The new Nissan X-Trail is presenting a new take on hybrid technology with its innovative e-Power drivetrain, but is it actually better?

What is it?

Since the all-new model arrived earlier this year, the 2023 Nissan X-Trail has been proving itself a solid contender in the packed mid-size SUV segment, although it’s not quite reaching the same sales peaks at the segment-leading Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, or it’s twin under the skin, the Mitsubishi Outlander. In fact, it’s even being outsold by the all-electric BYD Atto 3.

That’s where Nissan will be hoping this new electrified version of the X-Trail can steal back some of those sales. The first Australian-delivered model to utilise the brand’s e-Power drivetrain, it offers a unique take on electrification, using electric motors to drive the wheels but a petrol engine generator to power them. This quirky hybrid system not only promises to appeal to Aussies for whom long-distance driving isn’t as easy in a battery EV, but it also offers a unique point of difference from Mitsubishi’s electrified take on this platform in the Outlander PHEV.

Available only in Ti and Ti-L variants, we’re testing out the Ti which comes priced at $54,190 before on-road costs, making it $4200 more expensive than the equivalent petrol-only model.

Why are we testing it?

It’s not every day you get to test a truly innovative drivetrain in a car, especially one with the promises the X-Trail e-Power makes. The smooth, powerful, and pleasant EV driving experience without the range anxiety? That’s too good a premise not to have us interested in finding out whether it’s worth it.

How does it look?

Aside from some added e-Power and e-4orce badging – the latter being the rather awkward naming of its all-wheel drive system – and a black grille surround rather than the usual chrome, there’s no other visual differences between this and a standard petrol-powered X-Trail. In this shade of red, it’s rather a smart-looking car, although the Outlander is definitely the more style-conscious of the two.

What’s the 2023 Nissan X-Trail Ti like inside?

Like on the outside, the interior of the 2023 Nissan X-Trail Ti e-Power is also virtually unchanged, with the sleeker electronic shifter design and the power usage gauge in place of a tachometer the only detectable differences inside.

Distinguishing Ti and Ti-L models from lower-specified X-Trails are the larger 12.3-inch digital driver’s display and central infotainment touchscreen, with both offering clear, high-quality graphics and a good amount of configurability. It’s also worth noting that while the driver’s display is shared with the Outlander, the infotainment system is Nissan’s own, with no Mitsi variant offering a screen this large. It also adds wireless Apple CarPlay, with lower-tier models requiring a cable to connect.

Other interior equipment includes a 10.8-inch head-up display, digital rear view mirror, adaptive headlights, automatic wipers, wireless phone charging, a panoramic sunroof, eight-way power-adjustable heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, a powered tailgate, 360-degree camera, and ProPilot semi-automous driving assistance among a host of active driver aids.

The interior quality is also lifted with it featuring leather-accented seat upholstery rather than the synthetic leather of ST-L variants. As with all other X-Trail models, its interior is incredibly roomy with plenty of space for front and rear occupants, although e-Power models are only available in a five-seat configuration, with only the ST and ST-L AWD petrol variants offered with seating for seven.

This does mean that the X-Trail e-Power features a modular boot design which can be easily divided into sections using its split floor pieces. Although the hybrid battery is located under the front passenger seat rather than under the boot floor, there’s still a 10-litre penalty to its boot capacity, while the spare tyre is also ditched in favour of a tyre repair kit. Despite this, the boot is still a sizeable 575 litres with the rear seats in place.

READ MORE: If plug-in hybrid tech is your thing, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV could be the SUV for you

What’s under the bonnet?

Obviously, it’s under the bonnet where things get fun with the X-Trail, with this propulsion system unlike what you’ll find in most hybrid’s out there. At the heart of it, there’s a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder variable-compression petrol engine which produces 106kW and 250Nm, but those outputs are actually somewhat irrelevant as the petrol engine doesn’t drive the wheels.

