Used Nissan Pathfinder review: 1987-2012
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- Off road
Nissan Pathfinder is a reasonably tough off-road station wagon that has gained a lot of respect amongst Australian buyers in the 25 years it has been on the local market. Pathfinder is chiefly aimed at the suburban user, though you will find a fair number in the bush.
Whereas the first models had a separate chassis, the full-wagon variant of the Nissan Pathfinder used a monocoque body. Just to cause further confusion, the latest one, from July 2005, has reverted to a full chassis for added toughness and is again virtually a Navara with extra seats. Though this time there is a fair bit of work in the passenger comfort field as well.
Pathfinder began its Australian career in December 1986 as a two-door wagon. Following the sales success of the then-new concept, in October 1992 it became a four-door. These older models may be near their use-by date, though we still see some good ones on the road. November 1995 saw the introduction of a virtually all-new Pathfinder that was aimed more at the passenger market than the ute-with-more-seats buyer.
We have experienced some body movement on rough roads in the second-generation models, the ones with the monocoque body. This can get worse as the vehicle ages, especially if it has led a hard life. This probably explains the decision to go back to the separate chassis in 2005 Pathfinders. So it’s probably best to regard the 1995 to 2005 models as soft-roaders rather than off-roaders.
The earlier Nissan Pathfinders had good ride comfort for their class and era and have a reasonably spacious interior. There is less headroom than you might expect in the pre-2005 models, and legroom in the back could be better, though it’s certainly not cramped.
The 2005 Nissan Pathfinder is significantly larger than the previous ones and has seating that’s good for four adults, five without too much leg rubbing. Headroom is good and the front seats are well shaped. The rear bench seat is reasonably comfortable. Boot space is large and easy to load.
Most older Pathfinder models have a petrol engine with a capacity of 2.4 litres. A smooth 3.0-litre V6 was added to the lineup in 1993, it is a punchy unit, though the revs do have to be kept up to get the best from it. The V6’s capacity went up to 3.3 litres with the 1995 model change. The 2005 Pathfinder uses a big 4.0-litre V6 that has plenty of grunt.
Diesel engines, though common in the Nissan Navara, were not offered in Pathfinders until the introduction of the new 2005 model. The unit in this Pathfinder is a healthy 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo that punches out more that 400 Newton metres. As its introduction coincided with the start of fuel price rises in Australia it’s no surprise that many buyers have opted for this oil burning option and it’s already being sought out on the used-car market.
Pathfinders with four-cylinder petrol engines have a five-speed manual gearbox. The 3.0-litre V6 can be ordered as a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The 3.3 engine comes only with a four-speed automatic as does the 4.0-litre petrol. The turbo-diesel again wins out, having a choice between a nice six-speed manual and a modern five-speed auto.
Early Pathfinders used an old style 4WD system, but from the 1999 Pathfinder it came with a sophisticated all-wheel drive system with the title of All-Mode. This 4WD layout offers the driver numerous choices: everything from rear-wheel-only drive for easy on-road use, to four-low for seriously tackling tough off-road terrain. The Auto setting juggles the amount of drive needed to each end of the Pathfinder according to conditions under the wheels.
On-road the later Pathfinders are almost car-like in their refinement and general feel. There is more wind noise than you would get in a passenger car of the time in the 1995 to 2005 models. Handling is reasonable in all models, but the centre of gravity is relatively high so you can’t drive a Pathfinder as though it’s a car.
Nissan's dealer network is widespread with spare parts, repairs and servicing available in most areas, even in some pretty remote locations. Insurance isn’t usually over expensive as befits a vehicle that is seldom driven hard.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Rust can get into the lower corners of the door and the tailgate but is not common in vehicles that have been correctly driven and maintained. Check also for rust in the chassis rails, especially if you suspect it has been subjected to beach use.
Look for damage to the protection plates, the sill panels and the underneath of the bumper-bar corners, all items that suggest rigorous off-road driving. Four-cylinder engines can sound harsh even when they have a fair bit of life left in them. Worn engines tend to be slow at picking up oil when started stone cold, resulting in low pressure. So listen for bearing rattle and watch for an oil-pressure warning light that’s slow to go off.
Check for an engine that smokes from the exhaust. It is usually at its worst when the engine is accelerated hard after it has been idling for a minute or so. Severe engine wear is the most likely cause.
Gearboxes are generally tough, but try some fast gearchanges from third to second and feel and listen for worn synchros. Automatic transmissions should be smooth and quiet in operation and not have too long a delay when going into Drive from Neutral.
If driven hard in tough off-road situations Pathfinders may suffer from suspension mounting or chassis cracks. Get an expert to do an inspection as these can be expensive items to repair.
CAR BUYING TIP
Four-wheel-drive purists scoff at those who never take their 4WDs off-road – that is until they come to buy a secondhand model for themselves. Then they opt for used vehicles that have never been taken off road…
|Year||Price From||Price To|
Range and Specs
|(4X4)||2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN 4X4||$2,400 – 4,070||1987 Nissan Pathfinder 1987 (4X4) Pricing and Specs|