1999 Nissan Pathfinder
1999 Nissan Pathfinder. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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The Nissan Pathfinder started life in the 1980s as a spinoff of the company’s Hardbody compact pickup lineup, conceived as competition for other compact SUVs like the Jeep Cherokee. Changes to the Pathfinder were mostly evolutionary for its first 15 years or so on the market, until a 2004 redesign that gave this truck a whole new look meant to make it more of a standout in an increasingly competitive market segment.

But the first of those evolutionary upgrades came in 1996, when the original Pathfinder’s ultra-boxy, Hardbody-inspired lines were replaced by a body that was still pretty square, but with noticeably softer edges. Another change was found under the hood, where a 168-horsepower, 3.3-litre V6 replaced the old 3.0-litre, 153-hp mill. The new-for-1996 Pathfinder was also a little bigger in just about every other dimension, too.

The Pathfinder has long been highly regarded for its reliability. However, there are a couple of things to look out for: the bushings – rubber bits that isolate the metal suspensions components from a vehicle’s body – in the rear suspension are prone to wearing. When that happens, they can cause interesting (read: undesirable) high-speed handling traits. There’s also an issue with cracking exhaust

1999 Nissan Pathfinder
1999 Nissan Pathfinder. Click image to enlarge

manifolds on the 3.3-litre engine. It appears that, at least in the U.S., Nissan offered extended warranties for these manifolds, though it’s not clear if the same was done in Canada. Despite the manifold issue, many owners are adamant that the 3.3-litre engine is more reliable than, and therefore preferable to, the 3.5-litre, 250-hp engine that 2001 to 2003 Pathfinders got, despite the significant difference in horsepower. Regardless of which engine you choose, expect fuel consumption to range from about 14.5 to 15.5 L/100 km city and about 12 L/100 km highway.

Crash safety is generally good. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave 1996 through early 1999 models three stars each for front-seat occupant protection in frontal impacts. No side impact tests were conducted on the older trucks. Upgraded 1999.5 and

2000 Nissan Pathfinder
2000 Nissan Pathfinder. Click image to enlarge

newer models earned four or five stars in every category. As is often the case, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s different testing methods yielded less positive results: the Pathfinder earned a “mediocre” overall rating. Side airbags became available in newer versions, as standard equipment on top-level models and an option on some lower-end models.

Price-wise, finding a 2000 model for around $15,000 shouldn’t be too difficult, and these particular ones seem like a good value for the money. Prices for earlier versions start from about $6,000 for decent, higher-mileage examples, though you can expect to pay more for an older Pathfinder with lower kilometres. If luxury-car features are important to you, go for the mechanically identical Infiniti-badged

2000 Nissan Pathfinder
2000 Nissan Pathfinder. Click image to enlarge

QX4, but remember that any car loaded with extra electronic goodies can present extra problems down the road when it comes time to replace failed components. The Pathfinder is simpler and should be the cheaper of the two in terms of long-term maintenance and repair costs.

While this generation of Pathfinder isn’t the trend-setting vehicle its name might suggest it is, its combination of manageable size, decent off-road capability, good on-road refinement and reasonable value-for-money make it a solid choice for anyone in the market for a used SUV.

Online resources

www.nissanclub.com – There’s no pretence in this site’s web address. Here you’ll find information on all things Nissan, including a forum section dedicated to the Pathfinder. It’s a reasonably busy place, too. Members number more than 39,000.

www.nissanclub.com – Any site with more than 48,000 members should be a busy place, and NissanClub.com is that, but not in the right places for Pathfinder owners. Most of the action here seems to go on in the Altima and Off-Topic forum sections. Also, any Pathfinder information is buried in a general truck forum, where you’ll have to sift through discussion about all of Nissan’s trucks to find Pathfinder-specific stuff.

www.nissan-infiniti-forum.com – According to its stats, this site is about three years old, though in that time, it’s attracted just 3,120 members. As a result, forum activity is on the light side, though there is a forum dedicated to the 1996 and newer Pathfinder.

www.freshalloy.com – This is a very popular web destination for Nissan enthusiasts. While most of the company’s models get their own discussion sections, older Pathfinders are lumped into the “Other Nissan Trucks and SUVs” forum, so be prepared to dig for specific details on what you’re curious about.

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    Nissan Canada’s Website

  • Nissan Canada


    Transport Canada Recall Number: 1996035; Units affected: 357

    1996: Note: there are two defects in this recall. (1) Due to the thickness of the carpet padding on the transmission tunnel, the space between the brake pedal and the transmission tunnel may be such that a driver wearing large boots could have his or her right foot catch under the brake pedal. This could result in a delay in applying the brakes. (2) Due to the type of lubricant used in the steering transfer gear assembly, the effort required to turn the steering wheel at extremely low ambient temperatures may increase to the point where some drivers may have difficulty turning the steering wheel. Correction: (1) Carpet padding on the transmission tunnel adjacent to the accelerator pedal will be removed. (2) Steering gear assembly will be replaced with one utilizing a different lubricant.

    Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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