In Australia the large car (that's sedans and wagons) is almost dead and buried, and in its place there’s the large SUV delivering the same big car space with added practicality - and in the case of SUVs like the Pathfinder, added seats too.
Earlier this year Nissan gave its big SUV a small facelift, to help it keep pace with the Mazda CX-9 and also-recently-updated Toyota Kluger. The most obvious change is a more confident face that helps the Pathfinder look less like a big wagon, and more like a big SUV.
Also heavily reworked, Nissan’s 3.5 litre V6 engine adds power and torque compared with the previous model, but also sips slightly less fuel. Despite the changes, Nissan has no easy task ahead of it with strong opposition from Mazda and Toyota, not to mention the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $45,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 202kW/340Nm 3.5-litre 6cyl petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 10.1 l/100km
Nissan has kept the Pathfinder range the same as before, with three variants; the entry-level ST tested here, the mid-spec ST-L and the more plush Ti. Each can be had with a choice of petrol V6 or a supercharged four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid.
With the V6 set to be the more popular option, we’ve selected it, along with all-wheel drive (though two wheel drive is also available) giving the Pathfinder a price of $45,490 before on-road costs - perhaps not bargain basement but within the reach of family buyers.
For 2017 the Pathfinder ST adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen display (up from 7.0-inches), LED running lights, fresh 18-inch alloy wheels, and an extra child seat anchor point in the third row. Seven seats are standard on all models, as is a CVT automatic, making the Pathfinder perfectly suited as family transport.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth seat trim, three-zone climate control, power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-trimmed steering wheel, keyless entry and start, cruise control, automatic headlights, rear privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, CD/DVD player, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 453 litres to third row, 1354 litres to second row, 2260 litres to first row
At over five metres long, the Pathfinder is a big car, and it certainly feels like it has made good use of the space inside too.
Driver and front passenger are treated to big, wide, spacious front seats trimmed in sensible cloth fabric with a power-adjustable driver’s seat and leather covering the steering wheel and gear knob.
In the second row things are no less spacious. There’s enough width to seat three across the back bench and a pair of child seats will fit without a problem. The sliding and reclining second row provides extra comfort and practicality and the single-lever access to the third row, which tilts the seat base up and slides the whole seat forward, makes access a breeze.
The third row does quite well for itself in terms of space too. Naturally the final pair of seats are a little smaller, but with the second row slid forward slightly, there’s just enough room for two adults in the rear on shorter trips - something not all seven-seaters can boast.
Three-zone climate control comes standard, so mum and dad can pick their own temperature, and the kids can squabble over setting the temp for the rear, with air vents for both the second and third row to ensure adequate ventilation.
The dash is a little basic in its design and execution, but should be durable over the long run. Cabin storage isn't massive with only a bottle holder in each door, a shelf under the centre stack, but more generous space in the console and glovebox.
At the rear with the third row up there’s still enough room to carry a complement of school bags, and with the third row folded the cargo area feels properly large. Nissan qoutes 453 litres to the back of the third row, and 1354 to the second row - to the roof in both instances unlike competitors who measure to the window line.
While the seats fold away easily enough to reveal a flat floor, it isn't a level one, sloping towards the front of the vehicle and reducing the load height slightly which might be a problem if you intend to you the Pathfinder in its most van-like state often.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 3.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6, 202kW @6400rpm 340Nm @4800rpm
- Transmission: CVT automatic, multi-mode all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: 320mm front ventilated discs, 308mm rear ventilated discs
- Steering: Electronic hydraulic power steering
- Towing Capacity: 2700kg braked, 750kg unbraked
As part of its model year 2017 refresh the V6 Pathfinder’s mechanicals received a thorough going-over resulting in boosted levels of power and torque with new peak figures of 202kW and 340Nm, up by 12kW and 15Nm compared with the outgoing engine.
Arguably the extra power wasn’t really required, with the Pathfinder exhibiting authoritative acceleration beforehand, but now, even when fully laden, the Pathfinder still feels quite strong.
Buyers looking for a more frugal option may be disappointed to find that Nissan still hasn't added a diesel engine, instead going for a more unusual hybrid powertrain with a four-cylinder supercharged petrol engine and electric motor to ease fuel consumption.
The 3.5-litre V6 is backed up by a CVT automatic, allowing the Pathfinder to accelerate strongly and seamlessly without disturbing occupants with jolting gear changes. As one of the better examples of this type of transmission, its ability to imitate a simulated kickdown or upshift when driven firmly gives the Pathfinder a more positive driving feel.
That said, the pathfinder isn’t exactly built to be driven like a hot hatch. The ride is biased towards supreme comfort, and it absolutely delivers.
Jostling over roughly corrugated roads, the Pathfinder’s suspension works hard to ensure passengers know as little as possible about what’s happening outside. The trade off is a more rolly suspension, which leans through bends and squats and dives with the accelerator and brake.
Light steering is just the thing for making the Pathfinder feel less hefty when slotting in and out of urban carparks, but can be a touch vague on the open road. As a big-mile tourer though the supreme comfort really works in the Pathfinder’s favour.
Refinement levels are high, outside disturbances are well filtered, there’s little in the way of tyre or road noise, and usually the engine is kept at low revs to make it less disruptive, although it does sound rather decent when poked.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Nissan Pathfinder scored 35.73 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2013.
Safety Features: Six airbags (dual front, front seat side, full length curtain), electronic traction and stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, rearview camera and rear park sensors, 2x ISOFIX child seat mounts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Nissan offers capped price servicing for the first 12 services with intervals set every 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first). Pricing for the V6 4x4 pathfinder varies from $179 up to $289 per service. Your Nissan dealer can provide more information about per-service pricing, plus any terms, conditions, or exclusions that may apply.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Toyota Kluger has also has a recent refresh, with a new eight-speed automatic, and some engine tweaks for more power and better efficiency. There’s plenty of interior strorage solutions and lots of room for growing families inside.
The premium look and feel of the Mazda CX-9 makes this seven-seater feel like a more expensive car than it is, and Mazda’s efficiency-first four-cylinder turbo engine feels as strong as a diesel. There’s a few family touches missing from the third row (like air vents), but overall its an impressive vehicle.
Perhaps a little long in the tooth, but that doesn’t seem to have slowed the Hyundai Santa Fe’s sales. A choice of diesel or petrol engines broadens the Santa Fe’s appeal, and strong specifications will win over finicky buyers.
Skoda has just dipped a toe into the seven-seat SUV pool with the Kodiaq, smaller on the outside and ideal for urban dwellers the turbo-petrol Kodiaq doesn’t offer as much room in the third row, but is ultimately no less flexible.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Although Nissan has been liberal with updates to the Pathfinder, it may have concentrated its efforts in areas that didn’t really need the attention. While a more powerful V6 has a certain lure, in a large family wagon outright power takes a back seat to passenger comfort.
While the Pathfinder’s ride is as comfortable as they come, a little less bobbing and swaying from the suspension might actually work in its favour, and the lack of innovative interior storage and the very basic dash layout aren’t as likely to wow potential customers in the showroom.
If you can see past those small blemishes, the easily accessible third row and massive cabin should sing to Australian families. What this seven-seater lacks in flair it more than makes up for by getting the basics just right.
MORE: Nissan News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Nissan Pathfinder - Prices, Features, and Specifications