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Nissan X-Trail ST-L 2023 review

Curt Dupriez
Deputy editor

Mid-range front-wheel drive Nissan X-Trail proves a wholesome package as a viable midsize SUV alternative to petrol Toyota RAV4

Good points

  • Well-rounded package
  • Surprisingly frugal
  • Decent ride/handling balance
  • Practical as a five seater
  • Large boot space
  • Priced well

Needs work

  • Not class-leading at anything
  • Looks and feels dated in some areas
  • Petrol version is non-turbo
  • Fairly expensive servicing
  • Not possible to mix seven seats and FWD
  • Thirstier than hybrid around town

It’s fair to say that of Nissan four key new model updates that lobbed late last year – including a new Qashqai small SUV, Pathfinder large SUV and long-awaited Z sports car it’s perhaps the 2023 X-Trail that plays in the red-hot midsize SUV segment that’s of primary importance to its importer.

The choice in range offered to entice buyers away from big-sellers such as Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, to name two rivals of a good ten-plus, appears broad and solid.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 rear 3/4

For some time now, four X-Trail trim grades have been available: the lower ST and ST-L in FWD five-seater and AWD seven-seater flavours; and the higher-grade Ti and Ti-L variants in petrol or E-Power hybrid forms as five-seaters only.

However, Nissan has recently released a fifth version: our as-tested ST-L five-seater trim with E-Power hybrid drive formerly exclusive to the high-grade choices. Nissan needs that E-Power hybrid tech, crucially to counter Australia’s favourite SUV – the hybrid RAV4.

E-Power is easy to market as ‘hybrid’, but more difficult to digest as an engineering application: its ‘series hybrid’ design is actually pure electric drive, and unlike Toyota’s series-parallel hybrid application, isn’t offered on the base grade.

We’ve reviewed both E-Power and high-spec petrol-powered X-Trails to date, but how does the new X-Trail stack up with rudimentary ICE-propelled front-wheel drive in a five-seat format, sans the elaborate specification or pricing of the hybrid Ti or Ti-L?

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 headlight

The X-Trail ST-L FWD ought to appear to many midsize SUV buyers as safe and friendly territory.

It’s one up from base-model ST doldrums as the first ‘nice’ variant in range, and its fulsome safety and convenience Pro Pilot suite that elevates the ST-L beyond the hire car ranks.

So how does X-Trail stack up in modest spec without frills and E-Power?

What are the X-Trail ST-L’s features and options for the price?

Buyers can choose an X-Trail ST-L in five-seat/front-wheel drive guise for $43,190 before on-road costs. A package that brings all-wheel drive (AWD) and shoehorns in a small third row for seven seats adds $3100 to the cost.

Our five-seater, front-drive example clocks on from around $47,077 driveaway. It’s not optioned: the scarlet ember red paintwork and brown-on-black interior as tested are both standard issue.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 with E-Power Ti
Pictured: the X-Trail E-Power Ti-L (left) alongside the ST-L FWD (right)

The ST-L is a significant $6440 walk-up from the price-busting ST – $36,750 as a five-seat FWD, $39,400 for the seven-seat AWD – though there’s no option to mix seat and driven wheel count for the petrol models.

If you want a five-seater with AWD, you’ll be going to the recently announced ST-L E-Power that costs $49,490.

And unlike some overseas markets, there’s no turbocharged petrol engine option this far down the X-Trail range, nor a FWD option with hybrid power.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 interior

Standard features across both the ST and ST-L include:

  • LED headlights with high beam assist and LED tail lights
  • A reversing camera
  • Rear parking sensors
  • 7.0-inch TFT driver’s screen
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia display
  • Power folding and heated mirrors
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • The step up to ST-L adds the following features above the base ST:
  • Leather accented trim
  • 10-way electric driver’s seat adjustment
  • Front seat heating
  • 360-degree camera assistance
  • 18-inch alloy wheels (up on the ST’s 17s)
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Front parking sensors
  • Sliding second-row bench
  • 40:20:40 rear seat split-folding
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Pro Pilot (highway automated steering/acceleration/braking)

For the first ‘nice’ variant in range, the ST-L’s fit-out is nicely rounded with few conspicuously cut corners. And the more flexible second row seating is attractive.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 door

The migration to next-level Ti features demands an extra $6800 ($49,990) for the petrol and a premium of $11K ($54,190) for the E-Power options, both exclusively offering AWD and five-seat-only accommodation.

The lift in equipment includes items such as matrix LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, dual 12.3-inch digital display hardware, three-zone climate control, tri-zone climate control. a head-up display, a panoramic glass roof and other various niceties.

How does the X-Trail ST-L drive?

As the base powertrain in the X-Trail lineup, the petrol front-drive option might look a little short-changed judging by the form guide. Its 2.5-litre four-cylinder is naturally aspirated and it’s paired with a habitually unloved CVT transmission.

