The new X-Trail offers a host of noteworthy improvements over its predecessor along with the same familiar capabilities, but it faces some stiff competition from its Mitsubishi platform mate.

The 2023 Nissan X-Trail is a car that is undoubtedly overdue. On sale in the USA since early 2021 where it’s called the Rogue and sharing a platform with the new Mitsubishi Outlander which launched here over a year ago, it’s only just now that we’re getting it here in Australia, meaning the last-generation X-Trail which was nearly a decade old can finally be laid to rest.

As you’d expect with a next-generation model based on a new platform in today’s new car market, prices are up between $3875 and $5615 depending on the variant. However, the X-Trail still remains one of the more affordable SUVs out there with the cheapest variant starting at $36,750 – impressive for a car this size these days.

Four trim levels are available – ST, ST-L, Ti, and Ti-L – with a choice of a petrol engine with either front- or all-wheel drive, or a new e-Power drivetrain that uses a small turbocharged petrol engine as a generator to power electric motors that drive the wheels. Sounds pretty simple, but the range is actually far more convoluted than that.

In ST and ST-L models, front-wheel drive variants are only available with five seats, while all-wheel drive variants are only available with seven. However, Ti and Ti-L models are only available with all-wheel drive but only five seats. Additionally, the e-Power drivetrain is only available on Ti and Ti-L models. Make sense? Yeah, it doesn’t to me either.

Regardless, all that is to say that the ST-L 2WD five-seat model on test here sits towards the lower end of the range and is priced from $43,190 before on-road costs, making it the third-cheapest in the lineup. The ST-L’s lower-rung positioning doesn’t mean is looks or feels particularly basic, though, as it’s actually rather well ordained.

Automatic LED headlights and taillights with auto high beam and 18-inch alloy wheels come as standard on the outside, and those smart design choices – when teamed with a bold colour like this bold Scarlet Ember – mean even this ST-L model is a pretty smart looking thing. Despite sharing its guts with the Outlander, it also still looks undoubtedly like an X-Trail which is a big positive as it hides those shared links.

The same can be said on the inside where beyond switchgear such as the dual-zone climate control panel and indicator stalks, the X-Trail also sees a total redesign. Fortunately, it feels less like an X-Trail of old in here as it’s actually a rather smart cabin with a two-tone black and brown colour scheme accompanied by faux wood trim and brushed metal finishes.

Certainly, the standard synthetic leather seats with heating for the front row, leather-appointed flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters, and taut-feeling switches and indicator stalks mean the interior continues to feel to be worth its price point as well once you start poking around. Compared with the outgoing model, it’s a big step up in quality for the X-Trail, too – just as this new platform was for the Mitsubishi’s Outlander twin.

However, there are some baffling specification choices to be seen in here. For instance, it might have dual-zone climate control and heated seats, but it doesn’t have automatic wipers or a powered tailgate. It also only has an 8.0-inch touchscreen that lacks satellite navigation, and only has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity if you bring your own cable, and there’s no wireless charger for if you don’t. Even the gauge cluster only has a smaller 7.0-inch screen flanked by two mechanical dials. In this regard, the Outlander Aspire is a much better bet when it comes to equipment – especially as it costs a mere $50 more in 2WD form and comes with seven seats as standard.

As you’d expect from an X-Trail, it is a very roomy cabin which is aided by the second row seats’ ability to slide forwards and backwards, affording all occupants a good amount of legroom. In truth, the five-seat arrangement is probably best as the third row is too small for anyone but young children, and as it affords you a massive 585-litre boot (versus 465 litres) with a false floor that can be used to divide the cargo space at points. There’s also a handy cut-out in the centre console thanks to the sliding electronic shifter, meaning there’s plenty of storage space for odds and ends.

It’s also worth noting that braked towing capacity has been upped to an impressive 2000kg, a 500kg increase over the old X-Trail, which positions it well for those who might be after an SUV that will tow a caravan well. Trailer sway control is also included as standard, along with a broad array of other active safety technology including Level 2 semi-autonomous driving capability.

