Car reviews - Nissan - Pathfinder - Ti Hybrid 4WD
Ride and seat comfort, cabin refinement, features list, rear seat amenities, useful third row, better road manners
Room for improvement
Front seats a little flat, radar cruise control needs more smarts, no speed readout on centre display, dash and wheel controls a little odd
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2 Nov 2017
NISSAN’S Pathfinder has come a long way from its time sharing much with its Navara ute sibling. Gone is much of the off-road and towing ability, replaced by a smooth – in this case petrol-electric hybrid – drivetrain, refinement within the cabin and a features list that bears further inspection.
The first incarnations of the US-sourced model felt underdone in the chassis and didn’t startle the statisticians with remarkable sales (well down on its key rivals) but the update has been to charm school and left with an added element – control.
So far this year, its sales have not reflected the improvement in the vehicle, which is something of an injustice.
Price and equipment
Pricing for the updated hybrid Nissan Pathfinder Ti Hybrid flagship is unchanged at $69,190 plus on-road costs, which undercuts the main rival – Toyota’s Kluger – but asks more than the new yardstick for the segment, Mazda’s CX-9.
The Nissan is a more conservative looker but the US-built beast leaves no doubt as to what it’s all about – space and gear.
The lofty pricetag brings with it a long list of standard features. It sits on 20-inch alloy wheels with 235/55 tyres, with handsfree access to the rear cargo area by way of a powered tailgate, although its glacial pace is a little frustrating.
The exterior mirrors offer a decent view and have power-folding, reversing dip and heating.
Infotainment is controlled by an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen that displays satellite navigation with real-time traffic information, as well as producing a first-rate noise from the 13-speaker Bose sound system.
There’s no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto or digital radio reception, but the system can be fed by Bluetooth phone and audio link, as well as a USB input, one of three in the cabin.
There are also foglights, LED headlights and daytime running lights, heated and cooled front seats that are power-adjustable, leather trim, three-zone climate control and the leather-wrapped steering wheel that is electrically-adjustable for reach and rake.
Rear passengers get dual entertainment screens embedded in the front headrests (pipping the Kluger’s single screen that almost obliterates any view through the centre rearview mirror), which run wireless headphones and a remote control.
Each screen can run independently and can take input from HDMI, USB or auxiliary inputs in the rear console, which also has the headphone volume controls and the rear temperature control.
It’s one of the better set-ups to keep rugrats quiet on a long drive.
Quiet refinement (helped by active noise control) is a Pathfinder trait, as is cabin space that’s plentiful within the big SUV and while it’s not the most modern or stylish layout, most functions are easy enough to complete.
Given it measures 5042mm long, 1960mm wide with a 2900mm wheelbase, it would be of concern if it was short on interior room, but US models have managed the reverse-Tardis effect before.
The centre stack is busy and takes some familiarity to do much when on the move quickly – climate control and basic sound system functions are easy enough but some of the menus within the touchscreen can be a little convoluted.
The driver’s controls on the steering wheel also take a little time with which to become accustomed, in particular the centre screen controller where a speed readout function wouldn’t go astray.
A little more versatility within the transmission would be handy as well, with Drive or Low the only choices and no manual change, paddle shift or otherwise.
The retention of a foot-operated park brake – which isn’t ideal in a crash scenario and never seem to work properly (this is not just a Nissan trait) – is difficult to fathom when electric park brakes are so commonplace.
Rear occupants are well catered for in terms of legroom, while headroom is a little more at a premium with the sunroof set-up, but it’s by no means the most intrusive glass-roof set-up on the market.
The middle row backrest is adjustable and the base slides fore and aft to take advantage of the legroom, giving the third-row occupants decent leg and foot room – adults can manage back there for short trips – at least there are vents and cupholders for them, four of a total of ten cupholders, six bottle holders and four 12-volt power outlets, with one of the latter in the rear cargo bay.
Third-row access is by way of the clever Nissan system that brings the middle row up and forward in one move, which gives decent access to the back row.
Sadly it shows its US DNA by having the single-seat split on the road-side rather than the kerbside, but the system itself works well, with Isofix and tether points in the second row and one tether point in the third row.
Cargo space with all three rows in use is good for a seven-seater SUV, claiming 453 litres, rising to 1354 litres when seating five.
When the two rear rows are folded there’s 2260 litres of space on offer, with an under-floor storage compartment behind the third row of seats to add some extra storage, although much of that is taken up by sound system components.
Engine and transmission
The hybrid drivetrain adds 100kg to the Pathfinder’s weight as well as having an output deficit compared to the lighter 202kW/340Nm petrol V6 engined model, so it’s not by any stretch a green street sleeper.
The small supercharged 2.5-litre double overhead cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine claims a combined power figure of 188kW (including 15kW from the electric motor) and a torque figure of 330Nm.
