2004 Nissan Quest
Photo: Nissan. Click image to enlarge

by Paul Williams

Canton, Mississippi – According to Nissan’s Director of Marketing, Ian Forsyth, the all-new 2004 Nissan Quest compact van is “big, bold and the best.” Big it is. At 5185 mm it’s longer than the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Interior volume also exceeds its Japanese rivals, along with its 3150 mm wheelbase.

Nor will you disappear into the landscape of look-alike vans at the mall. Even though some may be proud of their inability to tell one van from the other, the Quest is easily identifiable.

So yes, it’s bold, too.

2004 Nissan Quest
Photo: Nissan. Click image to enlarge

A recent dash to the new Canton, Mississippi Nissan assembly plant gave invited journalists a chance to examine and drive early production Quests on local roads.

The Quest will arrive in three trim levels, 3.5 S, 3.5 SL and 3.5 SE. The base S is a fairly complete package. All Canadian Quests get standard traction control, heated seats, heated mirrors and a block heater. Additionally, head curtain supplemental airbags, dual air conditioning, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, a tire pressure monitor system, dual sliding doors, remote keyless entry, a power group and 150 watt sound system are standard. Adjustable pedals are available.

2004 Nissan Quest

2004 Nissan Quest

2004 Nissan Quest

2004 Nissan Quest

2004 Nissan Quest

2004 Nissan Quest
Photos: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Upper trim levels add features like a skyview roof (a double version of the 2004 Maxima roof), leather seating, dual-monitor DVD system, a navigation system, full power sliding doors and power rear liftgate.

The interior is novel. This is a seven-passenger van with second-row buckets and third-row bench seats that fold flat to create a cavernous cargo area. Actually, they don’t fold completely flat, but it’s close enough that you can slide in an 8′ x 4′ sheet of plywood.

Driver and front seat passenger are treated to a centrally mounted instrument pod, below which is a cylindrical module housing various storage compartments. Its flat surface houses the shifter and controls for the climate and entertainment system.

Storage compartments are located throughout the interior. There’s even a flip-top compartment in front of the steering wheel, where you’re used to seeing instruments. Perched on top of the steering column is a handy note clip.

The sliding doors are the biggest in this class of vehicle and, once you’ve removed the head restraints, stowing the second and third-row seats is straightforward.

The handles of the sliding doors are thinner at the bottom, for smaller hands, and fat hooks are strategically located for groceries and dry cleaning. There’s a purse hook on the driver’s seat.

The exterior is also notable. This van has well-defined front fenders and a unique curve to the side of the vehicle. The grille is similar to that found on the new Maxima, and the overall design is stylish and distinctive.

Under the hood you’ll find Nissan’s 3.5-litre V6 engine, making 240 horsepower and 242 foot-pounds of torque. This smooth engine is mated to a four or five speed automatic transmission, depending on the trim level.

On the highway the Quest is quiet and sure-footed. Its long wheelbase and wide track make for very relaxed cruising. Visibility is generally good. We didn’t get a chance to load the Quest with seven occupants, but a longer road test later in the year will provide an opportunity to do so.

Although I was favourably impressed by the Quest, I do have some criticisms: if you make shoulder checks when you change lanes, as most people are trained to do, you’ll find the B-pillars obstruct your check, and you’ll have to rely almost exclusively on your mirrors. The B-pillar location is possibly associated with the plus size of the side doors.

The instrument pod, although clever, does shrink the gauges somewhat, especially the fuel and temperature gauges. The speedometer could be bigger, as well.

The central module presents a unique “work surface” of knobs and buttons for the climate and entertainment systems, but the tidy layout and uniformity of these controls makes them difficult to differentiate. This would be compounded at night.

The roof rack, on vehicles so equipped, makes wind noise at highway speeds, although to be fair, this is a very quiet interior. Lowering the sun visors completely blocks forward vision, so you have to be quick about this.

The Quest was designed, engineered and built in the US. Preliminary focus groups consisted entirely of women, who recommended a combination of practicality and style for the new van. The result is an eye-catching vehicle that argues for the genuine utility of a van as opposed to an SUV.

The Quest will be available in July, with pricing yet to be announced.

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