2018 Honda CR-V v Nissan X-Trail comparison

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You’re looking at two of the most recognised, popular and practical medium SUVs money can buy — the new-generation Honda CR-V, and recently upgraded Nissan X-Trail.

In a market infatuated with design-led offerings such as the Mazda CX-5, this pair stand out with their unashamed focus on family-friendly characteristics.

The CR-V launched in this generation a few months ago and immediately returned the brand towards the top of the pile in Australia’s fastest-growing vehicle class.

Yet it’s the slightly longer and narrower X-Trail that is proving more enduringly popular, regularly managing monthly sales of 1500-2000 units thanks to its strong reputation for dependability and user-friendliness. Oh, and price.

As well as the CX-5, this pair compete with other big-sellers such as the Hyundai Tucson (often the segment-leader) Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguanand — soon — the Holden Equinox.

Here we look at the flagship variants within each model range, allowing us to highlight all the features on offer. Thus, it’s the Honda CR-V VTi-LX versus the Nissan X-Trail TI, the latter of which is a member of our long-term fleet in Melbourne.

Pictured: Nissan (top) and Honda (below)

Pricing and features

When Honda launched the CR-V its main rival was obvious, unless you think announcing an identical flagship starting price of $44,290 (plus on-road costs) to the X-Trail TI was just a coincidence…

That makes each of these a keenly priced contender, especially considering the features you get. Features common to each are full-length airbags, 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, DAB+, heated leather seats, a full sunroof, keyless-go, climate control, LED headlights and an electric tailgate.

Each also gets active safety technologies including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control that mirrors the speed of the car ahead on motorways, and lane assist.

Pictured: Nissan (top) and Honda (below)

The Nissan has blind-spot monitoring, while the Honda has its LaneWatch camera that shows vision of your blind-spot on the centre screen — on the left-hand side only. This X-Trail is also alone in offering rear cross-traffic alert, ideal for forward parking.

Other features unique to the Nissan include a 360-degree overhead-view camera in addition to the conventional reversing camera that’s standard on both cars, and 19-inch wheels (the Honda has 18s).

Countering this, the Honda is alone in offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone-mirroring software, and also commendably has a full-size spare wheel under the cargo floor instead of the Nissan’s space-saver with a speed/distance limitation.

Pretty hard to split this pair, then.

Cabins

Both cars offer above-average boot space, at 565 litres for the X-Trail and 522L for the CR-V — actually less than the old model. That’s significantly more than a CX-5 though.

The Honda has that aforementioned full-size spare plus the neat levers along the side to drop the rear seats, while the Nissan’s party trick is a two-level loading floor that can be configured into a water-resistant tub.

By flipping the rear seats you get a circa-two-metre long flat load space in both cars, though the Honda’s loading floor is appreciably lower for easier access. The Honda’s height memory setting on the electric tailgate is also super-easy to modify.

Pictured: Nissan (top) and Honda (below)

The Honda also offers what we consider to be better back seats. The back-side doors open about 90 degrees for greater access, and there’s a vast amount of legroom and headroom, plus a mostly flat space for the centre-middle occupant.

The Nissan’s back seats sit higher up, meaning kids get great outward visibility, but taller occupants will find headroom limited. However, the X-Trail is the only car here with back seats that slide on rails. Neat.

Both models come in lower spec grades with seven-seat configurations, by the way…

Each get rear air vents, reading lights (the CR-V’s are nicer LEDs) and the requisite child-seat attachments for top-tether and ISOFIX, though in neither car do the back windows go entirely down. The presence of big sunroofs with covers also really helps the ambience.

Pictured: Nissan (top) and Honda (below)

Commendably, the Honda has two rear USB inputs unlike the Nissan. This means your kids can charge their iPads or phones.

Both cars have no-nonsense cabins up front, with soft leather and plastic touch-points and the odd bit of contrasting trim to break up the mundanity. Neither has the polish of the Mazda or the plush feel of a Tiguan, but both are made to last and ergonomically-friendly.

Highlights in the Nissan are the newly designed leather heated (!) steering wheel, the bird’s-eye camera (albeit with a slightly low resolution that makes it grainy in bad light) and the infotainment that’s extremely simple to operate, albeit a little dated in design.

Low-lights are the foot-operated parking brake (compared to the Honda’s electric button, complemented by an Auto Hold that stops you creeping when in D), the single USB point and the comparative lack of cabin storage compared to the Honda, offset in part by the fact that the cup-holders are heated and cooled — a X-Trail staple.

That latter point isn’t inferring that the Nissan lacks places for your stuff, it’s just that the CR-V’s massive multi-layer console, door pockets and storage cubby under the fascia leave practically anything else in the class for dead. This is Honda at its best.

The Honda’s touchscreen is a mounted tablet that looks and feels more contemporary, and the rear-view camera has a few angles — though the Nissan’s setup is better. The presence of CarPlay/Android adds extra layers of user-friendliness as well. Another cool touch is the AWD torque distribution graphics in the digital instruments.

A few stray observations: both cars have digital speedos, both have a heap of steering wheel (reach/rake) and seat adjustments (electric fore/aft/height/lumbar), and the Honda has a proper volume knob, unlike the Civic that makes you push a button.

Once again both cars are close. Both offer simple but bulletproof cabins that are big on practicality, though the Honda is a little more clever, contemporary and comfortable based on our metrics.

