auto

It's big, it's comfy, it's loaded with tech. So why do buyers overlook the Nissan Pathfinder?

Nissan’s seven seat Pathfinder has an image problem. Not so much that people think of it poorly. It’s worse than that.

People don’t think of it at all.

In fact, Nissan reckons its family-hauling Pathfinder has been “flying under the radar” in Australia, and they’re probably right. Shifting from a body-on-frame to a car-like monocoque set-up in 2013 has helped make the current Pathfinder the most popular released to date, but it hasn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire. The big Nissan managed 5560 sales in 2016, only a handful more than Mazda’s CX-9 sold, despite the latter only being on sale for the final six months of the year.

“Pathfinder frustrates us a little bit,” admits Nissan Australia CEO, Richard Emery. “It doesn’t get the credit if deserves. We think it’s becoming something of a forgotten car.”

So, in an effort to make it a little more memorable, Nissan’s 2017 update delivers stiffer suspension at every wheel, more modern in-cabin tech and better safety equipment (including autonomous braking on all but the entry-level model). It looks better, too, with a new and rather handsome face that injects some much-needed style to the big and hulking Pathfinder.

So, do the changes mean the Pathfinder deserves a second (or first…) look?

nissan pathfinder review 2017

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The 2017 Pathfinder arrives in three trim levels, the entry-level ST, which is cheapest in two-wheel drive (2WD) (though, now $500 more expensive than it was) at $41,990. Opting for four-wheel drive (FWD) lifts that price to $45,490 while the two-wheel drive hybrid version will set you back $44,490.

The range them climbs to the mid-spec ST-L, which is $53,690 in 2WD configuration, $57,690 with 4WD, and $60,690 as hybrid-powered 4WD.

ADVERTISEMENT

The 2017 Pathfinder range reaches its peak with the top-tier Ti, available in 2WD ($62,190), 4WD ($66,190), and as a hybrid-equipped 4WD ($69,190). Every Pathfinder arrives with seven seats as standard.

There's extra kit across the range, too. The entry-level ST is now equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen as standard, which pairs with a Bluetooth-equipped stereo. Cruise control is also standard fit, as is tri-zone climate control. Outside, expect manually levelled halogen headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels and privacy glass covering the second and third row, along with roof rails and LED daytime running lights. Inside, you'll find cloth seats but a leather-accented steering wheel and gear shift.

nissan pathfinder review 2017

Step up to the ST-L trim and you'll add a panoramic sunroof, fog lights, heated wing mirrors, sat-nav and welcome lighting, while your now leather seats are heated in the front and your stereo is upgraded to a Bose 13-speaker system.

Spring for the Ti and your alloy wheels grow to 20 inches, your auto-levelling headlights are now LED-quipped and your wing mirrors will auto-tilt when you're in reverse. Your heated and cooled front seats also get a memory function for the driver. Perhaps most importantly, though, you'll now find a screen embedded in the back of the driver and passenger seat headrests to keep your second-row passengers entertained.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Simple: it looks better that it did before. The 2017 redesign sees the front end reshaped to look more sleek and modern, helped by the LED DRLs, 'V-Motion' grille, and what Nissan calls "razor" turn signals integrated into the wing mirrors.

ADVERTISEMENT

Inside, the cabin is spacious and airy, while the dash is still busy, but now far more modern.

nissan pathfinder review 2017

How practical is the space inside?

The Pathfinder is a big unit, and it's every bit as practical as you might expect.

Luggage space might be a small 453 litres with the all seats in place, but that number grows to 1354 litres with the third row of seating folded flat, and swells again to a massive 2260 litres with the second and third row folded down. Towing capacity is a useable 2700kg with the big petrol engine (1650kg with the hybrid engine).

Elsewhere inside, front seat passengers share two straight-lined cupholders, with two USB charging points and an auxiliary in-line jack hidden in a centre-dash cubby hole. Second row passengers can control their own air-con temperature, and there's a cupholder in each rear door (and another two in the pull-down divider that operates the rear seats), plus room for bottles in the door pockets.