And both can be opted with fancier “intelligent” – Nissan-speak for condition-dependent fore-aft torque-shuffling – on-demand “4×4”, though without reduction drive it’s actually regular all-wheel drive.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 front driving 4

Nor are the 2.5-litre’s 135kW and 244Nm outputs particularly sexy. And yet, the petrol-powered, front-wheel drive format proves fine enough, and in some areas better still, during the lion share of family-hauling requirements.

The 2.5L is quiet and mild-mannered when unstressed, yet feels quite chipper in response once you dig in a little harder with the right foot.

The CVT is, on balance, well behaved and provided you’re not working the powertrain too hard, it’s quite dignified and amply flexible during the around-town stop-start stuff. Particularly one-up and unencumbered by any payload.

While it doesn’t necessarily feel lithe, the ST-L front-driver does tip in at 1579kg kerb and you do sense that, while the engineering at play isn’t nearly as forward thinking as E-Power (and its E-Force electric-driven all-wheel drive), the humble format at play has been treated to quite some polishing.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 engine

This powertrain is a bit more flexible and refined than some designs commonly used on the midsize SUV landscape.

What’s properly impressive is fuel economy. Its fuel consumption claim is just 7.4L/100kms combined and so it proved in the assessment pudding (7.8L displayed on the trip computer).

That fell into fives during long motorway stints – impressive indeed. It runs on cheapy 91RON, too.

In fact, during one road trip stint, we decided to bring along an E-Power(ed) Ti with which to measure relative consumption. That the pricier ‘hybrid’ returned the exact same displayed highway consumption (7.8L) as our ST-L was, frankly, quite surprising.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 front driving 5

Less of a surprise was the expected ruckus the naturally-aspirated petrol version drums up under peak stress: entering a motorway from a side street or on ramp, or overtaking at pace.

Here, there’s no avoiding the CVT pinning the engine north of 4000 rpm in search of solid enough shove for a task that’s inevitably accompanied by loud engine groaning.

With so much choice in such a hugely popular segment, it’s unsurprising that buyers and owners are becoming pickier about their preferences when it comes to ride and handling imbalance.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 wheels

And with so many SUVs now leaning towards firmly gripped dynamic rewards, the X-Trail’s more comfort-favouring tune is refreshing and fitting.

The ride quality is, on balance, pretty good. It’s pliant if not exceptionally spongey, with just enough body control to circumvent uncomfortable body wobble and much in the way of head toss.

The X-Trail is hardly a corner carver, but grip from the 18s is decent and it points well through a tiller of a design that looks as if it might’ve been lifted from the Z sports car but feels a little too slippery in hand.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 front driving 3

All said, though, it’s a really easy machine to settle into during long stints in the saddle.

On road, it’s more competent than outstanding, then. That said, it’s largely unflustered manner and quite operation at cruise, combined with exceptionally good open road fuel economy, make for a deceptively good family hauler for a big country.

What is the X-Trail ST-L’s interior and tech like?

The X-Trail ST-L’s cabin isn’t big on new-school flash or cutting-edge stylisation. Despite its all-new execution, the X-Trail isn’t nearly as forward focused as some of its contemporaries, particularly those from Korea.

There’s a dark, almost brooding ambience about the cabin, its dark grey theme peppered with traditional black and silver highlights and broken up with a chocolate brown horizon line around the dash and door tops.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 interior 2

Similarly, much of the controls and switchgear have a real conventional look and feel to them, from the HVAC array through to multifunctional steering wheel.

Some of the choices of materials, such as the textured plastic trims bits and inserts, do look barely up to date.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing and the Nissan’s older-school vibe will definitely appeal to many SUV buyer tastes.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 front seats

The front seats, for their part, are quite plush and welcoming. The leather accented trim is tactile and the cushioning is both comfy and supportive.

Add 10-way electric power adjustment for the driver and the front pews are quite impressive for what sits as a lower-grade variant. In fact, general execution is quite upmarket.

Elsewhere, the cabin fit-out is mostly, well, fine.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 screen

The 8.0-inch multimedia system, that supports device connectivity and power via a pair of USB-A and a pair of USB-C outlets, ticks basic boxes and offers a handy volume dial, but you have to step up to the Ti – and its larger 12.3-inch touchsystem – to get niceties such as wireless Apple CarPlay, inductive phone charging and proprietary satnav.

The highlight of the system, though, is the nice and bright surround-view camera system with handy moving object detection displayed on screen.

The first row feels quite roomy despite the sensation that occupants sink low into the seats as a bit of a nod towards sportiness. Similarly, the wheel looks and feels – despite a bit of slipperiness to the rim – as if it might’ve lifted from the Z sports car.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 rear seats

Given the choice of five or seven seats in range, the former really does fit the midsize X-Trail bill quite nicely indeed.

