In 2002, Nissan sold 9,871 4x4 models and by 2003 that figure had grown by 60% to 15,926. Last year, it sold 21,292 – up 30% year-on-year – and this year it expects to sell 24,500 units.
That’s an impressive sales growth, helped by Nissan’s wide range of such vehicles – Patrol, Terrano, X-trail, Navara and now Pathfinder.
The latter is tasked with stealing sales away from off-road stalwarts such as the Mitsubishi Shogun, Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Land Cruiser. And it’s off to a good start, undercutting its cheapest rival by £1,700.
But there’s more to this big Nissan than just a budget price. Like its Navara pick-up cousin, the Pathfinder feels unusually good to drive on the road for a vehicle of this type.
While body roll is inevitable with such a tall car with a high centre of gravity, it doesn’t become as much of an issue as it does in some other off-roaders. You actually have a fair degree of confidence in the car when turning into a corner. The ride is also decent. While it may get a bit bumpy at times as the long travel suspension unloads and then compresses, it is much better than the standard in this sector.
There’s also a huge amount of shove from its 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine. With 173bhp, it is not the most powerful in the sector – the Discovery’s 187bhp holds that mantle – but the Pathfinder is so low-geared there’s strong acceleration in any gear.
This is ideal for a car of this type, where high speed capability is even more irrelevant than usual. You simply stoke the engine up through the gears, settle at 70mph in sixth gear and relax and enjoy the commanding seating position and the great view it offers.
Nissan claims the Pathfinder will accelerate from 0-62mph in 11.7 seconds, which sounds highly optimistic for a car such as this. In fact, that claim feels entirely believable as the huge amount of torque (297lb-ft from just 2,000rpm) makes mincemeat of shifting this two-tonne-plus car around.
Inside, it is familiar Nissan fare. The three-spoke steering wheel shares its design with the 350Z sports car and there are the familiar column stalks and knobs on the centre console.
The S specification only gives you five seats, which means masses of room for front and rear passengers, as well as a cavernous boot, but even with seven-seats fitted there’s room for adults in the rearmost seats and for luggage behind them.
While the badge snobs wouldn’t consider anything other than a Land Rover in this sector, everyone else should take a good look at the Pathfinder. Nissan should have no trouble at all selling its targeted figure of 2,650 cars this year.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £24,292
CO2 emissions (g/km): 238
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £170
Insurance group: 13
Combined mpg: 31.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £10,125/42%
Depreciation 23.23 pence per mile x 60,000: £13,938
Maintenance 2.79 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,674
Fuel 13.68 pence per mile x 60,000: £8,208
Wholelife cost 39.70 pence per mile x 60,000: £23,820
Typical contract hire rate: £489
At a glance
We don’t like
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
WE have chosen entry-level, five-door diesel-engined SUVs to compete in this test and the Nissan emerges as easily the cheapest car, more than £1,500 less than the second-placed Shogun. However, the Nissan is only offered as a five-seater in this trim level (seven seats are available in higher-spec models), as is the Land Rover. The Mitsubishi offers seven seats as standard, while the huge Toyota has eight seats, although it is exactly £4,000 more expensive than the Pathfinder.
Land Rover £26,787
THE Nissan will be the cheapest in terms of servicing, maintenance and repair costs, with a likely garage bill of £1,674 over three years and 60,000 miles. The Mitsubishi is its closest challenger and is likely to cost just £24 more over the same period. There’s more of a gap to the Toyota, which will cost £300 more than the Pathfinder, while the Land Rover will cost £2,124 – £450 more than the Nissan. Obviously, these figures depend on how each of your drivers looks after their car.
Land Rover 3.54ppm
NONE of these vehicles are what you would call frugal and all four hover around the 30mpg mark for combined economy. Nissan claims the Pathfinder will return 31.4mpg, resulting in a fuel bill of £8,208 over three years/60,000 miles. The Toyota returns 31.0mpg for a cost of £8,310 while the Discovery and Mitsubishi are further behind, costing £8,586 and £8,676 respectively. However, matching these claimed economy figures will prove difficult and we’d expect operating economy in the mid-20s.
Land Rover 14.31ppm
WITH the lowest front-end price and a healthy residual value prediction, the Nissan wins easily. CAP estimates the Pathfinder will retain 42% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, leaving a cash lost figure of £14,167. The Discovery has a better RV prediction – 43% – but it costs more to buy, resulting in a cash-lost figure of £15,262. The Mitsubishi has the lowest RV at 37% while the Toyota’s 42% can’t make up the ground lost to its highest front-end price.
Land Rover 25.02ppm
THE Nissan has the lowest front-end price and wins each of our running costs sections, so it is no surprise that it takes the outright wholelife costs victory. It is the only car of the four to dip below the 40 pence-per-mile mark, costing a fleet £23,820 over three years/60,000 miles. Nearly three pence per mile further back is the Discovery on £25,722, while the Toyota will cost £26,574 and the Mitsubishi £26,586.
Land Rover 42.87ppm
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
WHEN you tip the scales at around two tonnes and have the aerodynamic efficiency of a house, emissions are going to be pretty high. All four cars fall into the maximum 35% benefit-in-kind tax bracket, so company car tax bills are going to be on the high side and will be determined solely by P11d price. A 40% taxpayer will pay £283 a month to drive the Nissan, compared with £330 for the Toyota, £312 for the Land Rover and £303 for the Mitsubishi Shogun.
Land Rover 249g/km/35%
THE Nissan has a big advantage in running costs and is the cheapest for company car tax. It also impresses on the road and has rugged good looks. Combine these and it adds up to a convincing win. The Land Rover badge may have more cache but the Pathfinder offers a better solution to drivers who want off-road style and ability with on-road comfort.