2012 Nissan Xterra SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Nissan Xterra SUV

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Nissan Xterra Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 4.0 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 261 hp @ 5600 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 16/22 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2012 Nissan Xterra

  • Even though the 2012 Nissan Xterra doesn't have the funky styling or legendary brand name of its off-road-ready SUV competitors, it's equally capable in the dirt and a lot easier to live with in everyday driving.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Serious off-road prowess; innovative cargo features; most livable truck in its class.

  • Cons

    Unimpressive interior design and materials; poor fuel economy relative to similarly priced crossovers.

  • What's New for 2012

    The 2012 Nissan Xterra is unchanged.

Full 2012 Nissan Xterra Review

What's New for 2012

The 2012 Nissan Xterra is unchanged.


When it really comes down to it, the 2012 Nissan Xterra is an SUV best suited for active folks whose idea of a good time involves getting off the beaten path. With its beefy, body-on-frame construction, available four-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing, gobs of ground clearance and mulelike load-carrying capacity, the Xterra makes a great companion for weekend adventurers.

The Xterra is also easier to live with during the week than its few remaining old-school SUV competitors. That's because the Xterra, with its traditional four-door design, is decidedly more practical in daily driving than the Toyota FJ Cruiser (big blind spots and goofy rear-opening access doors) and the Jeep Wrangler (noisier, rougher riding and generally less refined).

Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that there are a few downsides to all this brawn, including the Xterra's trucklike ride and handling dynamics, poor fuel economy and no-frills interior. If all you really need is an SUV that can handle light-duty trails, a small or midsize crossover like a Kia Sorento or Subaru Forester will likely suit you much better given their superior comfort, feature content and fuel efficiency. But if you want to keep it rugged, old-school and reasonably practical, the long-running Xterra will certainly satisfy.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Nissan Xterra is a four-door, five-passenger SUV that's offered in three trim levels. Entry-level X and midrange S models are both available with a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive, while the off-road-oriented Pro-4X is four-wheel drive only.

The X comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels; rear privacy glass; roof rack side rails; keyless entry; air-conditioning; cloth upholstery; a 60/40 split-folding rear seat; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; tilt-only steering wheel and a six-speaker CD stereo.

Stepping up to the S gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, a driver seat with adjustable height and lumbar, a first aid kit and a cargo organization system. Four-wheel-drive S models also get a roof rack with crossbars and a gear basket.

The Pro-4X adds a number of off-road-ready features including an electronic locking rear differential, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, skid plates and unique 16-inch alloy wheels with upgraded off-road tires, plus foglights and roof-mounted off-road driving lights. Inside upgrades include distinctive cloth upholstery, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, white-face gauges, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (with built-in compass), Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with a six-CD changer, auxiliary audio input jack, steering-wheel audio controls and satellite radio (automatic transmission models only). The Pro-4X Leather package adds leather upholstery and a passenger seatback map pocket, but deletes the flat-folding front passenger seat.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2012 Nissan Xterra is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. Two-wheel-drive X and S models can only be had with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the four-wheel-drive S and Pro-4X have a choice between the automatic and a six-speed manual. Rear-wheel drive is standard (except on the Pro-4X), and a four-wheel-drive system with a multimode low-range transfer case is available as an option.

In Edmunds performance testing, an Xterra 4x4 with an automatic transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds. The rear-wheel-drive Xterra returns an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. Adding four-wheel drive lowers those numbers to 15/20/17.


The 2012 Nissan Xterra is equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Pro-4X models also come with hill-descent control and hill-start assist. In Edmunds brake testing, an Xterra Pro-4X came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet -- an average result for an off-roading SUV.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Xterra its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side impact tests and a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the roof strength test.

Interior Design and Special Features

The 2012 Nissan Xterra is as no-nonsense on the inside as it is on the outside. The styling is relatively plain and there are lots of low-budget hard plastics to be found, but gauges and controls are easy to see and use. While the same can be said for other off-road-oriented SUVs, it bears mentioning that car-based compact crossovers offer noticeably nicer and more well-equipped cabins.

