2012 Nissan Xterra Review

Pros & Cons

  • Serious off-road prowess
  • innovative cargo features
  • most livable truck in its class.
  • Unimpressive interior design and materials
  • poor fuel economy relative to similarly priced crossovers.
List Price

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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.

Vehicle overview

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.

2012 Nissan Xterra models

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.

2012 Highlights

The 2012 Nissan Xterra is unchanged.

Performance & mpg

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.


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.


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.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 Nissan Xterra.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Pro 4 Awesomness
Brad C,07/26/2016
Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
I bought my 2012 Pro 4 X brand new from the dealership, I love it, best Vehicle I've ever owned. I just rolled up on 90,000 miles and the only mechanical issues I've had so far were two broken leaf springs. I cant complain about the maintenance cost because there have been almost None. If you Live in Maine you will understand we have a yearly safety inspection and the dealership always does mine and always passes with no issues. Tires, two new leaf springs and oil changes have been my only cost in the 90,000 miles. Quite a few of those miles have been off road. Its an awesome vehicle, to bad they don't import them in to the US any more.
Decent bang for your buck
Granite Gargoyle,04/15/2016
Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
Very dependable mechanically and holds it's resale value well.
I am very pleased with the Xterra so far.
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.
In love
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.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2012 Nissan Xterra features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover3 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover24.6%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2012 Nissan Xterra

Used 2012 Nissan Xterra Overview

The Used 2012 Nissan Xterra is offered in the following submodels: Xterra SUV. Available styles include Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), X 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), Pro-4X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 6M), and S 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 6M).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Nissan Xterra?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Nissan Xterra trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Nissan Xterra S is priced between $14,495 and$14,495 with odometer readings between 133583 and133583 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 Nissan Xterras are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Nissan Xterra for sale near. There are currently 1 used and CPO 2012 Xterras listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $14,495 and mileage as low as 133583 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Nissan Xterra.

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Find a used Nissan Xterra for sale - 8 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $23,604.

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Find a used certified pre-owned Nissan Xterra for sale - 4 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $13,709.

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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Nissan Xterra?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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