We take a final look at the third-generation Nissan X-Trail before it's put out to pasture to see whether it's worth picking one up on a run-out deal.

What is it?

More important than what this is, is what it isn’t. While a new, fourth-generation Nissan X-Trail is already on sale in the US as the Rogue, here in Australia we’ll still be waiting until 2022 to receive it. That’s why, for the 2021 model year, we’re soldiering on with the third-gen model you see here which has been around since all the way back in 2013.

While it was last treated to a thorough facelift in 2017 which has helped it still look up to scratch today, it’s been given a few minor updates to help see it through its final year before the new model’s arrival, while the range has also been pared back with the phasing out of diesel variants. However, the upgrades have driven prices higher, with this range-topping Ti model now $475 more costly than before at $45,965 before on-road costs.

Why are we testing it?

With this third-gen X-Trail not long for this world now, there’s every chance you might be able to snag a good deal on one, especially as the next-gen’s arrival nears, so we wanted to see whether or not it’s one worth taking up given how many impressive rivals the 2021 Nissan X-Trail has. It also seemed an opportune time to see how the X-Trail has aged after eight years as well.

What’s the 2021 Nissan X-Trail like inside?

While the X-Trail’s exterior certainly still manages to present well, its on the inside that it feels like the product of the early 2010s that it really is. All of the features that will define the new model – such as a slick digital instrument cluster, larger infotainment system, a head-up display, and wireless phone charging – are conspicuously absent from this ageing model, and if they’re things you’re after, you’ll want to wait until early next year to make a purchase.

If you’re looking to buy now, though, the X-Trail’s interior is at least far from what you could call barren if you go for the range-topping Ti model tested here. Leather upholstery, heated seats both front and rear with power adjustment for the front buckets, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, Bose audio system, a 360-degree surround view monitor, adaptive LED headlights, a big panoramic sunroof, and a handy motion-activated powered tailgate are all included as standard, meaning it stacks up pretty well against the competition in this regard.

However, the solid spec sheet only tells one half of the story, actually sitting inside the X-Trail tells another one entirely. Simply put, this thing is really feeling its age, and the all-new replacement couldn’t come along soon enough.

From the quality of the materials – great in key touch points, not so great everywhere else – to the basic mechanical instrument cluster and especially when it comes to the tiny 7.0-inch infotainment screen, this would have been perfectly passable when it first came out, but its competition easily out-styles it at this point. Even the lights for the blind spot monitor are located on the A-pillar, rather than being integrated into the wing mirror glass itself.

At least its infotainment system now runs the latest operating system from Nissan, which is a very good one, and that means it now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – a key 2021 upgrade for the X-Trail, and one which was incredibly overdue for it.

Safety tech isn’t something this range-topping Ti is lacking, either, although it is a shame that lower-tier models do miss out on some important features such as AEB with pedestrian detection (although all other models still feature basic AEB), lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control which are all reserved for this range-topper.

What isn’t a problem at all, though, is the sheer roominess of this interior. There’s acres of space for passengers both up front or in back, and the boot is huge, too. Its false floor that can be rearranged as a cargo divider or removed to reveal even more storage space is nice and clever as well. There are some other nice thoughtful inclusions like an air-conditioned cupholder, too, which indicate that practicality was always a key focus of this cabin’s design.

Ultimately, though, the X-Trail’s biggest downfall is simply its age which leaves it feeling a bit backward after you’ve spent any time in the cabins of its rivals. However, what is unquestionable is how strong this Ti model’s list of standard features is.

What’s the 2021 Nissan X-Trail like to drive?

Although there’s a few different drivetrain configurations you can have your X-Trail in – including with a manual gearbox, even, on the base ST 2.0 FWD, not that I imagine many if any Aussies will buy one – the range-topping Ti on test here is only available in one configuration. Featuring a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine with 126kW and 226Nm, it’s backed by a CVT automatic and selectable all-wheel drive as standard.

