The Nissan Pathfinder is a tough and capable large SUV. It is costly to run and not particularly spacious.
- Excellent towing ability
- Genuine offload ability
- Tough looks will appeal to some
- Rear seating cramped
- Thirsty to run
- Timing chain issues costly to fix
In the mid-2000s. ute-based SUVs were not as common as they are now, with one of the few options being the Nissan Pathfinder, based off the Navara ute. It features a sturdy separate chassis and standard four-wheel drive. Its styling is almost identical to the Navara, which gives it a tough look. The next generation Pathfinder was more conventional and car-like.
Inside and out
From the front, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between a Pathfinder and a Navara. There are a bluff, tough-looking front and a large chrome grille. The wheel arches a large and pronounced, and house large wheels - on the review vehicle aftermarket alloys have been fitted. The rear of the vehicle is very squared off and features clear twilight units. The rear door design is unusual - its angles backwards and features a vertical handle. This design feature makes it a little awkward to use. The Ti gets side steps and roof rails.
Getting into the driver's seat, the Pathfinder feels particularly wide. The door trims and dash are made from a solid, durable-looking plastic with a fake-wood trim in the Ti. The steering wheel features a leather wrap with metallic spokes and is adjustable for tilt. The cruise control system can be found on one of the spokes. The stereo can take six CDs and has a port to plug in a 3.5mm socket to play music from phones. The climate control has separate zones for the driver, passenger and rear seat passenger - the ST does not have the latter.
The Pathfinder has a lot of handy storage around the cabin, including two gloveboxes, a tray above the stereo, another cubby below the air-conditioning and a large centre console. There are also two 12-volt outlets for accessories.
There is plenty of space for the front seat occupants and a large gap between their shoulders. The seats are broad and comfortable, have electric adjustment and are heated. The Ti gets a think leather upholstery.
While most adults will find the second row comfortable, it does feel a little lacking in legroom for the size of the vehicle. The width of the seat is good, however, with three adults able to fit across the car.
The third-row seats are accessed by folding the left-hand second-row seat forward. They feature large slide-up headrests and are spacious enough for larger children or small teenagers.
The seats have a party trick in that with the headrests down on both second rows they fold completely flat, giving a space around two metres long to carry large loads or even to sleep on.
With the second row up you still have a large load area, enough for five or more large cases. With all three rows in use, you can still get two medium cases onboard. The load floor is high which can make it difficult to get heavy items in.
On the road
Two engines were initially available in the Pathfinder. From launch until 2010 you could get the SUV with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel or the engine in this car, a 4-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. Later Pathfinders only had the Diesel engine as an option.
The 4-litre offers a lot of power - 198kW and 390Nm, and like the diesel is paired to a five-speed automatic transmission which can be shifted manually. Performance surprises for such a large vehicle, with good acceleration and pleasant engine note. The transmission is also very smooth and smart shifting.
The handling is not so great - though this is no doubt affected in the case of the test vehicle by the large aftermarket wheels. The ride is lumpy and harsh, and while the steering has a weighty feel to it, it offers little feedback. The brakes stop well enough but feel a little mushy.
The four-wheel system in the Pathfinder can be set to 2WD which sends drive just to the rear wheels for fuel economy, Auto where the vehicle automatically sends power to the front wheels as needed, or into 4H or 4L - which lock the four-wheel-drive system for tricky off-road driving, and in the case of 4L use a low-range transfer case. The Pathfinder has excellent off-road ability, particularly when fitted with appropriate tyres.
Forward visibility is good, though the high bonnet may make it hard to see items just in front of the car. The large mirrors give good vision down the side of the car.
There is no reversing camera as standard, and the parking sensors on the review car are aftermarket - these were not standard from the factory, and they are a must-have.
If you have something large to tow the Pathfinder could be a good option. All models can pull 750kg unbraked (a medium-size garden trailer), and a hefty 3000kg braked (a medium-large trailer boat). This is more than the Toyota Prado of the time.
According to RightCar the Nissan Pathfinder of this age carries a four-star ANCAP rating. It received acceptable or good results for everything except upper leg injuries.
The Ti model features front, side and curtain airbags, along with anti-lock brakes and Electronic Stability Control. Be aware - the ST model only has driver and passenger airbags as standard.
ISOFIX child seat mounts are found in the window seat positions of the second row. All three second row seats have tether points for a child seat as well - a rare feature. The centre seat also gets a full shoulder-style belt, which offers more protection than the lap-only type.
There are some concerning issues with the engines in the Pathfinder. Both the petrol and diesel engines use timing chains, which should not require regular replacement.
Unfortunately, they both have a history of the chains wearing out their guides and becoming loose at higher mileages. This can result in the need for an expensive engine rebuild. Look out for rough running, a rattling noise or a check engine light as indicators of this issue.
The diesel engine has a reputation for injector failure. That issue will present as hard starting, reduced power and exhaust smoke. It can happen even to lower mileage vehicles.
Reconditioned injectors cost from $200 while new units can cost up to $2000. Those symptoms can also be a sign of a failed suction control valve. A replacement unit can cost $300 to $500.
The transmission cooler is situated inside the lower portion of the radiator to aid cooling. This plastic unit is prone to cracking, allowing the entry of coolant into the automatic transmission which causes significant damage.
Cost of ownership
The petrol version of the Pathfinder requires a service every year or 10,000km, with the service costing from $275 a time. Occasional services which include changing transmission and differential oils can cost up to $1,000. Expect the diesel to be more costly to maintain.
Where the diesel makes that back is in fuel use - it will consume nearly a third less. RightCar estimates that over 14,000km of driving a year, our petrol Pathfinder will cost $3,920 for fuel. The 80-litre fuel tank will cost $160 to fill at $2 per litre and will go only 530km before the fuel light comes on.
A vehicle licence for the Pathfinder will cost $76.92 a year, with the model in the cheapest ACC risk rating group. Government changes mean this will go up next year.
Trade Me Insurance estimates insurance for a Pathfinder valued at $14,880 will cost $62.81* per month. This is $3 cheaper than an equivalent Toyota Prado.
This generation Pathfinder is available on Trade Me Motors priced from $9,000 to $33,000. The cheapest vehicles will have covered very high miles and done a lot of work. All the later model cars are Ti diesel versions - with low mileage these are desirable trucks.
- ST - Features alloy wheels, climate control air-conditioning, central remote locking, leather steering wheel, six-disc stereo and fabric seats.
- Ti - Adds Leather trim, electric front seats, heated front seats, wood trim, electric sunroof dual-zone and rear air-conditioning.
- 2005 - Launched in New Zealand
- 2010 - Given facelift, petrol and ST models dropped
- 2014 - Replaced by new model
|Review vehicle||2006 Nissan Pathfinder Ti|
|Price||$18,000 to $25,000 for models which have travelled 70,000 to 120,000km|
|Engine||4-litre six-cylinder 198kW/390Nm (claimed)|
|Transmission||Five-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
|Safety rating||Five-star ANCAP rating|
|Servicing||10,000km or twelve months|
|Spare wheel||Full size wheel|
|Fuel economy||10.7-litres per 100km (claimed)|
|Towing capacity||750kg (unbraked), 3000kg (braked)|
Review vehicle supplied by Turners Cars.
*Our insurance estimates are based on a 35-year-old male with no accidents in the last two years, garaging the car in Mission Bay, Auckland. The car is not used for business and will cover 10,000km to 20,000km a year. We estimate with no option add-ons and $500 excess. Customise your estimate at Trade Me Insurance.