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This burly sport utility vehicle is definitely not designed for the masses. Yet Nissan has a nice thing going, targeting youthful, active car buyers who want a versatile SUV that can take them on some exciting adventures.

The Xterra was introduced to the North American market in 2000 and remains a viable choice when it comes to rugged SUVs. More than a decade ago the slogan was – “Everything you need, nothing you don’t.” That’s not exactly the case any longer with the evolution leading up to the 2012 model. Yet it’s not too far off the mark for a vehicle that was designed for people who love heading into the outdoors.

Xterra owners – 20-something males who love to go off-roading are the targeted buyers – are still driving this SUV through the mud and carrying everything from mountain bikes, surfboards to hiking gear. Besides being a great cargo hauler, the truck-based underpinning Xterra is a pretty fair off-road vehicle as well, with high ground clearance so it can slither over rocks, climb boulders, or power its way through sand dunes.

2012 Nissan Xterra

  • Performance: 4.0-liter, V6, 261 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 15-20 mpg
  • Price: $24,890 to $30,170
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance 3 years/36,000

That explains why many times when one encounters an Xterra the initial thought is – this is a vehicle that seriously needs a bath.

Speaking of baths, that has always been one of the cool aspects of the Xterra. A large, accommodating cargo area (35 cubic feet of space, 66 feet when the seats are folded down) makes the Xterra’s hard-plastic floor easy to clean. The interior also features handy utility hooks and a way to tightly secure bikes and other gear to the floor.

If that’s not enough, among the Xterra’s options is a first aid kit, gear box, upgraded off-road tires, foglights, and off-road driving lights that are mounted on the roof. And for the true off-roaders, hill descent control and hill start assist are available.

But at its core, the Xterra remains a no-frills SUV both inside and out. In the styling department it’s essentially plain.

The Xterra is obviously a niche buy. It has no third row and is a bit small for the midsize SUV class. It only gets 15-20 mpg and is priced higher ($24,890 to $30,170) than its prime competitors, the Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Jeep Wrangler.

Available in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive, all Xterras are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. It’s not quick, going just 0-60 mph in 8.0 seconds.

This is one rugged SUV that can take you into the wilderness and back. So if that’s the intention, pull the trigger and buy an Xterra. But don’t expect the every-day trips around town or the mundane commute to work to be a great experience. The Xterra can’t match most midsize SUVs for every-day usage.

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