That’s also assisted by the electric side of the equation – involving a 144-volt lithium-ion battery helped with charging by regenerative braking function – although by how much is unclear.
It does operate smoothly and quietly under part load, sliding across the ratio range of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and making the most of the torque, but moderate throttle pressure will send the revs soaring.
It’s not without result but things get a bit noisy and uncivilised and it all needs to work a little harder than the petrol V6 model.
It’s not a hybrid system that can do much without petrol engine involvement and that is magnified if towing is part of your purchasing parameters. The V6 claims a 2700kg braked towing capacity while the hybrid drops to 1650kg both rate 750kg for an unbraked trailer.
The hybrid claims a 1.4 litre per 100km advantage when sipping from the 73-litre fuel tank – which only needs 91RON ULP says Nissan – over the petrol V6’s 10.1L/100km combined cycle claim, but our time in the hybrid had the trip computer showing that number for the 2170kg hybrid.
Granted, it had been driven as enthusiastically as its SUV chassis would sensibly allow, as well as plenty of suburban work. More demure throttle use might make a better result in terms of frugal real world figures.
Ride and handling
The model update has made some strides in the area of road manners, which was something of a bugbear in the old model.
Its US heritage didn’t bode well for such things when the new model came to Australia, with body and damping control among the areas in which the new-look Pathfinder needed attention.
Running struts up the front and a multi-link rear, with anti-roll bars at both ends, the big Nissan feels as though it’s more connected to the road beneath it.
Both unsealed and sealed surface behaviour has improved, with the former still showing up the bias toward the front wheels for drive, but not to the extent of being difficult to get from A to B at good pace.
On the blacktop, which is where this vehicle is designed and destined to spend most of its time, the more connected feel to the chassis is even more apparent.
Ride comfort is still good – even if it is firmer – but there’s less of the wallow and pitch that some US-sourced cars resort to in order to get some semblance of ride comfort.
Nissan says the model update has 11 per cent stiffer front and seven per cent stiffer rear suspension, with the speed-sensitive electric power steering claiming better response.
As other brands have shown, body control, a decent ride and handling can be achieved with damping control and the Nissan has made strides in the right direction on that front.
A segment leader it isn’t, but it’s closer to the front of the field than it has previously been.
Safety and servicing
When it was last tested in 2013 the Pathfinder scored five stars and the top-spec Ti has no shortage of safety features for some peace of mind.
Among the highlights is what Nissan calls Moving Object Detection to detect movement around the vehicle when reversing or moving slowly forward and is part of the 360-degree camera system.
Among the other safety features are rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors (but none on the nose), stability control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, tyre pressure monitoring, a passive blind spot warning and six airbags, but no rain sensing wipers.
It also features an auto-dimming centre mirror, auto-locking and radar cruise control, although the system will not hold a set speed down even a slight descent unless it has a car in front to slow it down.
Instead of using the system to apply some engine braking (not that there’s much of that with the CVT) or the brakes, it runs away with only a small flashing symbol on the centre display. A quick recipe for a speeding fine, particularly in Victoria.
Nissan’s factory warranty runs to three years or 100,000km (whatever comes first) and includes a 24-hour roadside assistance program, but the hybrid has a service interval of every six months or 7000km (whichever occurs first) – such a short service interval is bordering on ludicrous and the prices range from $272 to $451 for the regular maintenance services.
If you’re not prepared to buy the people-mover that would best suit your needs and it seems many are not, this is the type of the SUV that’s a viable alternative.
Not built for anything more than A-grade dirt roads or snow-covered chalet avenues, the Pathfinder has the refinement, features list and space to cart a brood in comfort, with a pricetag to make it worth considering.
It’s not likely to topple the Mazda CX-9 from its current perch at the top of this class, but it’s probably a better machine than its lacklustre sales suggest.
Mazda CX-9 Azami, from $64,790 plus on-road costs
One of the newest additions to the ranks, the big Mazda is longer and wider than the Nissan and gets a flexible interior, digital radio reception, pedestrian detection functionality within its automatic braking system and road manners that allow its 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbo-four powerplant to be exploited.
Toyota Kluger Grande, from $69,617 plus on-road costs
The segment leader in many respects for more years than the others would care to remember, the big aggressive US-sourced Kluger has a driver’s knee airbag and digital radio reception among its highlights, but misses out on LED headlights (it does get auto high beam), although the 218kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6 can – even with a new eight speed auto – get thirsty if its 2100kg kerb weight is being moved in a hurry.
Kia Sorento GT-Line, from $58,490 plus on-road costs
Recently facelifted, the Sorento is one of the Korean brand’s best. It has digital radio reception and is also endowed with Apple CarPlay et al as one of the features not present in the others here. Lower fuel use from its 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, which claims frugal fuel economy figures while producing 147kW and 441Nm, it too has an eight-speed auto as well as class-leading seven-year warranty and servicing schedules.
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