Nissan's Pathfinder is designed to make life with an active family that little bit easier. Steve Walker reports.
For the price of a middling compact executive saloon, Nissan will sell you a vehicle with the ability to drive through terrain you'd hesitate to walk over. It will come with an interior of space and durability designed to cope with the challenges posed by life with sticky-fingered offspring. It will be a car with forceful looks and affordable running costs. It will be called the Pathfinder.
Ten Second Review
Big on space but not on price, Nissan's Pathfinder will be exactly what many 4x4 buyers are looking for. Strong off-road ability and reasonable performance on the tarmac count in its favour and although it's less sophisticated than some rivals, it's a tough and versatile customer that's well suited to family life.
There's often a substantial gulf between the way 4x4 buyers actually use their 4x4 vehicles and the utopian visions manufacturers lay out in commercials and publicity material. Nissan's Pathfinder 4x4 certainly has the ability to access remote locations with a family of catalogue models and their camping gear safely stowed inside but it's also built to handle the school run, the motorway and the supermarket car park - the places where real people are most likely to use it. The big Nissan is what we'd term a family 4x4, less plush and prestigious than the more expensive models in the luxury 4x4 class but still big and capable. Mitsubishi's Shogun, Land Rover's Discovery and Toyota's Land Cruiser all fit roughly into the same sector. There's a tough, utilitarian feel to the vehicle and it's no great surprise that Nissan also sells an ostensibly similar pick-up version called the Navara. The latest Pathfinders benefit from a mild facelift and more interesting upgrades to interior trim and engines.
Torque is always nice to have but it takes on a new level of importance in a big vehicle with off-road tendencies. It's the mid-range muscle you need for getting briskly up to speed, powering up inclines and hauling you out of trouble when you venture off the tarmac. It's a good thing then, that the latest Pathfinder engines are overflowing with the stuff. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder option is a long-serving Nissan unit but these days it campaigns with 187bhp and a meaty 450Nm of torque. The real big-hitter, however, is the 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 228bhp. Here, torque is upped to 550Nm and it's on stream from just 1,700rpm. That's more grunt than the Audi R8 supercar. The Pathfinder is a comfortable cruiser but it also takes to winding country roads with a level of composure not normally associated with big 4x4 vehicles. Pick up the pace and the body rolls in corners and pitches under braking but not unnervingly so. The steering is reassuringly accurate and the braking feels secure. All Pathfinders feature the Nissan ALL MODE four-wheel-drive system which includes a low ratio mode for proper off-roading. Traction is governed by a special ESP system that marshals the ABS brakes, the traction control and the active yaw control for optimum performance both on and off the tarmac. The latest Pathfinders are also equipped with Hill Decent control and Hill Start Assist, the former to ease you down precipitous offroad obstacles, the second to aid smooth getaways up inclines.
Design and Build
Today's Pathfinder can be picked out from earlier iterations by its curvier front bumper that juts further forward and arches around the corners to meld with the flared wheelarches. Tweaks to the bonnet and grille are less easy to spot. Far more useful were upgrades to the switch gear and cabin materials inside. The Pathfinder has always been a simple and sturdily built customer but the latest versions have a bit more class about them inside. There's more storage space dotted around the cabin with rear door storage bins now housing a Nissan first aid kit. Nissan obviously put considerable effort in to make the Pathfinder a practical family car. We're told that the 7-seat Pathfinder has no fewer than 64 different seating configurations, a total that eclipses many full-size MPVs never mind large 4x4s. What's more impressive, and likely to be more appealing to potential buyers, is that none of the seats need to be removed for the different load/passenger carrying options to be accessed. When additional space is required, the rearmost seats simply fold into the floor with the release of just one catch and the middle three are almost as easy to pack down. This creates a flat load floor behind the driver and front passenger. With all the seats folded, the Pathfinder offers a massive 2,091-litre capacity with a 2.8m load length.
Market and Model
The Pathfinder range is split into three trim levels named XE, SE and LE, the one exception to this being the 3.0-litre V6 diesel model which comes in its own LEV6 specification. All models feature the rearmost row of seats and so they all have a seven-person capacity. On top of that, all customers get air-conditioning, a CD stereo, ESP stability control and all-wheel-drive. The SE version includes an IT Pack with satallite navigation, keyless entry and start plus a rear-view camera to help when parking. The LE starts to get quite luxurious and smacks of an attempt by Nissan to pinch sales from its plusher rivals that crossover into the lower end of the luxury 4x4 market. Xenon headlamps, telescopic headlamp washers, a rear seat air-conditioning controller, wood trim inserts and a Bose premium stereo are features in additon to the SE spec. The Pathfinder slots neatly into the comprehensive line-up of 4x4 vehicles currently being offered by Nissan. The range includes authentic off-roaders like the Navara pick-up as well as plush crossover models like the Murano. The Pathfinder is positioned somewhere in-between, forming an SUV double act with the X-Trail compact 4x4.
Cost of Ownership
The cost of running a large family 4x4 can be a major cause for concern for many prospective buyers but the Nissan Pathfinder's relatively humble 2.5-litre dCi engine does a good job of taking the edge off the bills. Combined cycle economy is 33mpg with emissions measured at 224g/km. The 3.0-litre unit employs a diesel particulate filter to trap and then burn off harmful emissions before they enter the atmosphere.
If they're honest, most Nissan Pathfinder owners probably won't need a vehicle that can carry a family of seven and their luggage through rivers and up mountainsides but the Pathfinder can and it'll cope admirably with more mundane duties as well. The latest engines look impressive and a gloss of quality has been added to the robust interior. It bodes well for Nissan in its quest for more family 4x4 buyers.
We make every effort to accurately describe the vehicle but mistakes can happen and some information does come from third parties. Customers are advised to check all specifications with our dealership staff to ensure that the car is accurately described.