Toyota Kluger VS Nissan Pathfinder
- Quiet and refined
- GX is well-specified
- GXL and Grande are pricey for not much benefit
- Deeply ordinary entertainment system
- Stronger design
- Updated safety gear
- Better in-car technology
- AEB not standard on base model
- Still not as sharp as class leaders
- Fuel use in the V6 cracks double digits
Like the statues of Easter Island, the Toyota Kluger casts a huge shadow over the Australian motoring landscape. It's a strong seller for Toyota, having been around for ages and is one of three large SUVs in Toyota's armory next to the evergreen Prado and disappointing Fortuner.
Competition, of course, is growing ever more fierce. Hyundai is about to drop a new Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento gets better every year and more manufacturers are joining the party. Most notably, Mazda's CX-9 is also loaded with safety gear and a potent 2.5-litre turbo engine.
The intensity of the battle became apparent in my esteemed colleague Matt Campbell's recent comparison test where the Kluger came last behind the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9, thanks largely to Toyota's reluctance to fit the same advanced safety features.
They heard Matt (that's what he reckons, anyway) and recently added some important safety tech to the 2018 Kluger. Let's have a look to see if it's enough.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 generate some noise and 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?
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The 2018 Kluger is still a very solid car, with tons of room for you and your things. And your family and their things. It remains way out in front (although the new Santa Fe is lurking menacingly) and the boost in safety gear will help ensure it stays there.
The pick of the range is still the GX which is now a much stronger proposition with the extra safety features. There's little of real interest in the higher models, you can't get better headlights (a curious state of affairs) or a better stereo, so it's difficult to understand the appeal.
The Kluger will serve you and your family well in a solid and unspectacular way. Given most of us like that in our cars, it's easy to see why it's a hit.
Does the Kluger's new safety focus do enough to lure you away from the competition? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Better looks, better technology and better safety equipment make the Pathfinder well worth a second look if you're in the market for a good value 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.
The Kluger is handsome in a squared-off, what-are-you-looking-at kind of way. That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement because it's pushing two metres wide and 1.73m tall. It's not the longest in its class, though, coming in at 4.89m.
Despite it hailing from the US, it's not too blinged-up, but neither is it CX-9 pretty. Some might find the grille reminiscent of a krill-hoovering whale or Bane from Batman, but it's certainly distinctive.
The cabin is like the exterior - nothing flash, but what you see is what you get. Materials are mostly pretty good and it leans towards thoughtful and practical rather than sexy. Normally I'd say, "just like me", but I'm none of these things.
The interior dimensions of the big bruiser match its eclipse-causing exterior. No matter your size - well, within reason - you'll find plenty of space in the first or second rows. The third row features decent space for kids and very patient adults for short trips.
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.
Inside, the cabin is spacious and airy, while the dash is still busy, but now far more modern.
Seven colours on offer - Caspian Blue, Brilliant Silver, Cayenne Red, Gun Metallic (dark grey), Ivory Pearl (white), Diamond Black, and Midnight Jade (green).
The big question people ask me about the Kluger is "How many seats are in there?" - every Kluger packs seven seats, with two flip-up seats in the boot. Boot space dimensions are obviously dictated by whether they're up or down. With the seats down, you've got a decent 529 litres, leaving you with good luggage capacity and a cargo cover to keep it all hidden away. Lift the seats with the straps and you've got just 195 litres, about the same as a small hatchback.
Put the second and third rows down and Toyota says you'll have 1117 litres, but I reckon that's conservative.
The cabin is well-planned for families. Every row features cupholders - front and middle rows have a pair each, while those banished to the third row score two each, a total of eight across the car.
Back in the front row, the tectonic split in the dashboard is lined with a soft rubbery material, making it a great place to sling phones, keys and odds and ends. Between the seats is a massive 24-litre storage bin that a small grandparent could ride in. On second thoughts, that's probably not a great idea.
The Pathfinder is a big unit, and given that imposing size it's every bit as practical as you might expect.
Luggage load capacity specs might be a small 453 litres with the all seats in place, but that boot space number grows to 1354 litres with the third row of seating folded flat, and cargo capacity swells again to a massive 2260 litres with the second and third row folded down.
Towing capacity for an unbraked trailer is 750kg across the range, with braked trailer capacity jumping to a useable 2700kg for non-hybrid models, and 1650kg for the hybrids.
