Used 1996 Nissan Pathfinder Review




what's new

Outstanding new Pathfinder debuts with dual airbags and great interior styling. Engine output is up, but the Pathfinder is still not going to win any drag races. The new interior is open, airy and much more comfortable than most of its competitors.

vehicle overview

After a 10 year run, the original Pathfinder has been retired. Despite its overly compact interior dimensions and asthmatic acceleration, we liked the rugged looks of Nissan's sport ute. However attractive the design, the Pathfinder was positively aged in comparison to the current crop of competitors, kind of like Sophia Loren standing next to Julia Ormond.

This year brings a new and improved Pathfinder from Nissan. In its transformation, the Pathfinder has gained length, width, cargo, and passenger volume. Body-on-frame construction has been replaced with a stiffer and lighter unibody structure, and the wheezy old 3.0-liter V6 has been bored out to 3.3 liters, resulting in a gain of 15 horsepower and 16 foot-pounds of torque. Doesn't sound like much, and it isn't. However, combined with the lighter body and a flat torque curve that provides 90 percent of the engine's pulling power between 1500 and 1800 rpms, the Pathfinder is more lively than the old model. It also tows more weight. Equipped with an automatic transmission, towing capacity is up from 3500 pounds to 5000. Four-wheel drive models feature shift-on-the-fly capability at speeds up to 50 mph. Rounding out mechanical changes is rack and pinion steering, which replaces the old Pathfinder's archaic recirculating ball setup.

Dual airbags debut with this redesign, and antilock brakes are standard on all Pathfinders. Designers have improved the ergonomics of the Pathfinder by arranging controls according to consumer preference, and audio control knobs are sized differently than climate control system knobs to reduce confusion. The rear 60/40 split bench seat folds flat, increasing utility, and reclines, increasing comfort. Exterior styling is intended as a refined design created in the mold of the original. We think it might have been created out of mold. This SUV has lost much of its rough and tough look; side rails, fender flares, a tire rack and sheetmetal stampings on the liftgate do little to make this bland new Pathfinder look as spicy as last year's model. This seems to be a common trend at Nissan lately -- one we find disconcerting. The Pathfinder didn't budge our excitement meter stylistically.

Three trim levels are available, and prices range from $22,800 for the least expensive two-wheel drive XE five-speed to $33,900 for a loaded four-wheel drive LE automatic. This price range plants the Pathfinder right in the thick of the competition, from the Subaru Legacy Outback on the low end to the GMC Yukon SLE on the high end. With more distinctive looks, this new Nissan might be able to carve out a successful niche in this crowded market segment.

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.