Instead, it’s used as a generator to charge a 2.1kWh battery which then powers two electric motors which drive the wheels. There’s a 150kW motor on each axle, but the combined system output is 157kW. The idea behind it is that you get the seamless and instantaneous power delivery of the electric motors, while never having to go to a charging station.

What’s it like to drive?

Certainly, you can feel the difference when it comes to the way the X-Trail e-Power operates. Power delivery is certainly as smooth as you’d expect from an EV, but there’s still the inimitable soundtrack of the three-pot under the bonnet revving away, although being a variable compression engine it sounds deftly similar to as if it were paired to a CVT.

As a result, it somewhat quells the EV feel of the X-Trail, as it’s actually far closer to a typical hybrid car in practical terms. In a way, that’s perhaps a good thing as it provides another stepping stone towards EVs for those who might be too worried about taking that jump just yet.

Where the electric motors do prove their worth is with the punchy off-the-line power delivery that’s on offer, with it helping the X-Trail e-Power ideal for the sorts of freeway merges and traffic dodging you’ll do on a daily basis. It also provides a big benefit when you’re trying to have some fun with the X-Trail, too, with its e-4orce all-wheel drive system distributing the power quicker and better than a traditional mechanical all-wheel drive system. The grip on offer is genuinely impressive, and it makes the X-Trail a more rewarding drive as a result.

Like the standard X-Trail, though, the e-Power model is a comfortable and easy drive on the whole, with it remaining comfortable and quiet on the move, and with well-weighted steering that’s lightness suited to low-speed manoeuvring. All in all, it feels quite premium to drive, and it’s on the road where it excels most over the petrol-powered X-Trail.

How do the numbers add up?

The greatest reminder of the X-Trail e-Power being closer to your average hybrid is when it comes to fuel consumption. Nissan claims it will use 6.1L/100km, and after 660km of testing we saw a return of 6.8L/100km, putting it right on par with the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid as a point of comparison. While fuel is therefore still an expense to consider and visits to the petrol station won’t be that much further apart, it’s noticeably less fuel than your average SUV uses. Do consider also that it requires premium 95RON fuel at a minimum. If you’re really looking for good fuel economy, though, Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid take on this platform will be more to your tastes.

As with all Nissan models, the 2023 X-Trail Ti e-Power is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, while five years of complimentary roadside assistance. There’s also six years of capped price servicing on offer, with an average cost of $508 per service ($3051 total) which is slightly more than 2WD petrol and a tad less than AWD petrol variants. That’s certainly more than most battery EVs cost to service, and also more than some petrol SUVs. Additionally, servicing is required every 12 months/10,000km, which is shorter than the now-typical 15,000km interval.

So, what’s the verdict?

There’s no denying that the X-Trail’s unique take on hybrid power will win it some fans purely for its originality, but the fact it makes the X-Trail an even better car to drive will win it even more. With a perfect blend of the immediacy of an EV and the practicality of a petrol car, it feels like more of a driver’s car than a traditional hybrid or PHEV would be – especially since it’s smoother and more powerful than the standard X-Trail.

However, while it’s more economical than a petrol-only SUV, there’s still a $4200 price premium and more expensive servicing to get past before you see any savings, which is where the numbers don’t add up quite as nicely, but they do at the very least balance out.

But when you factor in the standard equipment and how pleasant the X-Trail e-Power’s on road performance is, it actually makes quite a compelling case for itself. Certainly, for those who value petrol practicality whether to avoid charging stations or so long-distance driving is easier, it could be the right stepping stone to electrification at this point in time.

2023 Nissan X-Trail Ti e-Power e-4orce List Price: $54,190
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Smooth and punchy power delivery, offers that trademark EV grip, petrol engine generator makes it practical for long-distance driving
Cons: Servicing is a bit pricey and has short intervals, it’s perhaps not economical enough to offer big savings in the grand scheme, might not find the popularity a battery EV would right now

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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