But the Pathfinder's true party trick is its 'EZ Flex' seating system, which maximises space inside and ensures climbing into the third row of seats is easy. For a start, the second row of seating is fitted on a slide rail, meaning you can prioritise space in the second or third row, depending on how many passengers you've got. Then the third-row seats also recline, making life back there a touch more comfortable.

To get into the third row, the side-seat levers don't just fold the seatback forward, but also fold the seat cushion up as it slides forward, making climbing into row three very easy indeed, with Nissan claiming the widest entry point in the segment.

nissan pathfinder review 2017
ADVERTISEMENT

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Two options in the Pathfinder range, a V6 petrol and an electric motor-equipped hybrid. There is no diesel option, mostly because this car is taken from Nissan's American fleet - a place where oil-burners are about as popular as gun control.

The 3.5-litre V6 is a perky unit, generating 202kW and 340Nm and offering a smooth and broad power delivery missing from smaller capacity engines.

It's paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but Nissan has built artificial steps into the gear mapping to simulate the changing of gears as per a conventional torque converter transmission.

The hybrid option is a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine partnered with a 15kW electric motor. It will produce a combined 188kW/330Nm, and is paired with the same CVT.

How much fuel does it consume?

This new Pathfinder is more fuel efficient than the outgoing model, but it's still not a particularly pretty picture.

Of the V6 models, the 2WD versions are the most efficient, drinking a claimed/combined 9.9L/100km, though that climbs to 10.1L/100km if you opt for a 4WD.

Emissions are pegged at 230 grams per kilometre (2WD), and 234g/km (4WD).

The hybrid models lower those numbers to 8.6L/100km, and 8.7L/100km in the 4WD versions. Emissions are lower, too, now 200 and 202g/km respectively.

What's it like to drive?

Our test route was largely limited to a fast and smooth succession of sweeping corners - roads the Pathfinder was destined to shine on - but there were a handful of tight and twisting bends on which to heap pressure on the big Nissan's suspension and grip.

All up, the early signs are positive. The new and firmer suspension has rebuilt the outgoing model's troubled relationship with the blacktop below it, and while it can send the occasional bump or rattle into the cabin, we reckon that's a price well worth paying for a far more confidence-inspiring drive experience.

ADVERTISEMENT

Only when you decide to really push it, tackling tight turns with more gusto than the Pathfinder is ever likely to face, are you really reminded of the car's limitations, with a noticeable lean accompanied by a high-pitched whining from the tyres. The stiffer suspension has added speed to the steering, too, with Nissan claiming a seven per cent increase on the out-going model.

Still, the Nissan is a circa two tonne beast, and its dynamics are still a touch off the pace when compared to the segment leaders, but it's now a comfortable and confident way to cross the country.

The 2017 Pathfinder is spacious, comfortable and now loaded with current technology. And if fuel use isn't a concern, the V6 engine offers up a smooth power delivery that's available right across the rev range - a naturally aspirated joy that's something of a rarity these days.

What safety equipment is fitted? What's the safety rating?

Every Pathfinder arrives with a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and cruise control, which join six airbags (twin front, side and curtain), but springing for the ST-L or Ti trim now adds active cruise control, forward collision warning with AEB and rear cross-traffic alert.

The entire Pathfinder range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested following its 2013 launch.

nissan pathfinder review 2017
ADVERTISEMENT

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Every Pathfinder is covered by a three year/100,000km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist offered throughout.

Petrol Pathfinders require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 10,000kms, while hybrid service intervals are shorter: six months or 7,000km.

Both models fall under Nissan's menu-based servicing program, with owners able to see what is required at each service ahead of their visit to the service centre.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Verdict

Better looks, better technology and better safety equipment make the Pathfinder well worth a second look if you're in the market for a seven-seat hauler.

The V6 is our pick for driver fun, but if the thought of fuel bills sends you spare, the hybrid might be right up your alley.

Does this upgrade put Nissan Pathfinder back in the seven seat SUV hunt? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

This story originally appeared on CarsGuide

00:00 / ???