It’s realistically a four-adult proposition or five at a pinch, but it’s really the flexibility of the sliding rear seat base and the 40:20:40 rear seat back that means you can tune up tailor-fit rear occupant comfort to taste.

Row two offers rear air vents and device power and a neat feature is that the rear doors swing outwards a whopping 85 degrees for easy access when loading the young ones in or fiddling about with baby capsules and the like.

Another plus to the front-driven petrol five-seater is that, at 585 litres to the roof, there’s 120 litres of extra boot space compared with the seven seater.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 boot

The five-pew version also gets the nifty so-called Divide and Hide cargo floor that can be configured at angles to help secure grocery bags and other odds and ends.

Unlike the E-Power versions of X-Trail, the petrol models all fit a temporary-use spare wheel.

Is the X-Trail ST-L a safe car?

Australian safety body ANCAP scored the X-Trail five stars from testing conducted in 2021 in accordance with that year’s protocols.

Interestingly, the X-Trail’s crash results were based on testing conducted on the smaller Qashqai model, with Nissan supplying documentation and testing support that the latter model’s assessment be suitably applied to the former.

Nissan X-Trail crash test

ANCAP specifically names the 2022 X-Trail E-Power five-door version as a reference model.

The ST-L variant fits:

  • Forward AEB with junction assist and pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Reversing AEB
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Blind-spot collision avoidance
  • Lane departure warning
  • Active lane keeping
  • Driver attention alert
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • 360-degree camera system

It’s really the broad-ranging assistance, as much as anything, that bolsters the ST-L value pitch. That said, the features it offers over and above the base SL are limited to Pilot Pro semi-auto highway driving assistance, front parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 badge

The X-Trail fits nine airbags, including a front-centre coverage.

Bar some over-enthusiasm for active lane keeping, the Nissan’s safety and assistance systems performed as expected on test.

What are the X-Trail ST-L’s ownership costs?

A real drawcard of the petrol front-drive ST-L is real-world frugality.

Its claim is 7.4L/100kms. During our week of assessment, our test car hit its claim faithfully while returning a more favourable 7.1L during our filming day.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 front driving

What’s really interesting is that the X-Trail Ti E-Power – full electric drive, internal combustion battery generation – also present for our content production returned an identical 7.1L tested consumption figure (off a 6.1L combined claim)…

It’s worth noting that if most of your time is concentrated around town however, the recently announced ST-L E-Power variant will likely be more efficient, though we have yet to review this grade specifically.

A consumption penalty opting for petrol over ‘hybrid’? Evidently not, or at least not by much. Further, the petrol X-Trail runs on 91RON, the E-Power recommends pricier premium 95RON.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 badge

In terms of servicing, the petrol X-Trail has a pre-paid five-year servicing bundle of $2099. At around $420 per visit, it’s the cheapest of the current Nissan new-car line-up, if pricier than some of its midsize SUV competitors.

Servicing intervals are also a short 10,000km between visits, which is strange for a relatively uncomplicated naturally aspirated- and CVT-equipped powertrain that’s 91RON capable.

Warranty is a typical five years of unlimited kilometre coverage.

The honest verdict on the X-Trail ST-L

Of all of the new-model activity at Nissan of late, it’s probably the X-Trail’s unorthodox EV-driven-if-hybrid-branded E-Power technology has sponged up the lion’s share of attention and editorial column inches. And this has left the old-fashioned ICE range-mates sitting somewhat in the shadows.

Let’s face it: when you break it down to its components, there’s really not much new or benchmarking that the petrol-driven X-Trails bring to the midsize SUV segment.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 rear 3/4 2

Everywhere you look, it’s perfectly fine, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Even if it;’s a bit short on anything like surprise or x-factor.

However, once combined, the front-driven ST-L, in particular, does make for an impressively well-rounded package that really doesn’t put a tyre wrong almost anywhere.

Its features are solid and, importantly, the execution and polish is there in droves, even if they don’t present themselves immediately and tend to reveal themselves in the longer-burning experience.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L FWD 2023 front 3/4 2

It does become a nicer and better long-haul and around town prospect than you initially expect.

Still, it’s a middle of the segment prospect for what is, at around $47k, middle-of-the-road outlay. It is more honest than fancy, and that’s going to be perfectly fine for many buyers’ tastes.

If you’re after a realistic five-seat – rather than a hugely optimistic seven-seat – midsize SUV featuring good-old ICE-powered and front-driven convention, the X-Trail ST-L FWD is worthy of your short list of options.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

2488 cc
135kW at 6000rpm
244Nm at 3600rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
55 litres
7.4L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
743km (claimed)
Front Wheel Drive
Single gear
4680 mm
1840 mm
1725 mm
Unoccupied weight
1578 kg

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