1999 Nissan Quest
1999 Nissan Quest. Click image to enlarge.

Those looking for a nifty-in-traffic used minivan should put the Nissan Quest on their shopping list.

Launched in 1993 and substantially improved for the 1999 model year, the Quest has a wheelbase of 2,850 millimetres, or 112.2 inches. That means it’s not big enough to rule the minivan realm — not when judged on size alone against such rivals as the Ford Windstar, Honda Odyssey and Chrysler’s Grand minivans.

On the other hand, as wheelbase grows, manoeuverability generally shrinks. Which brings us to one of the Quest’s strong suits: it really handles traffic for a dedicated people hauler. True, a fully laden Quest with the air conditioning running will struggle to pass at highway speeds — and the 170-horsepower V6 engine roars under heavy throttle — but in the everyday runabout it’s quite peppy.

And with anti-lock braking standard on all Quest models, Nissan’s bread-and-butter minivan was designed for controlled stops, too. The safety conscious should also note the Quest has a top-notch five-star frontal crash test rating and a near-best four star rating for rollover resistance.

In case you missed it, the Quest was a “joint venture” between Nissan and Ford. The Ford version, now discontinued for Canada, was the Mercury Villager. Joint venture means the two automakers collaborated on the project. In this case, the design, engineering, powertrain (engine/transmission combination) and body panels were Nissan’s, while all the rest and the final assembly was the work of Ford.

Naturally, then, Nissan officials put their collective finger on design innovations for the 1999-2001 Quest. That is, Nissan’s Southern California design centre plugged in some nifty ideas to boost the Quest’s overall utility factor:

  • a multi-adjustable rear parcel shelf that snaps into one of three positions (top, middle, low) and can hold something weighing up to 18 kg. or 40 lbs.

  • a mapholder on the centre console (SE and GLE versions)
  • a utility net between the driver and front passenger seats
  • slide-out cupholders that accommodate anything from a juice box to a baby bottle to a Big Gulp
  • track-based adjustable rear seating, including a so-called “limousine position” for the third row rear bench
  • a particulate air filtration system.

Meanwhile, this version of the Quest, like its predecessor, has adjustable seating for the second and third rows. But compared to the original vans, the ’99 version has longer tracks, while the middle seat can still be removed. All Quests come with a sliding door on each side, the better to get into and out of, and to remove those unwanted seats.

If you’ve got three kids, the Quest is probably all the minivan you’ll ever need. Certainly it’s more usable than a sport-utility vehicle and better on gas, too. The cargo space is plenty–unless you’re packing for a two-month, cross-country adventure–and any leftover camping gear can be latched onto the roof rack.

More importantly, the Quest “feels” less like a minivan than most of its rivals. That is, when you slip behind the wheel the whole sensation doesn’t scream “milk truck” right from the get-go.

Do note, however, that fuel economy is less than great, overall ride quality doesn’t match the bigger vans, the front seats are slim and with the third row of seats in place rear cargo space is tight. Refinement is about average.

Quality? The ’99-and-newer vans have been pretty good, so in general terms that should not be an issue.

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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