Being the newer design, it ought to be.

Drivetrains

The engine philosophies on display are quite different, though both cars here use 91 RON petrol fuel, have CVT automatic transmissions and AWD.

The Nissan’s engine is a proven, though ageing, 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four making an okay 126kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4400rpm. The engine is claimed to use 8.3L/100km of petrol, though we hovered around 10.4L/100km.

By contrast the Honda has a smaller displacement 1.5-litre engine with a turbocharger that makes more power (140kW at 5600rpm) and torque (240Nm, at a much earlier 2000rpm, meaning it’s swifter to enter its sweet spot) than the Nissan.

Fuel use is lower too, at a claimed 7.4L/100km, which translated on our drive to a figure of 9.6L/100km.

Helping the Nissan’s cause is its 68kg lighter kerb weight than the Honda and its CVT that has more intuitive programming and better mimics the ‘stepped’ changes of a familiar automatic with torque converter. Yet it’s not enough, with the Honda pulling away under heavy throttle and doing so with less engine noise.

Both are fine for urban transmitting and freeway cruising, but the little Honda engine offers you more performance. Both are rated to tow a 1500kg braked trailer if required.

It’s worth pointing out that only the Nissan can be had with a 130kW/380Nm turbo-diesel engine, which offers more torque, meaning better towing capability, and greater fuel economy, at the expense of engine noise. The Honda is petrol only, reflecting class tends.

Ride and handling

Neither of these vehicle is designed to offer the sportiness of a CX-5 or the off-road ability of a Suzuki Grand Vitara, and neither feels quite as plush as an Australian-tuned Hyundai Tucson or the excellent Volkswagen Tiguan.

Both use simple strut suspension at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, as is the class norm.

The revised X-Trail has nice light motor-assisted steering that loads up with a little more resistance at speed. Its springs and dampers are designed to soak up bumps, translating to some controllable body roll as you’d expect from a soft SUV.

Yet the 19-inch alloys on low-profile tyres do mean you have less rubber between you and the road, and the Nissan feels a little more unsettled and prone to fidget on patch roads, corrugations or across road joins/speed bumps/potholes.

The Honda is soft and compliant like the Nissan, with lifeless steering and plenty of body roll against lateral inputs, but it’s better at rounding out bad roads, giving you a feeling of isolating plushness up there with the Tucson. As it should.

Both cars on test come with AWD that defaults to FWD but can send some torque to the back wheels electronically if slip is detected, plus bits of software to help you navigate the odd trail or track. Each has north of 20cm ground clearance, though both are clearly ‘soft-roaders’ in the purest terms.

Again, it’s the super-plush Honda that edges the Nissan, though the latter is improved.

Running costs

The Nissan comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assistance. Service intervals are 10,000km, with prices alternating by visit between $232 and $429. First five services = $1464.

Honda Australia provides a five-year warranty with no distance cap. The service intervals are 10,000km like the Nissan and each is capped (at present) at $295. First five services = $1475.

VERDICT

It’s great to drive two medium SUVs as unpretentious as this pair, which are spacious, good value and built by brands with strong reputations for quality. You also can’t argue with the safety technologies that have trickled down to this price point.

There’s a strong case that the Nissan offers a slightly better equipment list than the Honda, and we’d have no qualms recommending one to someone who just wants honest family transport. This car is a faithful long-termer of ours, and we’re happy to have it.

Yet the Honda offers a slightly more clever and contemporary cabin and is a little more comfortable dynamically. Plus you get the longer warranty for extra peace-of-mind, and to boost resale value.

We’re big fans of the new Honda CR-V, and would have it well inside the top handful of medium SUVs that money can buy. The X-Trail? Underrated, worth considering, but narrowly defeated here.

Model Honda CR-V Nissan X-Trail
Variant VTi-LX TI
Price (RRP) $44,290 $44,290
Engine 1.5 turbo petrol 2.5 NA petrol
Drive type AWD on demand AWD on demand
Power 140kW @ 5600rpm 126kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 240Nm @ 2000rpm 226Nm @ 4400rpm
Fuel use 7.4L/100km 8.3L/100km 91 RON
Transmission CVT CVT
Suspension f/r Strut/multi-link Strut/multi-link
Weight 1630kg 1562kg
Length 4596mm 4690mm
Wheelbase 2660mm 2705mm
Height 1689mm 1740mm
Width 1855mm 1820mm
Ground clearance 208mm 210mm
Tow rating 1500kg 1500kg
Cargo space 522L 565L

 

Model Honda CR-V Nissan X-Trail
Variant VTi-LX TI
AEB Yes Yes
Blind-spot monitor Yes Yes
Adaptive cruise Yes Yes
Lane assist Yes Yes
Rear cross-traffic alert No Yes
Touchscreen 7.0-inch 7.0-inch
Rear camera Yes Yes
360-degree camera No Yes
Sat-nav Yes Yes
Digital radio Yes Yes
CarPlay/Android Yes No
Seat trim Leather Leather
Proximity key Yes Yes
Climate control Yes Yes
Second-row vents Yes Yes
Sunroof Yes Yes
Headlights LED, dusk-sensing LED, dusk-sensing
Wheels 18-inch 19-inch
Spare wheel Full-size alloy Space-saver
Tailgate Electric Electric

(caradvice.com.au, https://goo.gl/tp2LSn)

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