Used 2000 Nissan Xterra Review

Edmunds expert review

A truck-based compact ute for those who actually plan to use it like it's featured in Nissan's TV commercials.

What's new for 2000

A truck-based mini-SUV, the athletic new Xterra competes with several smaller vehicles built on car platforms.

Vehicle overview

A so-called mini SUV doesn't have to be a compromise, and for proof, look no further than the 2000 Xterra ("terra for the land it crosses and "X" for the generation it intends to target). This new sport-ute from Nissan sits squarely on the large side of the mini-SUV scale, but don't be alarmed by the truck's physical size: the price is tiny by comparison. It is not so cheap that it undercuts all the other "mini-cutes" with which it competes (Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Cherokee and Suzuki Grand Vitara), but you get a lot for your money.

Unlike many of its small SUV competitors, the new Xterra is based on a real truck -- Nissan's Frontier compact pickup. And if the Xterra looks familiar, it's because it shares the same hood, front fascia, A-pillars, windshield and front doors with its genetic source. Designed at Nissan Design International (NDI) in La Jolla, Calif., and assembled in Smyrna, Tenn., the vehicle has a 104.3-inch wheelbase, an independent front suspension and a leaf-spring setup at the rear. Taillights form geometric shapes, with white, angled reverse lights appearing out of place. The spare tire is located underneath but still in view from behind -- not the choice location for heavy-duty off-road aficionados. Still, the truck looks beefy and solid overall, with unique styling that screams ruggedness. The powder-coated, tubular roof rack comes with adjustable rails for carrying cargo of all shapes and sizes. For smaller items, there's even a plastic cargo tray up front that will hold 30 pounds of odds-'n-ends.

The Xterra is being marketed as a mini-SUV to avoid treading on the toes of its bigger brother, the Pathfinder, but how well it does that is questionable. The Xterra is 178 inches long, only 0.3 of an inch shorter than the Pathfinder. Xterra also offers an inch more legroom for rear passengers. The Pathfinder will be marketed to a more upscale audience with more options, but that only serves to make the Xterra the better bargain. Nissan has certainly stirred up an interesting option in this market, while the definition of a "mini-SUV" gets murkier all the time.

Offered in two trim levels, the Xterra can be purchased as a base XE or sporty SE model with either two-or four-wheel drive, a four-cylinder or V6 engine, and a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Xterra's standard motivation comes from a 2.4-liter inline four that makes 143 horsepower and 154 foot-pounds of torque. An optional 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 gets 200 accessible foot-pounds of torque and moves the Xterra from zero to 60 in 10.8 seconds. Off-road, the Xterra and its big, all-season tires come in handy, though on-road handling suffers for this trail-blazing perk. Outdoor enthusiasts can tow up to 5,000 pounds with the new Nissan as long as it has an automatic transmission, and antilock brakes are standard on all trim levels.

Inside, five seating positions are offered, but it's a squeeze to fit three adults on the rear-bench seat. With the cargo area folded flat, though, four cross-legged adults can fit in the back without touching knees. The instrument panel and secondary controls are well-laid out and easy-to-use, and the cabin is not cluttered with lots of gee-whiz gadgetry.

Here's our vote for which direction we'd like to see the mini-SUV market turn: Instead of squaring off wagons and raising up cars, the industry would do well to downsize real trucks and make them behave as much like cars as possible. The mini-SUV gene pool would be a lot less mixed up and more Xterra-like 'utes would be produced-which would be a good thing.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.