Used 2003 Nissan Murano Review

Edmunds expert review

A stylish melding of form and function. More than just a tall station wagon, the Murano has several unique features to recommend it to the pseudo-SUV buyer.

What's new for 2003

Not satisfied with the current crop of crossover SUVs? Nissan rolls out the newest car-based SUV, the Murano. It boasts a powerful V6 engine and distinctive styling.

Vehicle overview

Crossovers have officially arrived. Realizing that most sport-utes never venture any further off-pavement than that pothole-riddled side road you take to drop the kids off at soccer practice, car manufacturers have wisely begun to focus their attention on this new breed of SUV -- which, as you probably know, places its emphasis on delivering a car-like ride on-road, with off-road functionality wisely left in the dust. Nissan's crossover entrant is the stylish Murano, which, says the manufacturer, will be marketed as an "urban" SUV.

The Murano (the vehicle gets its name from glass art made in islands near Venice) boasts a sleek exterior that features wraparound surface construction, a prominent, stylized front grille and an upswept greenhouse that helps the ute live up to Nissan's stated aim of creating a "sculpture in motion". Vertical stack headlights with xenon bulbs are offered to shed light on the road conditions ahead; in rear, a lightweight cargo door -- made from an advanced steel-reinforced plastic -- is, says Nissan, easy to manipulate. A chin and rear spoiler add aerodynamic sportiness to the ute's lines, with the whole kit-and-caboodle riding on large 18-inch wheels and tires. "We think the styling is futuristic, imaginative and invigorating -- just what buyers have come to expect from Nissan," crows Bill Kirrane, Nissan's vice president and general manager.

The Murano's cleanly styled interior provides seating for four. Aluminum trim graces the instrument panel, which features a monitor with integrated HVAC and audio controls (a Bose seven-speaker audio system is available). The driver seat boasts eight-way adjustability; throttle and brake pedals are also adjustable, as is the tilt steering wheel. A split fold-down rear seat offers a reclining feature and a remote flip-down function, allowing the seats to be released from the rear cargo area. Interior temperature is managed via front dual zone climate controls and individual pillar-located rear air conditioning vents. For storage, there's a two-tiered lockable center console box roomy enough to hold a laptop computer, door pockets with a flip-out function, and assorted nooks and crannies for items such as cell phones, sunglasses and coins.

Safety is addressed via dual-stage front air bags, seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters, child seat anchors and a tether system, and front seat active head restraints.

Available with front-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive system, the Murano is powered by a standard 240-plus horsepower 3.5-liter DOHC V6, derived, says Nissan, from the engine used in 2002 Altima and Maxima sedans. The sole transmission choice is a continuously variable unit (CVT). Benefits of the CVT include smoother operation and greater efficiency than are offered by a traditional geared automatic. For those seeking a higher level of driver input, Nissan will make available the option of an automanual-style shifter for the CVT with seven "speeds". Other performance features include a stability control system (dubbed Vehicle Dynamic Control) and a traction control system.

The Murano shares its platform with the Altima and Maxima sedans and as such, boasts four-wheel independent suspension (which includes an advanced multi-link rear suspension and high-stiffness stabilizer bars). Vented disc brakes with Brake Assist and electronic brake force distribution stop the action dead in its tracks, if need be.

The crossover SUV segment is growing by leaps and bounds -- faster than any other vehicle segment. The Murano -- offering SUV panache and functionality coupled with passenger-car handling -- illustrates just how stylish and useful vehicles in this segment can be, and is certainly worth a look if you're in the market for this sort of hauler.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.