking all-wheel drive for $33,500 (plus orc).
For equipment more reflective of this ST-L, however, the next step up is the Outlander Exceed from a hefty $44,000 (plus orc). Where it gets the X-Trail is with diesel engine availability from $39,500 (plus orc) – but with base level equipment.
Otherwise, the size-larger Holden Captiva offers similar space for similar pricing, but it’s old and underdone. A Hyundai Santa Fe is larger and squeezes in at under $40,000 but with only a basic features list.
The X-Trail ST-L aims to blend seven-seat practicality with affordability and a packed equipment list. With the above context in mind, let’s see if it can make a convincing case for growing families.
- Standard Equipment: power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and trim, electrically adjustable front seats with heating, cruise control, automatic headlights and keyless auto-entry
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, digital radio, USB inputs, satellite navigation, NissanConnect mobile app connectivity and six speakers
- Options Fitted: none
- Cargo Volume: 550 litres
Even placing aside the extra-seat bonus of this Nissan X-Trail, the middle-tier ST-L is astonishingly well-equipped compared with five-seat rivals.
Leather seat trim is rare for a medium SUV with a price starting with a ‘3’. Even more uncommon, however, is full electric adjustment and heating for both driver and passenger. All three are standard here, and the front pews are nicely supportive, too.
A remote key that detects when a driver is nearby and automatically unlocks the doors is another handy feature.
The centre screen is not the largest in the segment, but its ergonomics are superb, boasting among the most simple and intuitive interface in the segment. Both the satellite navigation and digital radio are a breeze to use, while the around-view camera also makes up for the lack of front or rear parking sensors.
Even the screen ahead of the driver between the speedometer and tachometer is a colour unit activated by a simple trip computer toggle on the steering wheel. Courtesy of simple, big buttons, navigating through clear menus and sub-menus is a cinch.
This cabin is unpretentious and family focused, right down to the huge centre console storage box and air-cooled cupholders. But it also feels well-built and solid, with a nice layer of soft-touch plastics over the upper door trims and dash.
Indeed, the only giveaways that this isn’t the flagship Ti is the lack of driver assistance technologies (such as adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitor or lane-keep assistance), LED headlights (note the halogens – although with foglights and alloy wheels the ST-L doesn’t appear basic), a sunroof, auto wipers or an electric tailgate.
The tailgate opens high, however, to reveal a mammoth 550-litre boot volume when only five seats are used. The third-row is split 50:50 to permit travelling with a sixth passenger while leaving some luggage room, with each backrest able to be lowered or raised effortlessly via pulling a simple strap.
With all seats occupied there is little leftover boot space. Sixth and seventh passengers will need to be short, anyway, because although the rearmost seats are decently comfortable, headroom and legroom is tight.
The middle row is split 60:40 and tilts then slides to permit easy access rearwards.
As a five-seater the Nissan is hugely spacious for headroom and legroom in the middle row, although the sliding function makes for a variety of different positions to reduce or increase legroom depending on which passenger is seated where.
Although the dual-zone climate control system delivers air-vents for the centre row, though, no vents are to be found in the third row. More disappointingly, curtain airbag protection doesn’t extend to the sixth and seventh passengers.
The X-Trail ST-L is brilliantly equipped, incredibly roomy and terrifically versatile for the price – but best think of this medium SUV as a ‘five plus two’ seater.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 126kW/226Nm 2.5 4cyl petrol
- Transmission: automatic CVT, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Adding a pair of extra seats raises the X-Trail’s kerb weight by 46kg to 1533kg. However, at least all-wheel drive hardware isn’t installed, the addition of which takes the five-seater ST-L to 1543kg.
Weight is important not only in the context of a medium SUV that most often must haul bodies and luggage around, but in the Nissan’s case a torque-adding turbocharger isn’t employed that could best disguise the additional heft.
The 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine tested here makes 226Nm of torque at 4400rpm, in addition to 126kW of power at 6000rpm.
By comparison, a smaller 2.0-litre turbo in a comparably priced – but five-seater – Volkswagen Tiguan makes 320Nm from 1500rpm and 132kW from 3900rpm. Essentially, these stronger numbers are delivered at lower points on the tachometer, resulting in fewer engine revs, less noise and greater accelerative ease.
A turbo-diesel is even better for dealing with weight – and a seven-seat Mitsubishi Outlander 2.2-litre makes 360Nm from 1500rpm.
With this in mind, however, it comes as a surprise and revelation that the X-Trail’s standard petrol gets along reasonably well. With the throttle extended it can get noisy and feel slow to move. Equally, though, in normal driving the automatic is so quick to respond that it feeds in and takes away revs smoothly and effectively.
Its driveability is pleasing, without being frustrating, which points to fine tuning of the throttle and automatic in the fight against power versus weight. On the freeway we achieved 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres, and around town running only raised this to a still-respectable 10.6l/100km.
On the freeway and through flowing country roads, the X-Trail mostly maintains comfort and composure with steering that is medium weighted and progressive. Even its handling is solid and stable, although road noise is only average for the segment.
Perhaps surprisingly for a family car, though, it’s around town that this Nissan falters. Its suspension is noisy, even crashy, over potholes and irregularities at lower speeds. Its steering becomes ponderous when parking, too, being too heavy and requiring far too much arm-twirling to navigate what isn’t a super-sized SUV.
In an urban environment the ST-L is one of the least impressive models in the class; and that may be a sticking point for buyers who don’t often travel beyond city limits.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Nissan X-Trail range scored 35.28 out of 37 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2014.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and first/second-row curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, and surround-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Nissan’s capped price servicing program covers six years or 120,000km, with checks bi-annually or every 10,000km at a below average cost of $303.50 for each of the first four services – which is mirrored for the following four check-ups.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
We would happily sacrifice features for the added torque of a diesel Outlander at $39,500 (plus orc), although it really depends how often seven seats will be used. A Santa Fe is worth the stretch beyond $40K – but the Captiva isn’t for nix.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With the seven-seat option ticked, the Nissan X-Trail ST-L is the sweet-spot in this expansive medium SUV range.
It offers genuine versatility as a very roomy five-seater or occasional seven-seater, while being loaded with equipment for the price compared with any other rival in the segment. Its cabin is well-built and comfortable for driver and front passenger, too.
If the petrol engine is average, then the automatic is at least above average. But its country road manners are also average, and its urban disposition below average. Of course, other competitors trade space and seats for more sophisticated driveability – but to be fair, that may not be a trade-off that suits all buyers.
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