So in the week of driving the Nissan Murano, I’ve been playing this CD of dubious musical taste constantly. I figured that if I was going to enjoy doing something I really shouldn’t, I might as well immerse myself in the all-out self-flagellation of driving an SUV and listening to ELO.
By any measure, I should find the Murano a bit of an embarrassment to drive. As off-road vehicles go, it doesn’t have many redeeming features. For one, it has a large, powerful and thirsty petrol engine rather than a more sensible diesel.
There’s no off-road pedigree to speak of, as it is an SUV designed for America with suspension and brake tweaks for Europe and no low-range gearbox or lockable differential, and its ground clearance isn’t great either.
This should be exactly the sort of car that makes people hate SUV drivers. It is big, selfish and in many ways lacks a viable reason to exist.
Except for one. We live in a world obsessed by looks. It is becoming increasingly impossible to elect anybody prime minister if they don’t have a full head of hair and a winning smile.
This is why the Murano can exist. It’s gorgeous. It looks like no other SUV on the market. People stop and look, and point. With its grinning shark nose, blacked-out windows and sweeping lines, there is no SUV that comes close in the way it looks.
And as SUVs go, it is pretty good to drive. The CVT automatic gearbox can slur a little too much and there’s no real sense of what is going on down below from the driver’s seat, as with most SUVs, but it does have lots of grip and relatively direct steering.
The 229bhp 3.5-litre engine has been lifted directly out of the 350Z coupe and roadster, so expect decent performance but, on fuel consumption, sub-20mpg seemed the norm – despite the fact it will run in fuel-saving two-wheel drive mode most of the time.
The interior doesn’t quite have the fierce attitude of the outside, although the chunky instrument binnacle is reminiscent of the 350Z, but the Murano is fantastically well kitted out. The list of standard equipment leaves nothing much left to tick as an option.
There’s a Bose audio system with six-CD changer, satellite navigation, colour rear-view parking sensor, blacked-out windows, leather seats and 18-inch alloys. So it’s a spacious, quick, cool SUV laden with kit.
The Murano makes a strong case for the narcissistic lifestyle – just order me up a subscription to Heat magazine and plonk me in front of non-stop coverage of Celebrity Love Island and my life will be complete.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £29,792
CO2 emissions (g/km): 295
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 15
Combined mpg: 23.0
CAP Monitor residual value: £12,000/40%
Depreciation 29.65 pence per mile x 60,000: £17,790
Maintenance 4.00 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,400
Fuel 17.39 pence per mile x 60,000: £10,434
Wholelife cost 51.04 pence per mile x 60,000: £30,624
Typical contract hire rate: £668
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
TRYING to match the Murano at this price point is very difficult. Nothing else offers its blend of power, equipment and styling for the price. The RX300 is the closest when you compare specification but has a smaller engine, no leather or satellite navigation, while the Touareg and X3 are miserly by comparison. It would need an investment of £5,000-£6,000 more to get them near the Murano’s specification.
BIG, costly tyres make up a large part of the hefty service, maintenance and repair bills for these cars, although the Touareg is marginally the cheapest, ahead of the Lexus. The Volkswagen SUV would cost a fleet £2,250 over three years/60,000 miles. The BMW and Nissan are not far behind, though. The X3 is shown here without the £1,300 60,000-mile service pack, which would help keep costs down a little, but not much: new tyres are not included in that price. At 4.04ppm, it costs £2,424.
LOOK away now if you suffer from green guilt. The best official combined figure of these cars is the 23.3mpg the 3.0-litre X3 manages. In this context, the 3.5-litre Murano at 23.0mpg does quite well. Continuously variable transmissions are usually better at saving fuel than normal autos, and it seems to be working for the Nissan. Still, from any of these cars, expect a three-year fuel bill of at least £10,200.
DESPITE the fact that it is not universally loved like the bigger X5, the X3 still manages to hold on to a fair chunk of residual value and tops the table here. CAP believes it will be worth 50% of its value after three years/60,000 miles, which equates to a cash-lost figure of £16,002. With its high front-end price, the Touareg struggles and would lose £19,290, while the Nissan, considering it is up against premium badges in Lexus and BMW, holds its own well.
THE X3 wins the wholelife cost analysis with impressive residual values and the best fuel costs, although the Lexus chases it all the way. With slightly stronger residuals, the Murano would fare even better as these figures suggest it would cost £1,900 more than the BMW. The Touareg is way off, though. It is too expensive, too costly to run and speccing up to even the level of the Lexus would cost thousands. Why is Volkswagen making life so difficult for itself?
Emissions and BIK tax rates
WITH such painfully high fuel consumption, none of these cars could be expected to be low in tax and all sit deep into the maximum 35% BIK tax band. To minimise the bill, the cheapest – the Murano – would be the SUV to go for. A 40% taxpayer would pay £348 a month to pilot the Nissan while the most expensive, the Touareg, would cost £391 a month.
LET’S face it. Any driver who wants a big 3.0-litre-plus petrol SUV isn’t in it to save the world from global warming, and wholelife costs are going to be of secondary importance. For a fleet, if pinning down costs as much as possible is a priority, then steer in the direction of the poverty-spec BMW X3. But with the lowest tax, most kit, best looks and biggest engine, the Murano should be the choice of SUV poseurs everywhere.