Of course, the Xterra has always been more about function than form, as seen in details like an easy-to-clean cargo floor with multiple tie-down points and available accessories that make it possible to secure bikes and other gear inside and out. If it turns out that the 35 cubic feet behind the rear seats or 66 cubic feet with them folded down isn't enough cargo room for you, the standard roof rack and gear basket up top stand ready to handle the overflow. Designated storage spaces for a first aid kit and water jug are nice details.

Driving Impressions

The powerful V6 under the hood of the 2012 Nissan Xterra produces more than enough oomph for daily driving. The engine's good low-end power also makes it well-suited to off-road excursions.

The Xterra's truck-based construction, abundant ground clearance, long-travel suspension and low-range transfer case give it impressive performance in the dirt, though the Jeep Wrangler still has a bit of an edge here. On the pavement, ride and handling are certainly truckish, though most buyers will likely consider that to be a fair trade-off for the Xterra's ability to keep on going even after the asphalt ends.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

A great car for anyone

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

I bought a 2012 xterra pro-4x with about 9k miles on it about 4 months ago. So far the car is extremely reliable, fun to drive and looks good. The only thing I do not like about the car is the cheap interior but even then it is made up for with comfortable leather seats and a great stereo. I also take it off roading and it is extremely good. Other jeeps can barely keep up with it. If you don't have fun in this car then you haven't been off-roading in it.

I should of kept my

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

i wanted a four wheel drive to get around iowa's back roads during the winter with all the room of an suv could offer more then my 08 edge. i like my exterra except the fact that when im on the roads on windy days i seem to blow as much as semis do cause of the height of the truck. i was thought i could get over not being able to get powered seats, navigation in the dash, or tvs in the head rests but i cant. for the final price of all the options i could get added i wish they would of allowed or gave the choice of those three other options. im suprised nissan wouldnt give you that unless you want a murano, just really bummed over limited options

2 of 2 people found this review helpful


by on
Vehicle: 2012 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

If I had the need I would buy this truck again and have two of them. That means I like the truck and I am happy I can get a tuck with all its functional capability in this particular size. I feel like I can go anywhere in any condition living in MN. All the professional reviews seem accurate so use those but what they don't say that I don't like is: I think the breaks are touchy and lacking feel. I also think the accelerator is jumpy meaning when you step on the gas get ready to jump and go go go! I find this annoying when trying to get out of a parallel parking spot gracefully without hitting the car in from of me. Especially downtown Seattle on a hill. Yikes!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

In love

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Nissan Xterra S 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

I have had my xterra for about 2 weeks (1000 miles now) and so far it has been a great vehicle. I sold my 2012 camaro because I wanted something simple and less extravagant. Plus, the camaro was giving me a headache of problems and I wanted to make the switch back to import. The gas mileage of the xterra is just ok, being able to take it on recreational trips will make up for this in the long run. Also, it feels solid and very secure to the road which I like, while being able to sit up high and in a comfortable position. I love how it rides like a truck, but does not knock you around too much.

I am very pleased with

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

I have only had my Pro 4X Xterra for a few days but so far so good. I bought it for $5300 off list over Labor Day at Bommarito Nissan in Hazelwood, MO. Nissan had some great incentives then. The Xterra drives great, smooth on the highway and solid when I go off road. Fit and finish seem to be good. I like the leather seats. The upgraded sound system is wonderful, much better than the one found on the S and X models. Too early to tell about gas mileage. It will probably be comparable to my 98 GMC Jimmy at around 18 overall. I considered going to a car based CUV for better mileage but none of those seemed to be up to the capabilities of the Xterra. I will write updates regularly.

9 of 24 people found this review helpful

Does it all for me

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 6M)

I've had alot of vehicles in my driving life. Mustang GT, Maxima, alot of Nissan trucks, and this is my second Xterra. One vehicle can't do everything, but this does everything I need right now. I need 4WD for winter commutes, getting to the back of the woods, and job sites. The back cargo area is for the dog, the rear seats for gear or occasional passengers. The 6-speed manual and 260hp is for me. I have the PRO 4X and and Bilstein shocks make a BIG difference in handling and ride. Love 'em. With my 07 auto Xterra I never could get better than 19 mpg, and it was rare. With the manual I'm getting 20.5 mpg.

Talk About The 2012 Xterra

Gas Mileage


  • 16
  • cty
  • 22
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs

Identifix Reliability Ratings

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