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Nissan Pathfinder 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
7
The Australian car market is so crammed with brands and individual models these days that it's extremely rare to come across a unique formula. But Nissan's found one with the market's only seven-seater powered by a supercharged hybrid four-cylinder engine. It's an unconventional path in more ways than one for Nissan,

The Australian car market is so crammed with brands and individual models these days that it's extremely rare to come across a unique formula. But Nissan's found one with the market's only seven-seater powered by a supercharged hybrid four-cylinder engine.

It's an unconventional path in more ways than one for Nissan, as the new Pathfinder hybrid is essentially a replacement for its popular diesel variant. Diesel is almost the default choice for seven-seaters such as Toyota's Prado, Ford's Territory and Hyundai's Santa Fe, so it's a brave — and puzzling — departure for Nissan, especially when its smaller X-Trail and Qashqai both have diesels.

The answer lies in the Pathfinder's country of origin. The new one comes from the US, where petrol is king. Its main petrol-only rivals, the Toyota Kluger and Mazda CX-9, also hail from the States. The hybrid carries a $3000 premium over the standard V6, about on par with what other brands charge for their their diesel variants.

Design

Hybrid power isn't the Pathfinder's only departure from the Nissan playbook. Gone is the boxy shape of the previous generation, replaced by softer, more modern lines. Thankfully, the sleeker look hasn't compromised the Pathfinder's cavernous interior.

Each of the seven seats is adult-sized, although the third row passengers sit a little knees-up, thanks to the presence of a battery pack under the floor. The middle row slides forward to allow for more legroom in the third row if needed. The dash layout is conservative, but the instrument panel looks suitably up-market, with the usual hybrid readouts on fuel consumption and energy regeneration.

The infotainment system is frustratingly unintuitive and the graphics look a bit old-school. But you can't fault the seats, which are comfortable for longer halls, with decent lumbar and thigh support.

About town

There's no avoiding the fact the Pathfinder is a big unit when you're manoeuvring around a carpark. The reversing camera and rear parking sensors help, but you can't help thinking that front sensors would be handy, too. And there's no satellite navigation for finding your way to weekend sporting events in faraway suburbs.

You will, however, be able to fit most of a netball team in the back, and still have room for their bags behind the third row. Fold all five rear seats and the Pathfinder will swallow wardrobes and mattresses.

On the road

It is impressively quiet at freeway speeds, thanks to Nissan's Active Noise Control (ANC).

If you used the old Pathfinder in the way in which Nissan intended, then the new one may not impress. The previous one was a rugged, go anywhere type that could tow 3000kg.

This is completely different proposition. The hybrid will tow only 1600kg and the ground clearance (along with approach and departure angles) has dropped from 229mm to 165mm. While that may be bad news for off-roaders looking at the AWD option, it translates into better manners on the bitumen. It still wallows and lurches like an SUV, but it feels more composed and stable on the road than the previous model.

It is impressively quiet at freeway speeds, thanks to Nissan's Active Noise Control (ANC). Microphones in the cabin monitor undesirable sounds and the car's audio system then emits an equal frequency to cancel them out.

Performance

The hybrid Pathfinder gives away nothing to the V6 model, despite two fewer cylinders. Its 188kW and 330Nm arrive lower in the rev range than the petrol's 190kW and 325Nm, while there's also the assistance of the 15kW electric motor.

How much assistance that electric motor gives remains debatable, though. Unlike the Toyota Camry hybrid (which has a 105kW electric motor) the Pathfinder electric motor doesn't power the vehicle on its own. That means if you're crawling along in the traffic, the petrol engine will be running. And there's no stop-start system. Around town, we got about 10 litres per 100km, which is good but not exceptional. Other hybrids do almost as well around town as they do on the open road. On the highway, we got as low as 7L/100km. Laudably, both figures numbers are below the Nissan's claimed usage.

Verdict

The Pathfinder fulfils the role of family truckster in style, although the hybrid system is more show than go.

What it's got 

Active noise control, tri-zone aircon with vents in all three rows, seatbelt monitor for back seats.

What it hasn't 

Satellite navigation, blind spot warning, full-size spare

Ownership

Warranty is just three years/100,000km. Servicing is capped price and occurs every 7000km or six months. Total cost for three years is $1831, which is pricey. It's a new model but Pathfinder three-year residual is a strong 55 per cent.

Pick of the range

The base model 2WD ST seems the best value. Save the $10,500 you'd spend on the ST-L and do without the sunroof, fog lights, heated seats and leather trim

Also consider

Toyota Kluger 2WD GX
from $40,990
Solid build, roomy cabin, powerful engine but significantly thirstier

Ford Territory 2WD TX
from $40,240
Well priced, good road manners, can tow up to 2300kg, but smaller inside

Hyundai Santa Fe Active
from $41,490
Not as roomy but more efficient, with generous 5-year warranty

Pricing guides

$23,888
Based on 163 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,990
Highest Price
$32,940

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ST (4X2) 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $17,100 – 23,760 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 2015 ST (4X2) Pricing and Specs
ST (4X4) 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $18,300 – 25,520 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 2015 ST (4X4) Pricing and Specs
ST Hybrid (4x2) 2.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $18,300 – 25,520 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 2015 ST Hybrid (4x2) Pricing and Specs
ST N-Trek (4x4) 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $17,200 – 23,980 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 2015 ST N-Trek (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7