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Also increased over the old Nissan X-Trail are the 2023 model’s power outputs, with the updated ‘PR25’ 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine available across the range now producing 135kW and 244Nm – increases of 9kW and 18Nm respectively. As before, it’s backed by a CVT automatic, and our tester is front-wheel drive.

With this drivetrain being shared with the petrol-only Outlander, performance feels practically identical between the two. Certainly, it’s not the punchiest thing in the world being a non-turbo engine, but it does offer enough torque for both city and highway driving. The CVT’s manners are much improved as well, with its seven-speed simulated manual mode (controlled by the paddles on the steering wheel) being notably responsive compared to the manual modes in older Nissan CVTs. There’s still a bit of rev flare to contend with on occasion, but when driven smoothly it’s quite well-mannered.

Something I think this particular X-Trail sorely missed, though, was all-wheel drive. While a non-issue in city traffic, it felt less sure-footed and tractable on the open road, and through the corners there was a some hints of torque steer and poor body control to contend with. For the less technically versed out there, the best way of describing this is that the sensations through the steering wheel don’t feel right at times on the sort of winding Adelaide Hills roads we test all vehicles on regularly.

The steering itself is quite good, though, with the right amount of resistance and the right ratio to allow for a surprisingly compact turning circle, making it ultra manoeuvrable in the city. The ride quality is also nicely judged, with it ironing out the sort of potholes and speed bumps that Australian cities and towns are littered with.

It’s also worth noting that the X-Trail’s cabin is quite quiet, with wind noise all but suppressed, and only a fair amount of road noise at open road speeds. Combine that with the Bose stereo if you prefer the sound of music to the sound of your own thoughts on a long drive, and it’s easy to get the cabin ambiance right.

Despite having a higher displacement non-turbo engine, fuel economy is also impressively low – perhaps due to my tester being front-wheel drive only. Over the course of my 525km of testing, I saw fuel consumption of just 7.7L/100km which is an impressive figure for an SUV this decently sized.

If you routinely rack up a lot of kays, Nissan’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty may tempt you into an X-Trail over the equivalent Mitsubishi Outlander. Mitsubishi’s warranty is an industry leader at 10 years in length, but it has a 200,000km mileage cap and only applies if you service it at a Mitsubishi dealership the whole time.

Do note also that despite the X-Trail and Outlander being mechanically identical, servicing is required every 12 months/10,000km in the X-Trail, versus every 15,000km for the Outlander. Mitsubishi also caps the price of the first five services (five years/75,000km) to $199 each, while the X-Trail charges between $363 and $657 for 2WD models ($696 max for AWD models) for the first six services (six years/60,000km).

I’d highlight as well that Nissan’s five-year warranty does set the X-Trail behind the likes of the seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty afforded to rivals like the Kia Sportage and MG HS, but it is on level pegging with the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Outback, and Mazda CX-5.

All that is to say that the X-Trail’s biggest challenge is not really any of its clearly different rivals from other brands out there, but its platform mate in the Mitsubishi Outlander. Cheaper servicing, a longer warranty, and more equipment for the same money put the Outlander ahead of the X-Trail on paper – at least in the case of this ST-L 2WD variant. Broader availability of seven-seat configurations across the Outlander range will also put it ahead of the X-Trail with some family buyers as well, although this five-seat X-Trail tested here does offer a much larger and more flexible boot.

The way I see it, the people who will like this new 2023 Nissan X-Trail most are going to be existing X-Trail owners. Familiar styling and interior capacity combined with much improved road manners and performance mean that for anyone looking to upgrade from the old model, it’s a change that will be worth every penny.

2023 Nissan X-Trail ST-L 2WD (5 Seat) List Price: $43,190
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Tech & Features - 7.5/10
  • 9/10
    Practicality - 9/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Massive and flexible cargo area in five-seat model, much improved interior quality, significant powertrain refinement over old model
Cons: Key equipment items missing on ST-L model, can’t mix-and-match seat configurations with 2WD/AWD, closely related Mitsubishi Outlander offers cheaper servicing and longer warranty

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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