Used tow car: Nissan X-trail
For those on a tight budget, this could be just right for towing or going solo
On a tight budget? Euan Doig reveals why Nissan’s first-gen X-trail could be perfect for your towing – and solo – needs
WHEN NISSAN LAUNCHED the X-trail it quickly became clear that it had built a car that was most things to most drivers. For a start, the X-trail was a capable family car that could deal with everything Sainsbury’s could throw at it, and it didn’t cost too much to keep running while it did so. At the same time, it was a genuinely useful working vehicle, because the hard boot floor, the rear seat backs, plus a rear seat that folded down completely flat, made the large load area incredibly practical.
At launch, there was a choice of a 2.0-litre petrol engine or a 2.2-litre turbodiesel. In 2003, a 2.5-litre petrol arrived with a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic.
All X-trails were primarily front-wheel drive, but could be switched into four-wheel drive using a dial on the dashboard. However, in 2005, a two-wheeldrive-only model was launched, with either the 2.0-litre petrol engine or 2.2 diesel up front.
Apart from that, changes were relatively limited throughout the car’s life, with mainly trim and equipment enhancements.
Which is best?
Unless you’re a big investor in oil company shares, you’ll want to skip the petrol model. It’s pretty smooth, but it really isn’t strong enough to cope with a heavily laden trailer, and it’ll be very thirsty.
Tow car fans on a budget will be much better served by the 2.2-litre diesel. The car was launched with the 2.2 Di diesel, which was quite noisy, but in December 2003 this was replaced by the dci unit of the same size, which was much more refined. It has 134bhp and 232lb ft of pulling power. Average economy of 37.2mpg is reasonable for a diesel SUV of such vintage.
Start up the 2.2 dci from cold and it’s fairly raucous, but it smooths out once on the move. The six-speed gearbox is light and accurate.
The diesel is a robust, strong companion when towing, although it can feel slightly hesitant when pulling away from junctions. Once moving, however, it has no issues with faster roads and hills, and it also remains decently solid even on blustery days.
If you’re taller than average, you’re likely to find the X-trail’s driving position a touch cramped, because the seat doesn’t go back quite far enough. Having said that, the seat is height-adjustable. Passengers will feel fine, because there’s a decent amount of headroom and legroom in the back.
The boot is a decent size at
410 litres with the rear seats in place, and folding them down yields an impressive 1841 litres.
All models have air-con, electric windows and mirrors and metallic trim highlights, and moving up through the range, leather trim, a six-cd changer and privacy glass were added. Nissan’s Bird-view sat-nav was standard at the top of the range.
The X-trail has been subject to four recalls. The first concerned the engine management sensors of some examples built before the end of September 2002. These were incorrectly positioned and could cause the engine to stall and fail to restart.
Its second recall concerned the timing chain tensioner on some diesel built before the end of 2002. The tensioner could jam, causing all manner of serious maladies within the engine, and the braking servo assistance could fail.
A third recall concerned the mounting bracket for the fuel filler tube. It was discovered that this bracket could rust and fail, and could make a small hole in the fuel filler pipe, causing fuel to leak during refills.
Finally, the X-trail covered here has also been included in a worldwide recall for faulty passenger airbags.
As always, it’s worth making sure that all recall work has been done on the car you’re looking at, especially so in the case of the passenger airbag. But at the same time, it’s unlikely a car would have got to this stage in its life without the work having been carried out. Nevertheless, your local Nissan dealer will be able to tell you if it’s been done.
The X-trail has proved pretty tough in daily life, and while there have been reports of the odd timing chain snapping and turbo failure, these are certainly not commonplace.
However, while the X-trail is dependable, the phrase caveat emptor applies to all cars of this age. Condition is everything, so walk away from anything that looks like it’s had a hard life, no matter how cheap, and get a mechanical inspection done before you part with your cash.
You won’t go far wrong with a Nissan X-trail. It’s a strong and stable tow car and it’s comfortable and simple to drive when it isn’t hitched to a trailer. The 2.2dci version will do everything you need and won’t cost a fortune to run while doing so. All models are well equipped, and that hard-surfaced boot makes it ideal for use as a working vehicle during the week. Find an example that’s been well looked after and it’ll prove to be a capable and reliable companion for years to come.
All early versions of the X-trail had selectable four-wheel drive as standard
The instruments are positioned in the middle of the dashboard. Plenty of rear leg- and headroom
LEFT-RIGHT Plenty of load space with the rear seats folded. The 2.2 dci diesel is best