The Nissan Quest has typically had a supporting role in the minivan market. The first two generations, in particular, were rather anonymous and subpar. The more recent third-generation Quest made a huge leap ahead in terms of styling and performance, though it, too, never really caught on with the public.
The newest and latest fourth-generation Nissan Quest, however, is the most competitive model yet. Its bold styling, interior refinement and smooth V6/continuously variable transmission (CVT) place it firmly in the discussion among the leaders of the pack: the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
Current Nissan Quest
The Nissan Quest minivan is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 making 260 horsepower, put to the ground through a CVT. There are four trim levels: S, SV, SL and LE.
The base S is sparsely equipped for a minivan, but still offers an auxiliary audio jack and a few other niceties. The SV adds a wealth of other items such as alloy wheels, power-sliding doors and high-tech items like Bluetooth and an iPod interface. The SL trim is more luxurious thanks to its leather upholstery and one-touch folding third-row seats, while the top-trim LE gains a navigation system and an advanced "Around View" parking camera, while offering an optional panoramic moonroof spanning nearly the length of the roof. The kids will be thankful that a DVD entertainment system is available on all but the base S.
Inside, the Quest's controls are logically grouped on the center stack and easily navigable. Interior materials are the best you'll find in a minivan, with the leather-appointed cabins in the range-topping trims feeling especially premium and luxurious. On the downside, the Quest's standard second-row captain's chairs eliminate the option for an eighth passenger. And although the Quest's seats fold neatly into the floor, this design results in about 40 cubic feet less cargo capacity than other mainstream minivans.
Overall, though, the Quest is a legitimate, if commonly overlooked, choice for a minivan. Thanks to its compliant ride, composed handling and smooth power delivery, it should serve families quite well.
Used Nissan Quest Models
The current, fourth-generation Nissan Quest was introduced for 2011. There have been no significant changes since then.
The third-generation Nissan Quest was produced from 2004-'09 (there was no Quest for the 2010 model year). At its debut, it shook up the minivan world with its avant-garde body styling, unique cabin design and a marketing campaign that did its best to disassociate the van from its soccer mom image. The Quest's pillar-style center stack was certainly distinctive, but the multitude of similar buttons made operating often-used functions a hassle. Thankfully, the busy center stack was replaced by a much more user-friendly layout in a 2007 refresh.
All Quests of this generation were powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 235 hp, and power was sent to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. Four trim levels were available -- the base 3.5, 3.5 S, 3.5 SL and 3.5 SE -- each with an increasing number of features and conveniences. Oddly enough, none of these trim levels included rear seats -- forcing customers to pay extra for a seat package that included second-row captain's chairs and a flat-folding rear bench.
This Quest had a few things in its favor, including a roomy interior and handling that was a cut above most other minivan competitors. However, downsides were numerous, including a third-row seat that wasn't split, a relative lack of cargo capacity and limited availability of stability control. Overall, minivan shoppers would be better served by other top choices in this segment.
The second generation of the Nissan Quest debuted for 1999. Offered in base GXE, midlevel SE and leather-lined GLE trims, this Quest featured a 3.3-liter V6 with 170 hp, as well as a unique sliding (but not removable) third-row seat that could be stowed right behind the front seats -- after the second-row seats were taken out. The van's questionable ergonomics, iffy build quality and poor crash test scores, however, made for a last-place finish in an Edmunds minivan comparison test. The model run continued through the 2002 model year, but there was no Quest sold for the 2003 model year.
Introduced in 1993 and sold through 1998, the first-generation Nissan Quest had a 151-hp 3.0-liter V6. Base XE and uplevel GXE trims were offered and seven-passenger seating was standard. The biggest change for this generation occurred in 1996 when a minor face-lift yielded a new grille, bumpers, headlights, taillights and dashboard.
The first two generations of the Quest were rather anonymous and subpar. It might also be helpful during the shopping process to know that these Quests were also nearly identical to the Mercury Villager from the same time period. With either variant, however, minivan shoppers are still advised to consider better-ranking minivans first.