What is it?
Pathfinder is Nissan’s second largest, passenger-oriented vehicle, one step below the 4×4 Patrol.
Entry ST comes with seven seats as standard, and is powered by either a 3.5-litre V6 or 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain.
Fuel consumption for the CVT-equipped ST with the 3.5L is a claimed 10.1L/100km on the combined cycle.
We finished with 11.1L/100km from the 73-litre tank. That’s on a largely urban cycle and from a vehicle that weighs more than two tonnes.
It’s a figure that could be better, but we’ll talk about that later.
What’s it cost?
The four model range starts at $44,490 for the two-wheel drive ST. The AWD comes in at $51,550.
Then there’s the ST+, ST-L, and top of the range Ti, which goes for a whopping $68,350. That price, though, is inclusive of metallic paint and that’s across the range.
What’s in the bank for those dollars is a car that’s bigger than it looks. There’s some subtle visual weight reducing lines, hiding the fact it’s 5042mm long, which makes it longer than Kia’s Sorento and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport — to name a couple.
It stands 1793mm tall, and is not far off two metres in width. The wheelbase is big, with 2900mm between the front and rear axles. Rubber is from Continental and they’re 235/65/18s.
These curves also help the aerodynamics, with a drag co-efficient of just 0.33 making it pretty slippery for a big SUV.
A distinctive “Vee” nose sits above a bumper with plastic inserts for driving lights in higher spec models. The angular headlight clusters bury the indicator bulbs deep towards the centre of the nose and they’re almost invisible against the LED driving lights.
Front and rear are joined by a single line that subtly accentuates the flared hips over the rear wheels before terminating at the manually operated tailgate.
Inside is a comfortable 2+3+2 seating configuration. The rear seats fold up and down with barely any effort required.
The centre row fold and slide as well, and together when down offer 2260 litres worth of cargo space. There’s even a lever on the centre row seats that says “Cargo Mode”.
The sheer physical size of the Pathfinder means there is plenty of room for all passengers, even the third row if the centre row is moved forward slightly. There is also a set of aircon controls for the centre and rear seats.
Front seats are powered, an unusual touch in an entry level SUV.
There’s a typical two-dial dash display for the driver, plus an LCD display that at times looks almost holographic.
The passenger faces a slab of black that really could do with . . . well, anything, as it’s as featureless as the monolith from 2001.
In between is a centre stack with an 8.0-inch touchscreen. It’s easy to use and read, has AM/FM only, and there’s a CD player underneath.
There’s also way, way wayyy too many buttons for the audio and aircon system. Because they’re placed well below the driver’s eyeline, they’re distracting and unsafe.
Ironically, the touchscreen houses most of the controls for the aircon and pretty much covers the audio too. It’s ironic too the speakers actually make the FM signal sound pretty damned good. Plus, you can add an external signal via Bluetooth to stream apps for digital radio stations.
Thankfully there is Nissan’s Intelligent Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning, plus Blind Spot Warning, along with Rear Cross Traffic Alert — just in case.
An oddity buried within the sub-menus of the screen is a G-Force meter. It’s an item best found and used in sporty vehicles, not genteel family buses.
What’s it go like?
It’s a front wheel driven vehicle with an all-wheel drive setup. Peak torque is 340Nm, peak power is 202kW.
There’s plenty of pull on the steering wheel, yet very little torque steer. It’s a bit of a mixed message as a result.
The driver is constantly aware there’s a big V6 is up front gently pulling at the steering. But under hard acceleration that tug diminishes — but a second issue emerges.
The CVT isn’t a great contributor to a fun drive. Unlike most CVTs now, this is a completely stepless setup. There is no manual change option and no “steps” or gears full stop.
And with a relatively high torque output, anything other than a gentle press evokes memories of (for those that remember), a clutch that’s worn and slipping.
A tighter setup would also go someways to improving economy. A traditional torque converter or, god forbid, a DCT, would be a better option.
The CVT also exhibits a behaviour that seems peculiar to the type. At a stop, such as a red light, there is a noticeable vibration through the driveline.
The gear selector has an “L” or Low option, presumably for the one in a million drive through a shallow puddle, and Sport mode is limited to a press tab on the lever.
On the upside is the ride and handling.
Although there is that front wheel bias, there’s enough chuckability to exploit a well sorted chassis.
For the most part though, given it’s either bought by and for families, or more mature aged drivers, it’s a car that will mostly be driven gently.
What we like?
- Plenty of interior room
- Benign handling and ride
- Flexible seating options
What we don’t like?
- CVT saps life from the drivetrain
- No manual option and no steps in the CVT
- Did we mention the CVT?
The bottom line?
Pathfinder is one of those SUVs that appeals to a specific buyer, but the packaging is somewhat confusing.
The interior is comfortable and roomy, but the dash ergonomics are a shocker. It’s an entry level model, but at the same time offers powered front seats.
The engine is willing and a good performer, but the CVT transmission is an anchor. It’s a decent drive and ride, but the chassis is highly unlikely to be tested beyond dealing with shopping centres and school runs.
As for being a seven-seater, its competitors make a better fist of it. On its own the Pathfinder is a competent enough vehicle, but in comparison with offerings from Korea, and especially from Mazda — it falls short as a viable alternative.
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Nissan Pathfinder ST AWD, priced from $51,550