From the passenger’s seat: The 2012 Nissan Xterra reviewed and tested


A symbol of versatile and rugged travel, the new Nissan Xterra is a solid competitor to other successful career off-roaders, such as the Jeep Wrangler. Setting the Xterra apart is its powerful 4.0-liter V6, abundance of storage and space, and refined road manners.

From the passenger seat, the Xterra doesn’t feel as rugged as the name and heritage suggests, with a high-quality interior and comfy leather seats-albeit ones lacking lateral and vertical support which often results in us passengers sliding under our seat-belts. Materials are hard-touch plastics, but the control knobs and dials feel damped and substantial, while fit and finish is impressive overall.


The exterior door handles for the rear passengers are mounted high in the C-Pillar and are difficult for kids to reach easily. Inside, rear seat space is tight but the seats are more supportive than the buckets found in the front. However, the middle rear seat doesn’t offer a headrest which can be frustrating.

Trunk space is ample and offers a standard first-aid kit implanted in the trunk lid. On the safety front, the Xterra impresses with good ratings for frontal, side and rear-end crash tests and standard electronic stability control. In a rollover, the Xterra scored only a marginal rating due to its excessive roof crush.


In the perspective of performance, the Xterra mostly shines off-road where it is in its element, climbing easily over rocks and plowing effortlessly through mud and ruts. A standard locking differential on the Pro-4X further heightens the Nissan’s off-road limits. On road, the XTerra feels relatively stable but, even felt by us passengers, exhibits loose body roll and is reminiscent of previous topsy-turvy Xterras.


The 4.0-liter, 261 horsepower V6 offers reasonable grunt but feels a bit wheezy. The 281 lb-ft of torque helps the SUV get up and go. Trim levels range from base to mountain-goat levels of capability, all offering the same engine, seat, and material configurations. Nissans have a reputation for quality and capability, and the Xterra delivers with a purposeful, versatile design that seems to resonate with faithful on-and off-road buyers despite its minor shortcomings.

About the Author: Colin Chambers, age 13, has been writing car reviews since a very young age. He has been invited to many different car crash test facilities and has a strong passion for cars, sparked by his mom and dad.

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