7.9/10Score

Score breakdown

8.0

Safety, value and features

8.5

Comfort and space

7.0

Engine and gearbox

7.5

Ride and handling

8.5

Technology

Things we like

  • Generous space including third row
  • Excellent ride
  • Impressive standard safety features

Not so much

  • Slightly disappointing auto
  • No wireless Android Auto
  • V6 getting left behind by turbo rivals

7.9/10Score

Score breakdown

8.0

Safety, value and features

8.5

Comfort and space

7.0

Engine and gearbox

7.5

Ride and handling

8.5

Technology

Things we like

  • Generous space including third row
  • Excellent ride
  • Impressive standard safety features

Not so much

  • Slightly disappointing auto
  • No wireless Android Auto
  • V6 getting left behind by turbo rivals

If Costco sold vehicles, its warehouse racking would be stacked to the purlins with cars like the Nissan Pathfinder. In recent years, the large SUV has stood as a monument to the fact that sometimes quantity is the most important factor in choosing a new car, with cost a close second.

But it hasn’t always been that way. When it was introduced in 1985, the Pathfinder was a relatively capable two-door off-roader with body-on-frame construction and design by the same guy who penned the 1968 Pontiac GTO.

As it evolved, however, the Pathfinder slid further in a conservative direction, becoming a price-led ‘soft-roader’ with families as its majority audience.

For the fifth-generation model though, Nissan wants to rekindle some of that original sense of adventure and a Pathfinder that can stand out from the large affordable SUV crowd rather than disappear into it.

JUMP AHEAD

  • How much is it, and what do you get?
  • How do rivals compare on value?
  • Interior comfort, space and storage
  • What is it like to drive?
  • How is it on fuel?
  • How safe is it?
  • Warranty and running costs
  • VERDICT
  • Specifications

How much is it, and what do you get?

The fifth-generation Pathfinder kicks off from $54,190 for the entry two-wheel drive ST, but as Nissan is pitching its new model as a more capable and adventurous iteration, we’re focusing here on the $70,030 high-spec Ti in all-wheel drive form (both prices before on-road costs).

There’s only one variant above it with the Ti-L at $80,227 before on-road costs. Regardless of which version you might be interested in, each Pathfinder has the same driveline combination with a carry-over 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine.

The big powertrain news is a switch to a more traditional nine-speed automatic transmission which replaces the polarising CVT of the previous generation.

Even at entry level, the Pathfinder is impressively equipped, all versions treated to auto LED headlights, keyless entry and start, heated front seats, electric park brake, a comprehensive suite of safety and driver assistance systems, tri-zone air conditioning, a 10.8-inch head-up display, 9.0-inch central touchscreen and a further 7.0-inch digital display positioned between the driver’s dials. Opt for the Ti-L and Nissan will turn this into a full 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

There’s also a whopping 12 cup holders plus six door bottle holders and seven seats for the top-spec Ti-L while all others get places for eight occupants.

Step up to the AWD-only ST-L ($61,790 before on-road costs), however, and the Pathfinder gains ProPilot driver assistance system that Nissan describes as ‘semi-autonomous’, Mud and Sand driving modes take the total to seven (along with hill-descent control), the steering wheel is leather-wrapped, parking sensors are added to the front end and Nissan throws in a power tailgate and remote engine start along with LED fog lights.

The Ti (available with front- or all-wheel drive) gets all that plus heated rear seats, part-leather upholstery, wireless device charging and wireless Apple CarPlay (although you’ll need to plug in for Android Auto), a 13-speaker stereo courtesy of Bose, and sunshades for the second-row seats.

Finally, another fifth-generation model enhancement has revised the Pathfinder’s platform and underpinnings, which has increased the maximum braked towing capacity to a respectable 2700kg for all versions.

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How do rivals compare on value?

The affordable large SUV segment is a fearsome and unforgiving battleground and pricing is paramount with key rivals from Kia, Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota and Ford all offering something in the class for the same price.

Kia’s Sorento can be had with a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid power and is a top-quality package of refinement and kit. Its pricing aligns closely with the Pathfinder upwards of the mid-range variants.

It’s the same case with the Mazda CX-9, although it’s only available with the excellent turbo 2.5-litre petrol across the board.

Like the Pathfinder, the venerable Kluger competes with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol with no turbo (although that is about to change) but there’s also a four-cylinder hybrid in the range too, while Ford’s recently arrived Everest offers a choice of turbo four-cylinder or turbo V6 diesels along with its tech-packed and modern cabin.

However, it’s only the Hyundai Palisade that can compete with the Pathfinder’s eight-seat configuration that is standard for all but the flagship Ti-L.

It gets a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row while the third row remains a three-seater bench.

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Interior comfort, space and storage

The Pathfinder’s cabin is tangibly vast with interior space growing over the fourth-gen model despite an overall length reduction of 38mm. A transmission tunnel is noticeably absent, boosting leg room for rear passengers, while rear doors that open to nearly 90 degrees make getting in and out a breeze.

Simplicity of access also applies to the third row thanks to the ‘Ez Flex’ system which allows the middle seat to be tilted and rolled forward with the touch of a button.

It is a clever solution that means third-row occupants no longer feel like prisoners until someone releases them.

Yes, the third row does offer three seats but that would only really apply to very small people. That said, there is a surprising amount of room for two adults out back. Adding to the impressive comfort levels are roof-mounted vents, a USB charger and two cup holders per side.

2023 Nissan Pathfinder boot space

There’s also masses of storage volume depending on the seat configuration. Capacity (VDA) is listed at 205 litres with all three rows in place, 554L with the third row folded, and a massive 2280L with only the front seats in place.

