The ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of minivans deserves more respect
As the most overlooked minivan on the market, the Nissan Quest could be jokingly referred to as the ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of minivans – it just doesn’t get much respect. Nissan Canada sold less than 500 Quests in 2000, a small fraction of the 87,000 Caravans and Grand Caravans sold by Chrysler, or even the 11,000 Sienna minivans sold by Toyota and the 13,500 Odyssey’s sold by Honda.
The Quest’s lack of popularity is a mystery when you consider that there’s nothing really wrong with it. I mean, it’s not ugly, underpowered, too small, or too expensive. It’s a roomy, comfortable seven passenger minivan with flexible seating, four doors, and a powerful 3.3 litre V6 engine.
Its anonymity probably results from its ties to its sister-van, the Mercury Villager. The Quest and Villager were first introduced in 1992, the result of a joint Nissan/Ford project. Both vans are built in the same Ford plant in Avon Lake, Ohio. For many years, the Villager was the more popular of the two vans – then suddenly in 1998, the Villager was withdrawn from the Canadian market and a decision was made to cease production of the Villager at some point in the future. Some publications reported that the Quest would be discontinued too, but Nissan has stated publicly that a new Quest will arrive after the current Ford/Nissan arrangement ceases. Still, I suspect the damage was done.
Redesigned in 1999, updated in 2001
The Quest was completely redesigned in 1999 – the original 3.0 litre V6 was replaced by a more powerful 170 horsepower 3.3 litre V6 engine, and the body was lengthened. The original Quest was about the size of a Dodge Caravan, but the 1999 Quest grew to about the same length as a Toyota Sienna, but not as long as a Grand Caravan.
For 2001, the Quest receives some performance and comfort upgrades, including freshened exterior styling, suspension changes, and new safety and entertainment features.
Prices are up slightly: the base price for the Quest GXE has risen from $30,498 to $30,698, and the base price of the SE has gone from $33,498 to $35,198 primarily due to increased standard equipment.
Changes for 2001
Though the bodystyle is basically the same as the 1999 model, the 2001 Quest has a ‘freshened’ front-end with a body-coloured grille replacing the previous chrome grille and new headlight, taillight and rear bumper designs.
Inside, there are new ‘titanium’ coloured gauges that are easier to see, steering wheel-mounted cruise control buttons, upgraded cloth seat fabric, a new message centre with outside temperature gauge, and deeper 32 oz. cupholders. Also, models with leather seats now have front seat heaters (a great idea).
New safety features include a new LATCH system (Lower Anchor and Tether for Children) for child seats, and front seat belt pre-tensioners with load limiters.
A new, optional Family Entertainment System features a ceiling-mounted 6.4 inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, a VHS player between the front seats that is video-game compatible, and second row controls. The system enables front passengers to listen to the radio, while second row passengers (using headphones) can play video games or listen to the stereo.
Mechanical upgrades to the 2001 Quest GXE include a new standard rear stabilizer bar and new 16 inch tires and alloy wheels. 2001 SE models get new-design 16 inch alloy wheels and a new ‘handling’ package which includes larger front and rear stabilizer bars, reinforced front strut towers, and Monroe’s acceleration-sensitive strut valving, a concept borrowed from the 2001 Altima SE.
Also, the 2001 Quest uses new materials in the brake pads to reduce noise, and there’s a 14 percent improvement in braking force.
As before, all Quest’s have a 170 horsepower 3.3 litre SOHC V6 engine and a standard 4-speed automatic transmission. All Quests include standard front disc/rear drum brakes with a 4-wheel anti-lock braking system, power rack and pinion steering, dual sliding doors, roof rack, and 7-passenger seating (2/2/3).
The Quest retains its unique, sliding third-row bench seat. With the second row bench seat removed from the van, the third row seat can slide all the way to the back of the front seats where it can flip-and-fold. This allows the Quest to carry plenty of cargo, and permits ‘limousine-style’ seating with the second row seat removed, and the third-row seat positioned at the rear.
Another unique Quest features is its optional height-adjustable rear parcel shelf with three possible positions. The shelf will hold up to 14 kg (30 lb.), and allows two levels of storage in the rear cargo area.
