2014 NISSAN PATHFINDER REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $50,290 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 190kW/325Nm V6 petrol | CVT auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.9 l/100km | tested: 12.2 l/100km
Loyal fans are screaming blue murder: how could Nissan take a competent, diesel powered, ladder-frame chassis, genuine off-roader and turn it into… this?
Well, it isn’t the first time Nissan has shuffled the Pathfinder name from a body-on-frame architecture to a monocoque design.
So, does this new broom sweep clean?
It absolutely does - but the old 'tough truck' Pathfinder might be best forgotten to truly appreciate what Nissan’s newest seven-seater offers.
This new one tested here, the 2WD ST-L model, could barely be further than the Pathfinder it replaced.
Quality: The interior of the new Pathfinder presents well. Nissan knows a trick or two when it comes to hard-wearing interiors; this one is constructed for the rigours of family life.
To that end, there’s little in the way of soft-touch surfaces - all the dash plastics are hard, but they’re nicely offset with gloss black trims that take the edge off the raw utility.
Vitally, for a vehicle filled with sliding, folding seats and routed with ventilation piping to all three rows, nothing moves when it shouldn’t.
Seats clip in firmly, everything slots together with precision, and there are no rattles, creaks, or groans when on the move.
Comfort: Room to move is an understatement in this one.
The key to its success is a centre row that slides forward to offer up generous amounts of space for the third row. Or, it can be slid back for a limo-like experience in the centre row.
There’s no shortage of width either, so tussles for space between the kids should be minimised.
Better still, the third row isn’t an awkward compromise - it’s a little less accommodating than the other seats, but will still accommodate a pair of adults with ease.
Up front, driver and co-pilot are treated to powered seats with driver’s electric lumbar and an electric steering column. There’s also a huge-dual pane sunroof with an opening front section and electric shade over the middle and rear rows.
Equipment: All Pathfinders come standard with steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio buttons, auto headlights, three-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start, plus leather steering wheel and gear knob.
There’s also six-speaker audio with 2GB music drive, seven-inch touch-screen display, rear-view camera and reversing sensors, and 18-inch wheels
ST-L models also benefit from leather seat trim, powered front seats, heated mirrors, and front and rear sunroof.
An option pack (as fitted) includes around-view monitor, 9GB hard drive, 13-speaker Bose audio, sat nav and an eight-inch monitor.
Storage: Due to the variable configurations of the interior, Nissan only quotes a 2259 litre cargo capacity with the second and third row folded.
Importantly though, with all seats in place, there’s still room behind for some sporting gear or a grocery shop.
Fold the third row, and slide the second row forward and you’ll struggle to reach the far corners of the boot. With the second row stashed there’s room for bikes, furniture, or anything else you might throw at it.
There are also more cupholders than seats (ten in fact), the centre console is huge, the glovebox is reasonable and there’s deep door-pockets in each door.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Motivation comes via Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5 litre V6 and Xtronic CVT automatic. In Pathfinder trim there’s 190kw at 6400 rpm and 325Nm at 4400 rpm.
For those more accustomed to the low-down grunt of the previous Pathfinder’s diesel engine, the petrol V6 may come as a rude shock - but it is surprisingly tractable and mostly up to task.
That said, for normal driving you won't find it lacking on the highway.
We have to applaud the latest generation of Nissan’s Xtronic CVT though.
Perseverance has paid off, and the CVT behaves almost like a conventional auto - drone is almost entirely removed and kickdown response is generally swift.
Around town engine speed is kept just a whisker above 1000rpm when holding a steady pace and keeping things calm and fuel use low.
For the sheer size of the Pathfinder, the 12.2 l/100km we returned was reasonably impressive.
Refinement: Generally, the interior of the Pathfinder is calm and quiet.
Wind and road noise are at a minimum; you’ll notice them most with an empty cabin but add a few bodies and the big wagon ‘cabin echo’ is quelled.
One small glitch we picked only a handful of times was a faint driveline shudder when slowing to a near-stop and accelerating again.
Barely there, but most obvious when pulling into a driveway - it's a little niggle we’re putting down to a quirk of the CVT.
Ride and Handling: Aussie roads can be, well, less than pleasant. Get away from the main arterials and ferrying seven bodies around in comfort can be a big ask.
But the Pathfinder gets the comfort thing just right.
Big hits are soaked up by the four-wheel independent suspension, even with a full payload.
Steering can be a little heavy for some at parking speeds, but lightens up on the move. At just shy of two tonne, handling is as you’d expect - rolly and a little vague.
But you will barely notice it's two-wheel-drive: for what it is - a large wagon - roadholding is secure; no nasty surprises there.
Braking: Again, no surprises with the braking. A long travel pedal with good feel means smooth progressive stopping power.
You won’t generate neck-snapping braking, but push the pedal hard enough and the Pathfinder stops true, but with plenty of nose-dive.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 35.73 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Driver and front passenger front and side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, lap/sash seat belts, seatbelt reminders for all seats, height adjustable seatbelts for first and second row (outboard seats) load limiting and pretensioning front seat belts.
Electronic safety systems include traction and stability control, brake assist and brakeforce distribution and tire pressure monitoring.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km (whichever occurs first) with three years roadside assist.
Service costs: Nissan offers capped-price servicing on Pathfinder with six month/10,000km intervals up to 120,000km.
Service costs vary between $256.39 up to $788.56 (for a major 100,000km service). Consult your Nissan dealer for more info.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mazda CX-9 Luxury ($52,980) - Despite its age, the CX-9 has to soldier on a little longer yet. Inside it lacks the Pathfinder’s third row space but is still generously sized.
On the road, with more power and torque, the CX-9 feels more authoritative when you put your foot down but fuel consumption isn’t quite as good. (see CX-9 reviews)
Upcoming Toyota Kluger (price to be confirmed) - It won’t arrive in Australia until March, but Toyota’s new Kluger will be aimed at the jugular of the Pathfinder. Toyota promises improved safety, handling, and fuel economy.
Set to grow both inside and out, and boasting a new six-speed transmission, the Kluger is set to be highly competitive. TMR will keep you posted as specification and pricing are announced. (see current Kluger reviews)
Kia Grand Carnival SLi ($46,290) - It may not be an SUV, but the Grand Carnival moves people and their gear in comfort, offers similar dimensions and performance, but is a fair bit cheaper.
The Grand Carnival is getting on in years though, the interior is huge but not as modern or comfortable as the Pathfinder, and, though there’s eight seats, not all have three-point seatbelts. (see Grand Carnival reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
There is no doubt that this new Pathfinder is one of the best large wagon-cum-SUV people-movers we've ever had from Nissan.
Of course, depending upon your view of the old car's off-road capability, it may not be the best Pathfinder ever.
With no diesel option and reduced towing capacity, some buyers will have to say farewell.
However this family-focused hauler packs more in than a normal wagon, and with better on-road manners than most SUVs.
So is it an SUV, a crossover or a people mover?
Doesn’t matter, does it? It does what it does well.
It's quiet, comfortable, spacious and adaptable and well worth investigation by growing families. It has been a week of mostly four-star cars for TMR.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Pathfinder ST 2WD - $39,990
- Pathfinder ST-L 2WD - $50,290
- Pathfinder Ti 2WD - $60,790
- Pathfinder ST 4WD - $44,290
- Pathfinder ST-L 4WD - $54,290
- Pathfinder Ti 4WD - $64,890