The new Nissan Pathfinder.
The new Nissan Pathfinder.

Nissan Pathfinder road test: One smoother mover

GOING soft has never had too many positive connotations. Although in the case of the new Nissan Pathfinder, some marshmallowitis should broaden its appeal.

No longer is it the hard-nosed off-roader.

The ladder-frame wagon is gone, replaced by a metropolitan machine which can mix it with the savvy SUV crowd.

And it's a good crowd to join. Aussies have embraced the SUV culture, favouring the space and high-riding position on offer, even though there is no intention to step off the bitumen.

That is where this variant fits the bill. While four-wheel drive is available, most really only need to power two if gravel is the toughest stuff likely to be faced.

It's available in three grades, and we tested the range-topping Ti variant which starts from just over $60,000 - which is about 20 grand more than the entry level model.

Comfort

There's no need for the kidney belt or sacrificing life's luxuries, the Pathfinder is a haven for families.

Ti derivatives offer the best of Nissan specification with leather across the pews and doors, and while there are some hard plastics across the dash they match nicely.

Piano black finishes on the console and around the dials deliver a premium feel.

While the driver's main analogue gauges are simplistic, the Advanced Drive-Assist Display raises the tone. It sits central to all the vital information and delivers information with 3D styling.

Finding your way around the main operations is simple with clear labelling of all the buttons, although the main computer system via the 20.3cm touch-screen can be clumsy and time consuming. On one occasion we accidentally stopped the rear entertainment movie while on the highway and then couldn't get it operational again until the car was stopped.

The Pathfinder offers sound space for seven, and even smaller adults can fit in the rear two pews. Second row seats can recline and slide to improve third row leg room.

On the road

Powered exclusively by a V6 petrol engine, the Pathfinder is a hard worker.

The performance won't set the world on fire but it's more than adequate in just about all situations.

With burly pulling power, enough for towing 2700kg, this bent six does the job willingly.

There is only one transmission choice: a continuously variable automatic. We've sampled some good CVTs in recent times, including some other models from Nissan, but this self-shifter is noisier and less settled than we've experienced with recent offerings.

You have to be more judicious with your use of the throttle for best results as punching the accelerator just results in engine noise as the transmission scrambles to catch up.

Nissan has certainly done a good job fulfilling the soft-roader brief. It cruises quietly and comfortably on varying road surfaces.

Steering can be somewhat vague on occasions and pushing into a corner with too much enthusiasm is met with typical SUV body roll, but that is par for the course in this genre.

What do you get?

Virtually no option box is left vacant in the Ti, with Nissan throwing together a sound specification package.

On the standard gear list is Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, cruise control, electronically adjustable steering column, climate control air con, panoramic glass roof, keyless entry, roof rails, CD/DVD stereo system, sat nav, 9GB music server, tinted glass, 13 Bose speakers with second row 17.7cm screens, front seats with heating as well as cooling and an automatic tailgate.

Safety is five-star, with six airbags, rear parking camera as well as around-view monitor, stability control and towing mode.

Other options

Among the competition is the Ford Territory Titanium ($54,990), Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland ($66,000), Kia Sorento Platinum ($50,790), Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander ($51,490) and Mazda CX-9 2WD Luxury ($52,980).

Practicality

Space comes in big volumes. With all seven seats in use there is more than 400 litres of space still available.

Yet fold the third row flat with the pull of levers and straps and that space expands to 1353 litres.

With the second row also folded, you have an awesome 2259 litre space.

It was perfect for a few op-shop offloads, while we also carted the family, three suitcases and a large bike box to the airport by shuffling the middle row forward - and there was still room to spare.

Up front there is a deep, two-stage centre console where you can also find 12V, USB and auxiliary ports. Those with a thirst can also appreciate 10 cup holders and six bottle holders.

Running costs

With careful acceleration use and some highway journeys, we achieved just over 10 litres for every 100km. Insurance should be at the lower end of the scale, while Nissan has capped price servicing along with a strong warranty.

Funky factor

Some may not like the softer styling, but it's certain to appeal to the most important person in the household - mums.

The lowdown

Nissan has certainly made the Pathfinder more likeable. The percentage of new SUV owners who actually step off the bitumen is minimal.

This luxurious two-wheel drive will tick many of the right boxes for those who want the flexibility of seven seats.

There is a also hybrid version to be released in the coming months, which will be an interesting proposition for Nissan, but the Pathfinder really needs a diesel option to be a genuine force in this genre.

What matters most

What we liked: Seven-seats as standard, brilliant loading flexibility, outstanding space.

What we'd like to see: Desperately needs a turbo diesel, improved CVT performance.

Warranty and servicing: Nissan offers a three year/100,000km warranty with six years/120,000km fixed-price servicing. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km, average price is $364.

Vital statistics
Model:
Nissan Pathfinder Ti.
Details: Four-door seven-seat two-wheel drive large sports utility vehicle.
Transmission: Xtronic continuously variable automatic.
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 190kW @ 6400rpm and peak torque of 325Nm @ 6400rpm.
Consumption: 9.9 litres/100km (combined average for 2WD) and 10.2L/100km (4WD).
CO2: 233g/km (2WD) and 240g/km (4WD).
Towing capacity: 2700kg, with 200kg towball rating.
Bottom line plus on-roads: Ti $60,790.


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