As a family vehicle, the Quest offers a high level of standard safety equipment, including dual “second generation” front airbags, front knee bolsters, child safety rear door locks, 3 point outboard belts in the rear seats, front crumple zones, and side-impact beams. Side airbags are not offered, though.
In November of 2000, the 2001 Nissan Quest received a 5-star rating in the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 35 mph frontal crash tests. This is the best rating there is in this category.
A new Child Seat option package includes a second row bench seat with integrated child seats that can accommodate one or two children weighing 9-27 kg (20 to 60 lb.) each, integrated safety belts, machine-washable seat cushions, and fixed head restraints.
Comfortable, stylish interior
My test van was the uplevel SE model with the leather upholstery and the entertainment system. Getting into the Quest is fairly easy, as the step-in height is low. The front seats are very comfortable and feature inboard folding armrests which take the weight off your arms on long drives. The driver sits up high, and outward visibility is good.
I liked the general layout and finish of the Quest’s instrument panel, including the new ‘titanium’ gauges with bright red needles, the unusual, slanted buttons for the hazard, rear wiper/washer, and defogger to the right of the steering wheel, and the clean, flowing design of the dash cowl.
A big, rotary headlight switch to the left of the steering wheel is easy to use, and the column shifter with an on/off overdrive button on the end, is well-positioned for reach. The centre dash area offers a stereo with easy-to-see-and-use controls, but the 6-disc CD changer is located separately in the lower centre dash area. The automatic climate control below is also fairly simple to use – although I’m not a fan of its vertical-wheel fan-speed control.
There are usefully-sized storage bins in the front doors, and slide-out cupholders with ratchet-style cup grips. There’s another storage bin below that.
Between the seats is an armrest/storage bin where the video player resides – forget about using it for storage. The video player is bolted down out of site so it’s not a tempting target for thieves.
The second row buckets have outboard and inboard folding armrests and reclining seatbacks, and both seats are removeable. The right-hand, second-row Captain’s seats will moved fore and aft, but the left one will not – an oversight? The left-side second-row bucket seat has two pull-out cupholders on the side of the seat for second row passengers.
On the back of the centre console are stereo controls for radio, CD player and cassette, as well as two 12 volt power outlets, two headphone jacks, and a video input jack. The 6.4 inch colour LCD video screen folds down from the ceiling. There’s also a fan-speed control on the ceiling.
If the third row, three-passenger reclining bench seat is pushed all the way back, there is sufficient legroom for adults (with the second-row seats in place). The third row bench can slide on tracks all the way to the front seatbacks, and will flip and fold – the seat cushion pulls up and the seatback folds down. In addition, the whole seat is removeable. This gives the Quest an almost infinite number of seating arrangements, although a split folding third-row rear bench seat is not offered. For third row passengers, there are two cupholders on the left-hand shelf and one on the right.
The 2001 Quest has two, standard sliding rear doors which provide easy access to the second row seat. For access to the third row, the right-side seatback folds down and the seat slides forward. The Quest doesn’t offer power sliding rear doors, though.
To access the cargo area, there’s an easy-to-lift hatch door and a low liftover height of just two feet. My van had the adjustable parcel shelf and a cargo net – the shelf is a great idea. A separate rear liftglass is opened with a key, but there’s one problem: the liftglass handle is shallow and has a sharp edge – I got my finger pinched at least once.
On the Road
The first thing I noticed about the Quest is how quickly it accelerates from a standing start. The 3.3 litre V6 engine is very perky, and if you’re not careful, you can spin the front tires as you accelerate. It’s 3.3 litre SOHC 12 valve V6 engine develops 170 horsepower @ 4800 rpm, but more importantly it offers 200 lb-ft of torque at only 2800 rpm. Compare that to the Toyota Sienna’s 3.0 litre V6 with 220 lb-ft at 4400 rpm, and the Honda Odyssey’s 3.0 litre V6 with 229 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm. The Quest’s power is available much earlier, and this is reflected in its responsive acceleration at just about any speed. The Quest is the most responsive minivan on the market, in my opinion. In fact, it would be nice if Nissan offered traction control on this van to prevent front wheel spin in slippery conditions.
