The X-Trail was a fresh upstart in showrooms at the turn of the century, a pioneer Sports Utility Vehicle following in the tracks of Toyota’s RAV4 and the Subaru Forester.
As with a handful of rivals that first square-jawed Nissan was a practical wagon with a modicum of off-road ability.
It was a sensible machine that could take a family down bush trails, beaches and back roads – further than conventional sedans and wagons of the day. And with more comfort than traditional four-wheel drives.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and there are now flocks of SUVs in all shapes and sizes so it’s harder to distinguish some from others in the car park.
Yet the latest of the X-Trails, all-new for 2023, moves the five-door Nissan back towards the top of the shopping list.
It’s the newest of this mob and quite flashier than early versions; it already has critical success in some Car of the Year awards. (There’s another confected outrage from some quarters – how can an SUV score a “car” award?)
And while there’s a two-wheel drive version from $36,750, and the flagship isn’t cheap, there is a bit to be said for the $54,190 Nissan X-Trail Ti e-Power with e-4orce. The Ti e-Power version arrives with a tonne of gear, from sunroof to heated front seats; all-wheel drive to a charge pad for phones; powered tailgate to air-conditioning controls for rear seat passengers.
There’s good space for four adults and gear (or two adults and three kids), plenty of connectivity for modern devices and one of the best reversing cameras – with a bird’s eye view – in the business.
All in all, this is a comfortable, very modern machine but it’s under the bonnet where the e-Power X-Trails stand apart from the herd.
Here the Nissan wagon uses a 2.1kWh battery to power a 150kW electric motor on the front axle and a 100kW motor for the rear axle.
And while there’s a 1.5 litre, turbocharged petrol motor under the bonnet, its only job is to drive the generator to charge the battery or send extra power to the electric motors at times.
In other petrol-electric cars, the motor chimes in with direct drive to the wheels when needed and quite often.
Nissan’s answer is a quick, pretty quiet wagon without any drivetrain hesitation under acceleration as found with conventional hybrid systems.
Thanks to management systems, it is a seamless, fuss-free operation.
On top of that, it is fairly efficient, especially around town when the battery can provide much of the power.
There are five driving modes – off-road, snow, auto, eco and sport – plus an e-pedal where the system brakes the wagon (which also feeds power back to the battery) as the driver lifts the foot from the accelerator.
And where Nissan claims fuel economy of a reasonable 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres overall, a week’s drive, split between town and a country run, saw 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
That’s the closest to factory figures seen for many a day, as many fuel claims can be a tad fanciful.
So, it’s not the cheapest hybrid on the market but the Nissan X-Trail e-Power is one of the nicest, most efficient of medium-sized SUVs. And it still has some rough track ability.