Compact crossover SUVs are among the more versatile vehicles on the market today. They offer the cabin space that a small family needs along with plenty of cargo room, yet are small enough to be driven in tight urban conditions while offering great fuel economy. This blending of characteristics has created a booming vehicle class that is crowded with multiple offerings from every major automobile manufacturer.
With so many offerings on the market today, buyers can be hard-pressed to make a definitive decision as to which is best for them. To help you, we would like to feature two outstanding offerings within the compact crossover group: the Nissan X-Trail and the Honda CR-V. Each of these models has been in manufacture for several years over multiple generations. To make our information a bit more to the point, we will concentrate on providing a short history of each, then we will focus on the second generation of the X-Trail and the third generation of the CR-V. Those generations cover the units built between 2007 and 2012; the model years that are most widely available for export.
Nissan unveiled the X-Trail at the Paris Auto Show in September of 2000 and sales commenced in the Japanese market just one month later. The Nissan X-Trail replaced the venerable Nissan Rasheen. The X-Trail has steadily grown in every dimension, with the third generation classified as a mid-size crossover instead of a compact. The X-Trail is only available in selected markets around the globe and is situated between the Nissan Xterra and the Nissan Pathfinder within Nissan’s hierarchy.
The second generation of the Nissan X-Trail was beginning to push the dimensional boundaries of the compact crossover category. The second gen X-Trail has a wheelbase of 2,629 mm, a length of 4,640 mm, width of 1,806 mm, and a height of 1,699 mm (2WD) or 1,780 mm(4WD). Despite, perhaps because of, the larger dimensions, the second generation X-Trail possesses far better handling and ride quality than the first generation vehicles.
Under the bonnet of the second generation Nissan X-Trail, buyers can find any of three petrol offerings or a single diesel option. The base petrol is a 1,997 cc I4 that is capable of 139 bhp and 193 N-m of torque. Next up is a 1,998 cc turbocharged I4 that produces 276 bhp and 309 N-m of torque. Rounding out the petrol offerings is a 2,488 cc I4 dual overhead cam powerplant capable of 175 bhp and 244 N-m of torque. The single diesel engine is a 1,995 cc M9R capable of 148 bhp and 340 N-m of torque. All of the engine options in the Nissan X-Trail are known for their long-term reliability, low-end torque, and rapid response to the accelerator. As an added bonus, the X-Trail is available with front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
Inside, the Nissan X-Trail offers a high driving position thanks to its taller stance. The added girth of the second generation offers front passengers much more headroom and legroom. Second row passengers will enjoy the additional legroom, but the optional third row of seating suffers from diminished headroom. As the third row is usually occupied by children, this is not as large an obstacle as it seems on first brush. One aspect of the X-Trail that most buyers will enjoy is the massive boot area. Additionally, the boot floor flips and folds into nine different positions, underneath which is a bonus storage area. The standard seats are soft velour, but some posh leather is available in the upper trim levels. Thankfully, Nissan did away with the cheap-feeling plastics found in the first generation of the X-Trail. You can find an easy-to-use touchscreen on the center stack and Bluetooth connectivity as you move up the trim lines.
The Honda CR-V debuted in Japan for the 1995 model year. It was unveiled to the rest of the world at the 1996 Chicago Auto Show. The first CR-V’s only offered a single trim level, the LX, and were powered by a 1,973 cc petrol I4 that produced 126 bhp and 180 N-m of torque. As you can imagine, the CR-V has evolved quite a bit since those early vehicles became available. Let’s have a look at the third generation CR-V, shall we?
Under the bonnet, the third gen CR-V offers two petrol plants with a single diesel engine available. The base motor is a 2,349 cc I4 that produces a solid 166 bhp and 218 N-m of torque. In 2007, Honda added a 1,997 cc fuel injected I4 to the Honda CR-V line. This engine offers 148 bhp and 190 N-m of torque. It also offers outstanding fuel economy for the class. The lone diesel offering is a 2,204 cc i-CTDI featuring a variable-nozzle turbocharger. This engine produces 140 bhp and 340 N-m of torque. This engine is well known for its longevity and outstanding fuel economy.
As you move inside the third gen Honda CR-V, you will find spacious passenger and cargo areas, straightforward controls, and nifty family-friendly features. As you move up the trim levels, you can find many more technology upgrades than are found in the Nissan X-Trail. Some of the interior features and tech options available in the third gen CR-V are: keyless entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, sliding and reclining rear seats, alloy wheels, a sunroof, rear tinted glass, a dual-level cargo area, steering-wheel audio controls, a seven-speaker stereo with six-CD changer, automatic headlamps, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats, satellite radio, a navigation system with voice control, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera.
When you compare the Nissan X-Trail and the Honda CR-V, you will find that the Nissan X-Trail offers a lower purchase price, but fewer creature comforts. That lack of interior options is offset by a great ride, outstanding handling and a quiet cabin. The Honda CR-V offers many more options as you move up the trim levels, but is often higher priced than the X-Trail. The additional creature comforts are offset by a smaller cabin space and more cabin noise.