Elsewhere in the interior, 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 cup holder 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 like 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.
Turning radius is a not insubstantial 11.8m, so take care in the parking station.
A space saver spare tyre and repair kit are standard on all models.
Price and features
There are three models in the Kluger range and how much you pay will vary depending on your thirst for standard features. Our price list features RRP prices and are a guide only - your dealer might be convinced to reduce the cost.
The GX opens with the lowest price - $44,500 for the 2WD and $48,500 for the 4WD. Specs include six-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloys wheels (no 17-inch alloy wheels anymore), front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth, forward and reverse camera, active cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights, power windows and mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.
The GXL adds an lazy 10 grand in comparison to the GX - $54,950 (2WD) and $58,950 (AWD). The GXL adds a GPS navigation system, DAB digital radio, rear-cross traffic alert, keyless entry and start, partial leather seats, and electric tailgate with separate glass hatch.
The Grande - again, for a further 10 grand plus, is available for $65,646 (2WD) or $69,617 (AWD). You'll get the same satellite navigation as the GXL, 19-inch rims, electric sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system with 9.0-inch screen and Blu-Ray and heated and ventilated front seats.
The entertainment system is powered by a 6.1-inch touch screen in the GX and 8.0-inch in the other models, which also include satellite navigation. The software package is distinctly 2006, painfully so in the GX. The system includes AM/FM radio, CD player and USB. There's no DVD option, however.
Colours include 'Crystal Pearl' (white), silver, 'Rustic Brown' (looks better than it sounds), 'Predawn Grey', 'Rainforest Green', 'Merlot Red' (dahling), 'Deep Red', 'Cosmos Blue' and 'Eclipse Black'. All but the black are $550 extras, which is not modest but not extortionate either.
Toyota's accessories list is well-stocked, with items like nudge bar (which is remarkably well integrated), side steps, cargo barrier, roof racks (no roof rails, though) and various plastic shields, driving lights, floor mats, towbar, parking aids and blind spot monitor.
You're out of luck if you want a Toyota-branded seat belt extender or bull bar.
For comparison, the cheapest CX-9 is $700 less (than the GX), but with a higher spec level, while the fully-loaded Azami is also around $800 cheaper (than the Grande) but - again - better-equipped.
The Korean rivals, while older and slightly smaller, are significant cheaper - the Kia Sorento is priced from $42,990 to $46,990 while the Santa Fe starts at $40,990 and finishes at $57,090 (albeit not a petrol V6). All these cars are well-equipped, with more modern features and tech.
The 2017 Pathfinder range arrives in three cost and trim levels, the price list opens up with the entry-level ST, which is cheapest in front-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. There is no rear-wheel drive only option.
The range them climbs to the mid-spec ST-L, which is $53,690 in 2WD configuration, $57,690 for the 4x4, and $60,690 as hybrid-powered 4WD.
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 are extra standard features 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 sound system with six speakers, radio and CD player. 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.
Step up to the ST-L trim and you'll add a panoramic sunroof, fog lights, heated wing mirrors, GPS 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.
But forget pairing your iPhone for Apple CarPlay or Android device for Android Auto, neither function is available on the Pathfinder.
Engine & trans
Across the range, Kluger buyers are treated to the same engine specifications - a 3.5-litre V6 petrol. The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner.
As to whether the V6 features a timing belt or chain, it's the latter. The engine uses standard (OW-30) oil and 0-100km/h acceleration times are around nine seconds.
Towing capacity is the same for each model, coming in at 700kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked. We haven't yet carried out a towing review.
Two engine size options in the Pathfinder range, a V6 petrol and an electric motor-equipped hybrid. There is no possible petrol vs diesel debate here, mostly because this car is taken from Nissan's American fleet - a place where oil-burners are about as popular as gun control.
In terms of engine specs, the 3.5-litre V6 is a perky unit, generating 202kW/340Nm and offering a smooth and broad power delivery missing from smaller capacity engines.
It's paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic (no manual transmission option), 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.
Rather than a timing belt, Nissan uses a chain on both engines for optimum durability.
Speaking of which, earlier, Spanish-built cars (pre-2009) did suffer problems, with complaints focusing on build quality and diesel engine oil leak issues. Other common faults related to clutch and brake wear, but later Thailand-built vehicles (including this one), have a deservedly higher quality reputation.
