2018 Nissan Pathfinder Ti
(4 / 5)
When the Pathfinder went from being a Navara with a boot to a large crossover, there were plenty of people who were very apprehensive. Rightfully so, too, because it lost its go-anywhere tag, and became just another large crossover.
No low-range, no long-travel suspension, no diesel engine. Putting it bluntly, it was a bloated X-Trail. While the Pathfinder no longer appealed to people who wanted a Nissan-built alternative to the Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner and Isuzu MUX, it definitely appealed to families.
Plenty of families don’t use their SUVs for anything more than being a high-riding people mover, and with seven seats and lots of space, the latest Pathfinder certainly has that role covered. Others will head to the beach or up into the hills where they need the surety of all wheel drive. Again, the Pathfinder sorts that need out.
So sure, there will be some who view it as just another Americanised SUV, but for those that dig a little deeper, they’ll find a lot of practicality and a decent drive experience with solid build quality.
Yes, it’s not as pretty as the Nissan Qashqai, which in this humble writer’s opinion is one of the best looking SUVs on sale. But it has the Nissan face, which is no bad thing.
The U-shaped grille sits proudly up front – there’s a lot of chrome here – and the radar-based cruise control sensor is cleverly integrated into the front end.
The sides have a flowing wave that runs from the front to the rear wheel arch, and with its large wheels, it’s quite a cohesive package. That said, it’s a lot better in the metal than in photos.
Open the front door and it looks like anything else in the Nissan family. That means a charcoal grey dashboard with minimal metallic accents, circular airvents on the outside, and the infotainment control pad with buttons surrounding a circular centre.
One issue becomes clear, but only after you search for the trip meter buttons – they’re completely hidden from your line of sight by the steering wheel. Other than that, the ergonomics are pretty good.
With electrically adjustable seats, and height-and-reach adjust on the steering, the Pathfinder is easy to set to just about any driving position.
The seats are finished in a soft leather, with excellent padding, but the shaping is a little flat, however that will suit all shapes and sizes.
The rear seats are finished the same way, with beautiful foams, and nice hide and stitching, but it’s the practicality which really sets the Pathfinder apart from other seven seaters.
Some SUVs expect that you’ll only flip down the second row and you have to climb up and over the folded backrest to get into the third row. With others you have to squeeze behind the angled backrest while the seat has slid forward.
In the Pathfinder, you can actually unlatch the seat base, flip the backrest forward and slide the whole lot right up to the front seat, making entry and exit for third row passengers quite easy.
The other advantage is that the third row is suitable for adults, which is not something you can say for many vehicles in this segment.
Engine and transmission
Under the bonnet is Nissan’s venerable 3.5-litre V6 petrol motor, which is matched to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine is smooth, quiet and powerful, but in a vehicle of this size you’d expect that it will be burning the dino-juice quicker than a Lamborghini.
Instead, thanks to the CVT’s smarts, the engine is kept in its torque band whenever it needs to move briskly, but then drops the revs as soon as it’s time to be more relaxed. By doing this it saves fuel – well, as much as it can when you have a near 2.1-tonne SUV.
At 202kW and 340Nm, it doesn’t have the biggest figures, but it’s quick enough when you get up it, and it returns 10.1L/100km, which isn’t too bad. Of course, that’s the combined ADR tested fuel use, and our week of running around was in the twelves.
Steering and suspension
On the road, the Pathfinder is more impressive than it looks. While you may think it’s a big and bulky machine (which it is), it handles like something a lot smaller. Of course, there’s only so far you can push it, but it’s impressive in its handling, and for something that it predominantly front wheel drive (which sends power to the rear when needed), it feels stable and doesn’t have too much torque steer.
What’s even more impressive is the ride. It does feel a little firm initially, but there’s more compliance layered in so that only really tiny surface changes are felt – probably due to the big wheels – and beyond that it’s a controlled ride that feels quite nice.
The steering is also very nicely weighted, with enough heft to feel natural, but not so heavy that it’s difficult to park.
It strikes a good balance between being involving without being too wearing.
Nissan has equipped the Pathfinder with enough safety tech, too. There’s an audible warning if it thinks you’re going to crash into the car in front, lane departure warning, heaps of airbags, hill descent control, stability control and traction control.
ANCAP lists the Pathfinder as a five star rated car, but it’s worth noting that the test was done back in 2013 and it still applies to current models. However, the ANCAP standards have been revised recently, so it’s possible that the Pathfinder would now be rated somewhat differently.
Here’s the deal
For a family of seven people, the Pathfinder is a great choice. It’s easy to dismiss it as too bulbous and not tough enough for the active family set, but to view it like that would be to miss out on its strengths.
It drives well, is spacious, comfortable, built properly and does exactly what it sets out to do with minimal fuss. And for a large family, you can’t ask more than that.