It’s high time the hugely popular – but supply constrained – Toyota RAV4 Hybrid faced some competition, and now it’s arriving at pace.
Nissan’s take on the successful hybrid mid-size SUV formula is the X-Trail e-Power, which now comes in fleet-friendly ST-L spec level at a starting price of $49,490 before on-road costs.
It promises low hybrid running costs with a fuel efficiency rating of 6.1 litres per 100km and a roughly 900 km driving range between petrol stops, around 25% better than the regular model with more power to boot. In exchange it costs $3,200 more.
While its drive system is like a typical hybrid in the sense that it has a petrol engine and an electric motor, it’s all designed rather differently, with a bit more of an EV-like driving feel in mind.
Its 1.5-litre petrol engine is a generator with no connection to the wheels. It charges a small battery and through an inverter powers electric motors on both the front and rear axles, which do the actual driving.
That means a smoother and more linear response off the line like an EV, and a quieter engine when accelerating, since it only needs to rev a certain amount to generate charge, minimising transmission-related flaring.
It works really well, with the benefits clear particularly in stop-and-start city driving, where the 2.1 kWh battery can do much of the driving and save petrol.
Peak system power output of 157 kW is plenty, with a 0-100 km/h time of 7.0 seconds. But even in the sportiest drive mode it’s more brisk than rapid, on account of its 200kg heavier kerb weight than the regular X-Trail.
It’s all very civilised and quiet with an engine that hums along rather than flaring under revs, overall a nicer and more relaxing drive than the regular X-Trail. Ride and handling is nicely balanced, with the focus on comfort.
The ‘e4ORCE’ electric all-wheel drive enables rapid response to slip, with specific selectable modes developed for slippery terrain and snow accessed by the circular dial gear the gear shifter.
As well as the smoother and quieter drive, the X-Trail e-Power also does regenerative braking more like an EV than a regular hybrid, with a one-pedal driving feature.
It lived up to the fuel claim, with our overall trip averaging exactly the 6.1L/100km claim. The issue is this is not as efficient as Toyota’s RAV4 which returns 5.0L/100km.
It’s a bit quieter and smoother than the Toyota to drive, but for fleets it’s all about the bottom line. It stacks up against the petrol X-Trail though, offsetting its higher entry price with fuel savings and eventual likely better resale value.
One potential negative is the loss in towing capacity, down to a (still reasonable) 1,650kg compared to 2,000kg for the regular history.
In other ways the X-Trail ST-L e-Power is a nice mid-sized SUV, with a much more premium-feeling interior than the old model.
Even the ST-L has a beautiful leather steering wheel, heated synthetic leather seats, and plenty of soft touchpoints, wood-look inserts and good quality fittings and fixtures. It also has plenty of storage including a large space under the centre tunnel, enabled by the shift-by-wire transmission.
The 8.0-inch centre touchscreen is average compared to the 12.3-inch navigation system in the X-Trail TI and Ti-L grades. But it has wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, digital radio and a surround-view camera.
This model is a five-seater, with adult-friendly rear legroom and rear vents, USBs and cupholders, plus side curtain airbags and child-seat attachments. It has a big boot measuring 575 litres, just 10L less than the X-Trail petrol. It loses the spare tyre altogether however, with only a repair kit on board.
In terms of safety the X-Trail has a 2022 ANCAP five-star rating, scoring 97% for safety assist features, 91% for adult occupant protection and 90% for child occupant protection, all excellent results.
Driver-assist aids are subtle and effective and include ProPilot with Lane Keep Assist, Intelligent Cruise Control with Traffic Sign Recognition, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Front and Rear Auto Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist calibration, and Driver Attention Alert.
Service prices are quite expensive, costing $2,244 for the first 5 years or 50,000km, at short 10,000km intervals. Nissan supplies a 5-year warranty for the vehicle with no mileage limit.
Should you buy an X-Trail ST-L e-Power? It’s a better vehicle than the equivalent X-Trail ST-L petrol, though an ST version with front-wheel drive would be more fleet-friendly.
While competition includes the ubiquitous RAV4, the new Honda CR-V e:HEV hybrid, and oncoming hybrid versions of the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, the Nissan X-Trail has a point-of-difference with its smooth drive system. It’s a high quality and comfortable SUV for those not ready for a full EV.