2013 Nissan X-Trail facelift test drive; Slow and steady only wins some hearts

By Daniel Wong | June 15, 2013
2013 Nissan X-Trail facelift test drive; Slow and steady only wins some hearts

Back in 2010, many questioned Edaran Tan Chong Motor’s (ETCM) wisdom to introduce the second-generation X-Trail with a 2-litre engine and front-wheel drive.

There is nothing wrong with its specification, aside from the fact that its predecessor came with a 2.5-litre engine option and four-wheel drive.

The latest update on the 2013 Nissan X-Trail, doesn’t see any changes to the X-Trail’s mechanical specification, as it only amounts to minor exterior and interior changes.

While this latest development isn’t exactly ground breaking development for Nissan’s SUV, I took the opportunity reacquaint myself with the X-Trail and see if it still can cut it in today’s competitive SUV market.

What’s new?

Exterior – Changes brought on by the facelift include a new “X”-shaped front bumper, Navara-esque front grille, new headlight clusters with xenon projectors and LED placement lights, new LED taillights, and 17-inch rims.

It doesn’t sound like much and the X-Trail still looks largely the same square and chunky looking SUV as it always was, though its sharp new LED lighting elements does give the X-Trail a more up-to-date look.

Interior – The interior largely stays the same with the audio unit being replaced by a large 2-DIN multimedia touchscreen head unit, while the instrument dials has been revised to allow for a larger digital information display.

Additional practicality – The aforementioned 2-DIN multimedia head unit, courtesy of the Tan Chong group’s TC Auto Tooling division, now comes with satellite navigation and can relay live-images from its rear view camera. 

The satellite navigation software is good enough with maps that are comprehensive and up-to-date, though navigating the head unit’s software and features can get a little laggy.

Also, it might not look like it, but the X-Trail’s cabin trim has been darkened, to make it less of a hassle for owners to keep it clean.

What is it like to drive?

Performance – Straight off the box I can tell you that this SUV is not for the performance junkie who prefers driving around like their pants are on fire.

With a smooth running 2-litre engine from the Sylphy sedan and a shiftless XTRONIC CVT gearbox, this is one for a crowd who prefers to get around leisurely.

Acceleration certainly feels leisurely, with the CVT transmission keeping the engine revs in its optimum band, and only shifting to a higher rev range after a few seconds of consistent prodding from the driver’s right foot.

There is enough power from the X-Trail's engine to haul its weight around, especially for those moments when an overtaking manoeuvre is required, but otherwise it is more suited for delivering a steady cruise. 

You can pull the gear lever to the right to engage the manual override mode with its six virtual ratios, but even then the gearbox takes its time responding to your shifts and when it goes about doing so, its shifts feel slow and ponderous.

Ideally the manual override isn’t very good for quick shifts, instead it is useful for moments when you need to keep the engine running in its maximum power output rev range.

Handling – As far as handling is concern, the X-Trail steering just does what it is supposed to do, that is change direction at the driver’s command from the steering, nothing much in the way of steering feedback or driver engagement here. 

Body roll is manageable and the steering is well balanced as to be not too light at high speeds, without being a chore to use in tight parking spaces.

There isn’t much subjective merits in the way of excitement or involvement on the X-Trail part, so if you are one who wants an SUV that drives like a car, the X-Trail won’t be the SUV for you, it is feels unashamely big and tall as an SUV should. 

What is it like to live with?

Practicality - Thankfully ETCM didn’t sought to change its other practical features, such as its air conditioned cup holders placed at either end of the dashboard, and the nifty storage compartments in the form of drawers beneath the boot floor.

Remove the storage compartments and lower the boot floor and you can boost its boot space up to a cavernous 603-litres. Not to mention the myriad of storage compartments that is wedged on to every unused panel on the dashboard and door panels.

Other amenities that is kept in the X-Trail includes electrically operated front seats and keyless locking/unlocking and ignition. As long as you stick to life on the tarmac and not try your luck at going off road, the X-Trail has everything you need to meet your daily needs.

Yes, the X-Trail might not have off-road capabilities to match its chunky tough exterior, but for most people living in the cities, the fuel efficiency merits of having a two-wheel drive certainly outweighs the rarely used advantages of having a permenant four-wheel drive system. Even though our test unit had less than 150km on the odometer and felt as tight as a drum, it still managed to return a fuel consumption of around 11L/100km, admirable for an SUV of its size. 

Ride – When it comes to the question of ride refinement, the X-Trail is among the best in its class, being able to waft about with impressive levels of comfort and cabin refinement.

Ruts and bumps are dealt with nary an uncomfortable thump or disconcerting judder to occupants in the cabin, while the seats are incredibly plush and well-padded with proper support. Its refined ride quality is an ideal complement to the X-Trai's smooth running engine and transmission drivetrain.

Lacking features – While the X-Trail is largely the same old model as before with a few nifty additions to make it look new, I do wish that ETCM could have shoehorned additional features into it. 

Features such as steering wheel mounted controls and digital climate control could have made it a proper up-to-date rival for the segment SUVs of this day and age, where those two said features are already the norm.

Steering wheel mounted controls especially would have made operating the multimedia system, with its slow touchscreen interface, a breeze. As it stands now, switching between radio stations to escape the dross of teen pop music while driving is a tricky and frustrating affair without a conveniently placed steering wheel mounted button.

Furthermore, while the cabin trim’s fit feels solid and well put together, I wasn't impressed by the level of finishing done to the trim and cabin panels, which feels a decade behind the level of finishing Nissan’s competitors are garnishing their SUV offerings with nowadays.

Buyer’s Guide: Should you buy one?

In an age when the market isn’t short on SUV choices, the 2013 Nissan X-Trail does come across as a bit of an anachronism, despite its facelift updating its exterior looks and additional interior equipment. 

For RM1,000 more you can get the new 2013 Honda CR-V with its 4WD drivetrain and spacious cabin, and not forgetting for RM12,000 less you can have the 2013 Mazda CX-5 CKD which is fantastically well equipped and loaded with Mazda’s latest SKYACTIV fuel saving technologies.

Even both its Korean rivals, the 2013 Kia Sportage and 2013 Hyundai Tuscon, offer more features for less, than the X-Trail, and not to mention the new 2013 Ford Kuga, which maybe more expensive but boasts a whole truckload of new features. 

While the X-Trail cannot match the CR-V for its spaciousness, and the CX-5 for its handling, its only strong draw card is its comfort and refinement which manages to trump both of its immediate rivals. 

If comfort tops your list of priorities for your next SUV purchase, then you can do a lot worse than the X-Trail, otherwise it is best you look elsewhere.

SPECS: 2013 Nissan X-Trail 2.0L X-CVT facelift

Price: RM148,800

Engine: 1,997cc 4-cylinder DOHC with CVTC, MR20DE

Transmission: Six-speed CVT, front-wheel drive

Power: 139PS (102kW) @ 5,200rpm
Torque: 198Nm @ 4,400rpm

Fuel consumption: 11L/100km (observed)

AboutDaniel Wong
Born with a sizable cranium that is only humbled by Rubens Barrichello's, Daniel doesn't care much for numbers or figures but the immediate sensations and experiences one gets from a drive. To him a measure of a good car is one that does what it was set out to do well. A great car is one that draws a smile on your face with a quality that isn't quantifiable and keeps it there.

Nissan Authorised Distributor

Company Phone
Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd 1800 88 8368
Address Website
21, Jalan Ipoh Kecil,50350 Kuala Lumpur.P.O. Box 10132, 50704 Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia. www.nissan.com.my
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