I am not above saying I made a mistake on a car review or opinion. I have done it many times. Thinking back, I don’t think I have ever said the words Nissan Xterra when someone says, “what are your favorite mid-sized SUVs?” The truth is, I drove one in 2008 and didn’t really like it. I considered not reviewing the 2012, but thought I would give it another chance, since I am admittedly a Nissan fan.
It would be easy to end the review here by simply saying that I still don’t like it. But it is just not that simple because it does have redeeming qualities. Let me just lay the cards on the table, I think it’s ugly and it is hard for me to like any vehicle that I don’t think looks good. There, I said it. I’m not ashamed; it’s just ugly to me. I know there are people who find it attractive, and that is exactly why they make ice cream in different flavors.
The model I had this week is the Pro-4X, which is their serious 4-wheel drive version. There is a 4.0-liter V6 under the hood that performs well and although rated at 261-horses, it feels more like 300. There is a 5-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and seems to maximize the horsepower.
I give kudos to Nissan for the 4-wheel drive system, it works great and is easy to operate. In low range, the Xterra will climb a wall. It has hill descent control, and hill start assist, two great features for the serious 4-wheeler. Overall ride quality for me is pretty rough, but this is a serious 4-wheel drive SUV, so I don’t take points off for ride, you can’t have it all.
The interior for me is also ugly. The seats are fabric, and the driver’s seat has a lot of manual adjustments, but in spite of that, I could just never get it totally comfortable. There is a tremendous amount of plastic on the inside of the Xterra, which, while functional, looks cheap. It has a nice amount of room for all passengers, and very good cargo space in the rear with a lot of utility hooks to tie things down if needed.
Now for the good side of the Xterra, it is a GREAT buy. The PRO-4X is nicely equipped. It has a great Rockford audio system, steering wheel controls, power windows and locks, Bluetooth system, keyless entry, and XM radio. Yet with all that, it has manually- operated headlights that have to be switched on and off, which hit me as strange on a 2012 model.
For those who like the looks and are serious about off-roading, you are going to probably love the Xterra and the quality is definitely there on this SUV. It has been around now for 12 years, although it hasn’t changed all that much in that time. And it bears repeating that it is a great value. I just can’t get past the Jurassic Park-looking roof rack.
What I liked most: The value proposition.
What I would change: Less plastic inside, more comfortable seats.
Fuel Economy: Nothing to brag about. 15 city and 20 highway.
2012 Xterra PRO-4X in a few words: Nothing I would buy, but for a serious 4-wheeler, it should be on your consideration list.