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To many, the Nissan Xterra is one of the best small SUVs. Since Nissan discontinued it, there has been a legion of fans clamoring for a new model and remembering it as one of the best SUVs for people who need a rugged option. This is true, but models like the 2005 Nissan Xterra are pretty bad, but the 2015 is much better.

The 2005 Nissan Xterra and other models are not among the best small SUVs

People looking for a used Nissan Xterra may want to look beyond most of the early models for a reliable experience. This is because these models, in many ways, damage the legacy of the Xterra because they have so many issues. In particular, used buyers should steer clear of the 2004 through 2008 models of what many have called one of the best small SUVs. 

There are a few Used Nissan Xterra that are solid
2013 Nissan Xterra | Nissan

By far, the worst used Xterra is the 2005 model. It holds this distinction because it has the most complaints from real owners. One major issue with the 2005 Nissan Xterra is its radiator leak. This issue is also present in the 2004 model, but less so. This is significant because coolant can leak into the transmission and cause it to fail. This model, and others, also suffer from hard shifts. 

The radiator issue improved as the model years continued, but they are still present in the other worst used Nissan Xterra models. In fact, many drivers began calling the radiator leak “strawberry milkshake of death.” This name is due to the pink liquid that gets produced. Naturally, this is an expensive fix. 

The 2015 Xterra is a highlight

The problem with the idea of getting a used Nissan Xterra is that there are so many models buyers need to skip. However, there are a few that are solid. In particular, people often consider the 2015 Nissan Xterra to be the best when it comes to overall quality and reliability. According to Edmunds, it uses a 4.0-liter V6 engine that makes 261 horsepower and has a torque of 281 lb-ft.

Used buyers can also go for the 2013 model if they want a reliable and slightly modern experience. It’s not as well regarded as the 2015 version, but it has very few complaints from owners. Still, the Nissan Xterra isn’t generally one of the best small SUVs for practicality as it’s a bit of a gas guzzler. The final model only averages 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 MPG on the highway.

Still, people looking for a small but rugged SUV that they can take off-road will love the best years of the Xterra.