Fuel consumption is about average for a 3.3 litre V6 minivan, but a little more than some of its 3.0 litre competitors: 13.9 l/100 km (20 mpg) in the city and 9.3 l/100 km (30 mpg) on the highway. Fortunately, the Quest uses Regular unleaded gasoline.
The Quest has a maximum towing capacity of 1588 kg (3500 lb.), the same as the Toyota Sienna and a little less than the Dodge Caravan.
During acceleration, the engine lets out a mild growl, but it’s quiet and unobtrusive at highway speeds. The four-speed automatic transmission changes smoothly, and the ‘sport-tuned’ suspension is fairly firm but not overly harsh – the acceleration-sensitive strut valving varys shock absorber damping depending on acceleration forces. In everyday driving, I felt it was a bit too firm over small bumps, but seemed to have a nice highway ride and added stability when cornering quickly.
I felt the standard power rack and pinion steering offered a fairly quick turn-in and wasn’t too stiff for city driving. Its turning circle of 12.2 metres (39.9 feet) is a bit wider than average. The front disc/rear drum brakes seemed more than adequate with the added safety of standard ABS – but four wheel disc brakes are not offered.
Overall, the Quest SE is sportier than most minivans – its rapid takeoff, firm suspension, and quick steering make it more fun to drive, but its sensitive throttle response and growly engine take a while to get used to – in that sense, the Quest is not quite as refined as the Sienna or Odyssey.
Price and features
Base Quest GXE models start at $30,698. Standard equipment includes the 3.3 litre V6, 4-speed automatic transmission, 7 passenger seating, P215/65R-16 tires, dual sliding rear doors, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks with remote keyless entry, 80 watt AM/FM/cassette with four speakers, cruise control, power mirrors (heated), variable intermittent front and rear wipers, roof rack, tilt steering column, and the safety features mentioned earlier.
The optional Convenience and Family Entertainment System ($2,300) includes the VHS player, video screen, rear seat controls with headphone jacks (headphones optional), dual-media playback system, second-row 12 volt outlet, rear air conditioning with second row controls, second-row Captain’s chairs, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, adjustable rear parcel shelf.
An optional Child Seat package ($300) includes the integrated child seats, integrated safety belts, and machine-washable seat cushions.
Standard equipment on top-of-the-line SE ($35,198) includes the following items in addition to what’s offered on the standard GXE: sport-tuned suspension, wider P225/60R-16 inch tires and different alloy wheels, Family Entertainment System, 130 watt AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with 6-disc changer, sportier cloth trim, 6-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, second-row Captain’s Chairs, front fog lights, rear liftglass panel, automatic climate control with filtration system, power flip-out rear quarter windows, anti-theft system, retractable conversation mirror, storage box under front passenger seat, rear parcel shelf, and map pocket on the instrument panel.
An optional Leather and Sunroof package ($2,800) adds perforated leather seats with front seat heaters, 4-way power front passenger seat, power sunroof with sunshade and wind deflector, wiring harness for trailer hook-up, auto on/off headlight system, and map pocket on the back of the driver’s seat.
With this option package, a fully-loaded Quest SE comes to $37,998.
On top of this, Nissan offers individual accessories, such as a CD changer, bike or ski rack, trailer hitch, nose mask, and running boards.
For more details, see Nissan Canada’s web-site at www.nissancanada.com.
|2001 Nissan Quest SE|
|Base price (GXE)||$30,698|
|Price as tested||$37,998|
|Type||4-door, 7-passenger minivan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||3.3 litre SOHC 12 valve V6|
|Horsepower||170 @ 4800 rpm|
|Torque||200 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm|
|Towing||1588 kg (3500 lb)|
|Curb weight||1844 mm (4066 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2850 mm (112.2 in.)|
|Length||4943 mm (194.6 in.)|
|Width||1903 mm (74.9 in.)|
|Height||1709 mm (67.3 in.) (w/roof rack)|
|Cargo capacity||716 litres (25.3 cu. ft.) (behind 3rd seat)|
|1628 litres (57.5 cu. ft.) (behind 2nd seat)|
|3152 litres (111.3 cu. ft.) (behind 1st seats)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 13.9 l/100 km (20 mpg)|
|Hwy: 9.3 l/100 km (30 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|