An underfloor boot storage box boosts the storage options while the entire cabin is dotted with neat stowage options such as a little shelf in front of the front passenger and a flying centre console with yet more storage found underneath.

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What is it like to drive?

With a somewhat conventional engine under its bonnet, the Pathfinder’s 202kW and 340Nm can be best described as adequate for this 2.0-tonne SUV. Without diesel or turbo-petrol torque, the 3.5-litre V6 needs to be revved to get the most meaningful performance, at which point the increased fuel consumption will likely give your bank balance a battering when you come to fill the 71-litre tank.

The good news is that even though the engine remains only slightly evolved, the transmission bolted to it is a significant upgrade. Gone is the simple and cost-effective continuously variable transmission (CVT) and in its place is a more sophisticated nine-speed torque converter auto.

While the new unit is doubtless an improvement over the droning and uninspiring CVT, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations, which is a little disappointing – especially as it’s supplied by auto authority ZF.

Gear changes are very smooth and torque efficiency feels equally as good but there’s something about the calibration that feels just a little half-baked. When more performance is required, the accelerator needs an unreasonably aggressive prod to prompt a kick-down, while regular shifting up and down through the ratios seems a little lazy at times.

Either way, however, it’s still an improvement over the previous model and you can pick gears manually with the paddle shifters.

As for the rest of the driving package, the Pathfinder feels neat and tidy on the road with enough steering involvement to partially conceal its weight and large SUV status, while the ride is another step up in Pathfinder evolution.

Road noise levels are generally low for occupants in the first and second rows while comfort is improved over the previous model despite rolling on up to 20-inch wheels. Our pick is the 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to the ST-L, which gets surprisingly good Kumho Crugen HP71 rubber and boosts the ride quality even further still.

Should you find yourself away from the beaten track, the Pathfinder has a particularly good nature on unsealed surfaces and a few kilometres navigating damp gravel brought its capable manners to the surface.

As part of Nissan’s bid to infuse the Pathfinder with a more adventurous spirit, seven modes are offered by the Drive and Terrain system. With the dial rotated round to Mud and Ruts, the traction and stability levels on potentially scary surfaces were admirable.

We would have loved to sample the Pathfinder’s true off-road ability but I guess that’ll have to wait for another day. It’s worth noting to families that do want to stray away from the beaten trail that the Pathfinder has a space-saver spare wheel and not a full-size item most favoured by adventure seekers.

We did, however, get a chance to test the towing capability with a jet ski weighing close to the 750kg un-braked limit hooked up. While acceleration and braking performance is notably impacted, it’s clear the new Pathfinder has been engineered to tow and won’t break a sweat under the pressures of light hauling duties.

Quite how the atmo V6 would cope with the increased braked towing rate of 2700kg will also have to wait for more organised testing.

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How is it on fuel?

It wasn’t possible to run our own fuel use calculations during an action-packed local launch program but we certainly will once the new Pathfinder is on the Wheels test fleet in the near future.

Before that though, the claimed combined-cycle fuel economy figure makes for interesting reading. Nissan reports 10.0 litres per 100km for two-wheel-drive versions and 10.5L/100km for the all-wheel drives.

With the addition of a new nine-speed auto and revised V6, it would be fair to expect the fuel efficiency to have improved, but the previous model Pathfinder had a claimed figure of 9.9L/100km and 10.1L/100km respectively.

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How safe is it?

All versions of the Pathfinder are equipped with a generous level of safety equipment including forward collision warning and auto emergency braking which works with pedestrians and cyclists, driver attention monitoring, blind-spot monitoring and assistance, lane departure warning and assistance, rear cross-traffic alert and braking, cruise control, speed limit recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.

Step up from the entry ST and Nissan will throw in an additional layer of protection with the ProPilot system, which offers adaptive cruise control with steering assistance.

Curtain airbags protect occupants in all three rows of seating, while seat side airbags are provided for the first and second rows along with a centre airbag between the front two seats.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded the new Pathfinder with a maximum rating of five stars.

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Warranty and running costs

Like all new Nissans, the 2023 Pathfinder is offered with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty along with roadside assistance for the same period.

All Nissans registered from the 1st of January 2018 are eligible for capped-price servicing, which limits the maximum price paid for routine servicing and maintenance for the first six planned visits.

Customers can also buy a pre-paid maintenance plan which covers the first three, four or five scheduled services with a single payment.

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VERDICT

While Nissan’s Pathfinder used to be one of the most cost-effective ways into large SUV life, the latest evolution is creeping north in pricing, especially at the pointier end of the line-up. Yes, there’s still the sub-$55K ST but with front-wheel drive and the least kit, Nissan says this is the variant very much targeting fleets.

It’s at the relatively premium end of the spectrum and the $70K Ti that Nissan expects the volume to exist, at least initially.

However, with the increase in pricing, the fifth-gen model does come with some notable enhancements to quality, technology and comfort. On the outside, the Pathfinder is looking like a tough all-terrain SUV and not the slightly daggy budget bus it once was, while a sea of screens lifts the comprehensively improved interior.

Coupled with a third row you genuinely can slot two adults into and clever practical touches throughout, and the venerable Pathfinder is a welcome return for the Nissan family. And quite possibly yours.

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Model Nissan Pathfinder Ti 4WD
Engine 3498cc V6, dohc, 24v petrol
Max power 202kW @ 6400rpm
Max torque 340Nm @ 4800rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Economy 10.5L/100km (claimed)
Weight 2040kg
L/W/H/W-B 5004/1978/1802/2900mm
0-100km/h 9.5sec (estimated)
Price from $70,030 + on-road costs
On sale now

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