The 4x4 SUV market in South Africa is huge and the Nissan Pathfinder is a well-known contender. With the market-leading Fortuner still carrying the “best-selling privately-owned vehicle in SA” badge and the recent addition of Chevrolet Trailblazer, this category is a lucrative one for manufacturers.
Nissan Pathfinder review by John BealeThe Nissan Pathfinder is no stranger here, and was updated a few months ago with this “entry-level” contender. It offers a 2,5litre turbodiesel unit that wrenches out an astonishing 140kW and 450NM, which trumps the Fortuner, and matches that of the Trailblazer. The shape hasn’t changed much, however small tweaks to the interior specification has brought the price in at R470 000, competing head on against the Fortuner 3,0 D-4D 4x4 AT (R476 700) and Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8 LTZ 4x4 AT (R476 600).
PerformanceI was very surprised at how much power was on offer from the engine. For a 2.5litre it competes well here. It felt a lot quicker than the figures (0-100km in 11seconds) suggested, and there’s more than enough torque at relatively low revs to cope with the class-leading 3-ton tow rating. There’s a lot of initial shove at low speeds, I even got some tyre chirp on a few pull offs, but once moving you can feel the slip from the clutch as you accelerate, so small inputs from the throttle can keep the Pathfinder plodding along in typical lazy SUV style. The 5-speed automatic gearbox does the job of making sure shifts are smooth and works well. It allows for manual shifting, but I find leaving the box in automatic is where it’s the happiest. Brakes have slight squish to them but work well and are assisted with ABS, EBD and EBA.
The ride and handlingThe ladder-frame chassis is carried over from generations of Nissan SUVs. It allows for a lot more towing capacity, but does very little for the ride. The usual side-shuffle and waddle that is so familiar with this frame is evident in the Pathfinder. That said, it isn’t uncomfortable at all. In fact, the Nissan Pathfinder is probably the most comfortable of the trio, as you rarely feel bumps in the road. It is a fairly easy ride in town, requiring very little effort in steering or throttle inputs. A slight lack in refinement is noticed when you start the car on cold mornings, as the engine is quite rough, but eventually quiets down. Another nicety would be the standard addition of park distance control, or reverse camera, as it is a large vehicle to park.
Inside the Nissan PathfinderThe interior is typically Nissan, with a lot of hard-touch grey plastics, and orange and white lighting on all dials. Here the Toyota and Chevrolet are a lot better specced and refined. The Nissan boasts nothing that wouldn’t be right at home in a car in 1998. There’s nothing here you don’t need, and it’s fairly bare-bones, with cloth seating (notably wide seats for larger occupants) for 5, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth/Aux/6Disc CD sound system, steering wheel controls and individual control for rear climate control. Two cupholders, and quite a few hidey spaces do the Pathfinder justice - this is a large vehicle, so there’s a lot of space.
This is where the Nissan Pathfinder again trumps the competition, with enough space to park a motorcycle or jetski IN the vehicle. As this model doesn’t feature the last row of seating for 7, the luggage space is carnivorous. It’s wide, flat and square and easily folding rear seats and passenger front seat means you can put items nearly 2.5metres in length through the vehicle with ease. The large tailgate has a split function, and spare wheel is situated under the vehicle.
Taking the Nissan Pathfinder off-roadOff-road credentials are key here, and the Nissan Pathfinder is equally capable as its rivals. Short overhangs in the front are a plus, but the familiar running boards are a hindrance on break-over angle off-road. Shift-on-the-fly knob on behind the gearlever allows you to switch between Auto (which will automatically engage 2 or 4-wheel drive), manual 2-wheel drive selection and full time 4-wheel high and low range. Low range initiates the centre differential.
Nissan, like the Trailblazer doesn’t feature a locking rear or front differential (Which might put off hardcore offroad enthusiasts) but rather makes use of a system called ABLS, which detects slip and locks up that wheel using the brakes to move the power to other wheels. I didn’t get to try this for an extended period of time, but the reliability of these systems over the long term as brakes can get overheated, is my only concern.