While the X-Trail’s biggest petrol engine’s outputs are certainly fine for an engine of its kind, if a little behind the likes of the Mazda CX-5’s NA 2.5-litre, what power it has all gets zapped away by its transmission. If there’s one thing that really lets Nissan down in many of its models – be it this, the Qashqai, or the Pathfinder – its a CVT that slurs and whirrs and dulls down performance to a truly lethargic degree. Mercifully, models like the rather good new Juke feature a dual-clutch which is a better fix than any here, so it’s a shame the company is still employing a CVT in so many models.

At least it’s a tractable thing – the selectable all-wheel drive system (you can stick it into front-drive only if you wish) does its job well – and it handles through the corners surprisingly decently as well. However, this handling does come at a cost as the ride feels surprisingly brittle and stiff, which is a shame as many rivals manage to strike a balance between comfort and dynamics in this ever-competitive class. The steering feels a bit numb, too, but that’s admittedly to be expected.

In the city, at least, it blends in nicely though – here, the steering is nice and light, the drivetrain nice and incredibly smooth, and its 360-degree camera a godsend when it comes to parking. On the freeway, however, the CVT is prone to rev flare on uphill stretches when you’ve got the cruise control set as it tries to keep it in its powerband to maintain speed.

The rev flare and rubber band feeling you get here is, ultimately, as characteristically frustrating as you’ll find it to be anywhere, and with how little power ends up actually making it to the wheels through this drivetrain, it means you simply have to push it hard to keep up with traffic in some situations, meaning a noisier experience as you’re revving the engine up to its high-rev powerband and also reduced fuel economy, too.

While the average person simply commuting to and from work in city traffic will find it to be a perfectly fine thing to drive – and it’s reasonable to expect that this will account for a majority of X-Trail buyers – the reality is that if you live in somewhere like the Adelaide Hills, as I do, it simply doesn’t feel that comfortable sat on high-speed freeways with plenty of steeper gradients, and on characteristically tree root-laden Australian backroads its firm ride means its not quite so pleasant there either.

How do the numbers add up?

With this current-generation model not long for this world at this point, one thing that is guaranteed is that you’ll be able to pick up a great deal on an outgoing model. At $46,490 drive-away for this Ti model, it represents a more than five-grand saving, which is a huge chunk of money off, and only a little more than $500 over the list price for the Ti.

Going off list price though, the X-Trail does look to be outclassed by its rivals that don’t exactly cost much more. The Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, and Hyundai Tucson are all worthy adversaries that only cost a fraction more, while the Subaru Forester and particularly quick Ford Escape is a good few grand cheaper. The very good Kia Sportage is soon to be replaced as well, so you may want to see what sort of run-out deals you can get on one of these also.

Regardless, maintaining it in the long run shouldn’t be too harsh on the bank account at least. A five-year unlimited kilometre warranty is par for the course, and its capped price servicing costs $341.50 per visit on average, although the service intervals are a slightly skint 12 month/10,000km rather than the now-typical 15,000km.

Fuel consumption is surprisingly disappointing though, as it only managed to return 9.6L/100km after my 375km of testing which is quite a bit higher than the 8.3L/100km claim – especially when you consider it utilises a CVT to improve fuel economy in theory, although how hard you need to push it to make real progress means this offsets any potential fuel savings.

So, what’s the verdict?

Ultimately, the 2021 Nissan X-Trail simply suffers because of its age, with its newer rivals simply outclassing it both when it comes to mod-cons and performance. However, the X-Trail does clap back at least with an incredibly roomy and practical interior, and the fact that there are massive savings to be had on one now that it’s in run-out.

While I imagine many will be tempted to wait for the next-gen X-Trail’s Australian arrival early next year, especially since it looks to be a pretty good thing with a much-improved interior, if you’re in the market right now for a fuss-free car that still packs some welcome comfort features, grabbing one of these on a run-out deal looks to be a very smart move.

2021 Nissan X-Trail Ti 4WD List Price: $45,965
  • 6.5/10
    Performance - 6.5/10
  • 7/10
    Ride & Handling - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Incredibly roomy and practical interior, strong list of standard features, plenty of great run-out deals to be had on one
Cons: Lethargic drivetrain, interior feels incredibly dated, surprisingly harsh and brittle ride

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Nissan Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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