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#17

in 2010 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $12,551 - $18,452
Original MSRP: $22,750 - $30,700
MPG: 16 City / 20 Hwy
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2010 Nissan Xterra Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2010 Nissan Xterra is a good option for those who want a rugged off-roader with plenty of utility and space. Its 4.0-liter V6 engine has lots of power, especially for its class. However, its on-road ride simply can't compete with its car-based crossover competitors such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

  • "If you're looking for a wild child who loves to get dirty, the Xterra is an able adoptee." -- Car and Driver
  • "Xterra makes no apologies for being a rugged, go-anywhere SUV truck." -- MSN
  • "The Xterra is a truck-based SUV and must be driven like one -- though the ride quality is better over pavement disruptions than earlier SUV generations were." -- Cars.com

Acceleration and Power

With a 4.0-liter 261-horsepower V-6 engine, the 2010 Xterra has plenty of power for any situation and boasts a 5,000-pound maximum towing capacity, which is excellent for its class. However, all that power impacts its fuel economy, which is a major drawback. The EPA rates the 2WD model at 16/20 mpg city/highway rating with the six-speed manual transmission and 15/21 with the five-speed automatic. The 4WD model nets 16/20 and 15/20 with the manual and automatic, respectively. Several other off-road SUVs offer better fuel economy, with the Jeep Patriot achieving the most miles per gallon.

  • "Strong from a stop and around town. A 2WD SE did 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds in our test. The automatic reacts quickly enough to throttle inputs, but passing at highway speeds can be a bit labored with either transmission." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 4.0-liter is a gutsy motor with a growl for an engine note." -- Car and Driver
  • "When merging on the freeway, we had the initial sensation of not being able to accelerate fast enough, then discovered several seconds later that we had somehow reached 80 mph with ease." -- CNET
  • "The Xterra jumps off the line enthusiastically, with the V6 pulling consistently up to its 6,250-rpm redline. Upshifts are quick and surprisingly smooth, but during passing maneuvers the automatic transmission inconsistently downshifts one or two gears, accompanied by an awkward pause after throttle application." -- Edmunds  

Handling and Braking

Reviewers find the Xterra's on-road ride and handling falls short when compared to others in its class. Smoother car-based competitors include the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, while better-riding off-roaders include the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner.

  • "Fast cornering induces marked body lean, plus some tail hop over bumps; Off-Road's stiff suspension bounces even more. The steering feels slow in parking and quick direction changes, but Xterra has a relatively tidy turning circle for easy close-quarters maneuvering. Stopping control is unexceptional." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Handling is good if the Xterra isn't driven too hard, and the brakes provide short stops. Although improved, the ride is predictably truck-like despite the longer wheelbase and gets choppy over some roads." -- MSN

Off-Roading

All Xterra models are available with four-wheel drive at no extra cost but for true trail runners, the rugged Off Road model is by far the best value. Among its many features are standard four-wheel drive, roof-rack-mounted off-road lights, Bilstein off-road performance shocks, skid plates, an electronic locking rear differential, hill descent control and hill start assist, and a first-aid kit. However, note that the Off Road model's stiff suspension takes quite a toll on ride comfort when you're driving on pavement.

  • "When taken off-road, our Xterra displayed its ravenous appetite for rocks and mud that would leave crossover SUVs stranded. We initially approached obstacles with caution and the Xterra climbed and conquered, barely acknowledging the tough terrain, thanks to its 9.5 inches of clearance. Pushing harder over more challenging inclines, the low-range 4WD proved its merit with an uninterrupted and steady crawl over the top, while the hill ascent control ensures no loss of ground should you need a break halfway up a difficult peak." -- Edmunds  
  • "Off-road, our Xterra slogged its way through a muddy field without much difficulty. The engine had plenty of torque, and we didn't feel much slippage." -- CNET
  • "It doesn't have the pure off-road prowess of a Jeep Wrangler, but it doesn't have the twitchy on-road behavior, and its 65.7 cubic foot cargo area kicks Wrangler's butt when it comes time to haul the gear." -- About.com

Next Steps: 2010 Nissan Xterra

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