Nifty Nissan X-Trail 2WD
  |  First Published: December 2011

All Wheel Drive SUVs have become increasingly popular of late, mainly because of the ability to take them offroad if needed. However, what if you like the features of an SUV, but you’ll never take it off the bitumen? Nissan has the answer.

Surveys of owners have revealed that very few owners of these SUVs are likely to take them off the bitumen. So why not remove drive capability from two wheels, make the car a bit lighter, offer perhaps room for a full sized spare in lieu of the rear drive system and offer it at a reduced price?

Nissan has said why not indeed and gone down a new path offering up a 2WD Nissan X-Trail.

The engine and front wheel drive was modified to remove drive on demand capability from the two rear wheels. It certainly seems to have worked for them if sales are a guide. The car looks the same, has the same interior and exterior features and rides much the same - the only difference being the lack of a selector knob on the console that previously might have engaged all wheel drive.

In many ways it does make sense. It can be assumed that many of Nissan’s all wheel drive X-Trail’s were never bought for off road work - the car’s great roominess, carrying capacity, and general SUV stance are the important selling points. If the car is only used by mum and the kids doing the around town duties during the week, maybe a bit of boat towing or loaded up with some camping gear or sports equipment on weekends, why would you need all wheel drive?

The 2WD gives Nissan Australia a couple of bites of the apple so to speak. While the all wheel drive model is still on the books and quite likely to stay there, the 2WD X-Trail still has it’s medium wagon capability with all the design features of an SUV, and a smaller price tag.


Nissan offer the X-Trail 2WD with the same engine as their more car-like Dualis, which is put together on the identical platform. A 2.0L four cylinder fuel injected petrol engine outputting 102kW and 198Nm of torque mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) comes standard in the ST model as reviewed here. The engine might seem a bit underpowered but matched to the CVT it works well enough without offering any exciting ‘launch feel’ experiences or fire breathing stuff at the lights. Highway work is good and overall the two wheeler runs very freely with little fuss.

The CVT offers seamless changes up or down ratios with only the tachometer and some buzz from the engine indicating just what is going on under the bonnet.

Many X-Trail features carry through to the 2WD version such as ABS, Electronic Stability Program, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, however the 2WD model misses out on hill descent control and hill start assist systems but retains active brake limited slip that applies braking force to a wheel that’s losing traction.

On the Road

The 2WD X-Trail retains the same basic feel as the all wheeler; that of a well balanced and quite compliant wagon capable of carrying five persons in comfort. Handling was generally better than I might have anticipated. The combination of front wheel drive and some load in the rear cargo area are fine around the city but when pushed hard on uneven surfaces or on really windy bits of mountain road the X-Trail’s nose tends to get out of joint somewhat, needing some guiding into sharp corners.

One point of interest is the lack of engine and road noise at highway speeds. The X-Trail, with it’s quite blunt nose and long box like shape was surprisingly quiet at 110kmh M1 travel thanks to excellent sealing and good tyre choice.

Braking and general handling was good and with a tow capacity of some 1300kg the two wheel drive will do a fine job of carrying a family in comfort, their tinny or camper trailer behind. Fuel consumption came in at 9.3L/100km for a mix of city and highway work, 9L/100km for a long highway run, which proved very enjoyable. Make no mistake, this is a comfortable, easily managed vehicle thanks to a good cabin layout and general ambience.

The X-trail is packed with good attributes like electric operation for most functions, cruise control, steering wheel controls for the sound system and phone connection, plus many other features.

The opposition

This late comer to the optional 2WD scene is going to have to do battle with some fairly entrenched – and more on the horizon – opposition. Currently, the Mazda CX-7 springs to mind as do the Korean twins of Kia Sportage Si and Hyundai ix35 Active , and the Toyota RAV4.

All that aside the X-Trail does have the advantage of a very large load area featuring a flat floor at the rear that can be hosed out after use thanks to its hard plastic surface, and some smart under floor drawers. With the rear seat upright rear luggage capacity is some 479L, with these seats down it increases to 1773L, which is a very large area indeed.

Summing Up

The 2WD X-Trail is a very practical vehicle that will suit a lot of family requirements with fun capability on weekends or holidays. It’s a bit cheaper than the all wheel drive model, and having driven the two vehicles recently I can comfortably report that there’s certainly not much between them.

Retail price for the ST with CVT is around the $31,000 mark.

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