Used tow car: Nis­san X-trail


Practical Caravan - - Contents -

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.

Trouble spots

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

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