2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

The mid-sized crossover segment is a mighty crowded one indeed, and deciding between them can be slightly overwhelming.

But opt for a hybrid and the odds drop considerably, making your decision much easier.

There just aren’t that many mainstream three-row crossovers available – the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid we tested really has only one competitor, and that’s the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.  General Motor’s Yukon and Tahoe Hybrids are truck-based, not crossovers, and the Cadillac Escalade and Infiniti QX60 Hybrids fall into the luxury category.

Maybe it’s time I took a refresher course in large, people-moving vehicle nomenclature since the Nissan Pathfinder has once more become a unibody (like the 1996–2004 model) instead of the previous model’s body-on-frame construction. I’m confused because the spec sheets still refer to it as an “SUV” instead of a “CUV.”

Apparently, the fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder’s revised structure reflects “the shifting needs” of consumers, with better handling and fuel economy that such a car-based layout provides. In other words, it has followed the demographic out of the hills and away from the truck-based off-roader and into the suburbs with a more refined pavement pounder like their own Murano. However, with a 1,587-kg tow rating (the conventional, gas-powered model is rated at 2,268 kg), and locking centre differential in AWD-equipped vehicles, the Pathfinder Hybrid is still capable of recreational fun on the weekends.

My tester’s no head-turner, but it’s fairly refined if unremarkable in charcoal grey. Other than the addition of hybrid badging and LED taillights, the Hybrid is virtually identical to the regular Pathfinder.

Along with its change in character comes a more stylish, urban exterior instead of the rugged, squared-off masculinity of the last model. Its new aerodynamic shape features soft curves and sharp character lines, a sculpted rear end and a lower ride height (favouring convenience over obstacle clearance). Although it’s two inches longer than the outgoing model, with much more interior space, the new Pathfinder is 227 kg lighter than the model it replaces. And it now boasts third-row seating.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Instead of that extra row representing a cramped penalty box relegated to kids and those capable of clambering up and over the second row, it’s easily accessible thanks to the “Easy-Flex seating system” featuring a second-row seat that glides forward with one quick motion – even when there’s a child seat installed [though only a slim profile child seat or booster, not a reverse-facing or large bulky full seat –Ed.]. It’s not as voluminous as the family minivan, but the Pathfinder does boast best-in-class leg- and headroom and 2,245 L of total cargo volume.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Seating is plump and really comfortable.

Further proof of the Pathfinder’s newfound urban civility lies in the list of standard technology that it houses.

Although we’ve come to expect heated seats as a matter of course, the Pathfinder comes with two rows of them and – hallelujah! – a heated steering wheel to boot.

Nissan’s “Around View Monitor” should be required equipment on all big-bottomed utility vehicles for rendering complicated back-up maneuvers a piece of cake. There’s also an available “tri-zone” entertainment system (providing blissful silence for long-suffering parents), the aforementioned heated steering wheel, first- and second-row seat warmers and front seat cooling.

Properly inflated tires help save fuel, and the “Easy-fill tire inflation system” will honk the horn to let you know when the Pathfinder’s are filled to their required psi. An available eight-inch touchscreen monitor and nav system features 3D-effect graphics, while a premium 13-speaker Bose audio system provides decent background music.

Best of all, the technology is accessible, easy to operate and not annoyingly convoluted. There’s no learning curve to becoming comfortable in the Pathfinder Hybrid.

Over a week, with routes consisting of winding country roads, highway and a bit of light off-roading, the Pathfinder proved well-sorted and comfortable, if not exactly exciting. The handling is predictable, there’s little road noise and (once I dropped  the rear seats with their intruding headrests) visibility is quite good. Overhead is a huge panoramic sunroof that adds to the openness of the cabin.

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