For its engine size and overall weight, fuel economy is always going to be marginal and continues to be the Kluger's weak spot. For the front-wheel drive, Toyota claims 9.lL/100km on the combined cycle. The heavier 4x4 version recorded an official combined fuel consumption figure of 9.5L/100km.
These mileage figures would be a stretch - in a week of gentle suburban running around in a GX AWD, we copped a figure of 13.7L/100km.
The fuel tank capacity is a handy 72 litres, meaning a decent run between fills, especially when you're out on the open road.
Obviously, without a diesel engine, there are no diesel fuel consumption figures.
When it comes to fuel consumption, this new Pathfinder is more fuel efficient than the outgoing model, but it's still not a particularly pretty picture in terms of the amount of gas consumed.
Of the V6 Nissan Pathfinder models, the 2WD versions deliver the best fuel economy, 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.
Fuel tank capacity is 73 litres for the V6 and Hybrid.
You never really forget that the Kluger is a big unit. Ground clearance is a not-inconsiderable 200mm and the turning circle a fairly lazy 11.8 metres. People don't seem to mind that it feels big, and is one of the few in the segment that I feel like I'm climbing up into with my 183cm (six-foot) frame rather than stepping in.
From behind the wheel you can practically see the curvature of the Earth you sit so high. Fire up the near-silent V6 and you're struck by how incredibly smooth it is. Also smooth is the ride - the long travel suspension is probably exactly the same as it is for our American cousins vs, say, Hyundai's habit of setting up its cars for Australia.
Everything is soft and squidgy but in a reassuring way, even the warning beeps aren't too shrill or irritating. The steering is light and with the occasional moment of vagueness but again, it's all very predictable. The brakes, though a bit spongy at the top of the pedal, are more than up to the task of washing off speed in the unlikely event you've overcooked things.
The engine continues unchanged. There's enough horsepower to get you going and hold a decent clip, it will keep you out of trouble and do what Toyotas generally do - look after you. Performance is hardly the key point of the Kluger - it weighs in at a fairly unapologetic 2005kg in AWD form - but, as I say, there's ample power to keep you moving.
We're yet to perform an exhaustive off-road review, but our experience is that the Kluger has reasonable off road ability.
Not an off-road review this time around. Our test route didn't threaten this beast's healthy ground clearance or wading depth, and 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.
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. In straight line performance it's not going to threaten 0-100km/h acceleration records, and its dynamics are still a touch off the pace in comparison to the segment leaders, but it's now a comfortable and confident way to guide yourself cross-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 and an easy cruising speed that's available right across the rev range - a naturally aspirated joy that's something of a rarity these days.
The Kluger arrives from the US with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and rear parking sensors.
The 2018 Kluger is really about the battery of new safety features in the lower models. Added to the GX and GXL are pre-collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning, active cruise and auto high beam. GXLs also pick up a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. As you can imagine, the Grande has the lot.
There are three top-tether anchors for the middle row as well as two ISOFIX points.
As before, the ANCAP safety rating stands at a maximum five stars, awarded in November 2016.
Every Pathfinder arrives with a host of safety features including a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, reverse camera ('Around View' on Ti, but no park assist) 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.
There are three restraint anchorage points for child seats across the middle row seats , and one on the right-hand side of the thrid row. The two outer centre row seats positions are ISOFIX equipped.
The entire Pathfinder range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested following its 2013 launch.
Toyota's three year/100,000km warranty also comes with a fixed price servicing plan. It seems the Japanese company can get away with the short warranty because of the long-held reputation for reliability and few problems or faults.
I've certainly never heard complaints from Kluger owners, or Toyota owners generally for that matter. Having said that, Hyundai and Kia both smack Toyota out of the park for warranty length and in Hyundai's case, lifetime fixed price servicing.
Service costs are fixed via Toyota's 'Service Advantage' pricing. For the Kluger you'll pay $180 per service for the first 36 months or 60,000km. You'll have to visit the dealer every six months or 10,000km for the stamp in your owners manual, which is always good for resale value.
Few owners report any genuine issues, such as engine problems or tranmission problems.
Every Pathfinder is covered by a three year/100,000km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist offered throughout. Nissan Australia doesn't offer an extended warranty option.
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 'myNissan' menu-based service cost program, effectively a capped price servicing arrangement, with owners able to see what is required at each service ahead of their visit to the service centre.