New & Used Nissan Quest: In Depth
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With the Quest, Nissan offers a vehicle able to transport up to seven passengers with a more sprightly driving feel than some of the bigger minivans on the road today—the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey among them, as well as the revamped Kia Sedona, the Dodge Grand Caravan, and the Chrysler Town & Country.
The Quest has been Nissan's U.S. minivan offering since 1993 and has been on sale in its current version since 2011.
The latest Nissan Quest
With its most recent redesign in 2011, the Quest moved to a platform shared with a Japanese-market van, a vehicle it is now built alongside. Nissan made some tweaks to try and Americanize the platform, but its home-market roots show through—it now has less interior space than competitors, no nifty seat tricks, and fewer of the high-visibility features that make other minivans so practical. The smaller size may be seen as a boon for some, but most minivan buyers are looking for maximum practicality and not necessarily a tidier package. It is at least one of the more attractive vans, as far as that goes, with an attractive floating-roof look in the side profile. But minivans are rarely purchased on style concerns alone.
See our review of the 2015 Nissan Quest for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
Carried over mostly unchanged since it was launched for 2011, the Quest simply doesn't have the flexibility or features to compete with Chrysler's minivans. Its seats no longer fold into the floor, and they cannot be removed, making it the least adaptable minivan on the market. Its interior volume has fallen, because it's based on a Japanese-market minivan called the Elgrand, and the openings of the sliding side doors are narrower—apparently not designed with us big Americans in mind.
The current Quest does at least perform better than the model it replaces. Power comes from Nissan's corporate 3.5-liter V-6, here making 260 horsepower and linked to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The van's smaller size and lower weight mean good acceleration with this combination. That's about the only place it beats the competition, though; the Quest lags behind in infotainment options, and it's one of very few minivans to not score a Top Safety Pick with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as a result of its "Acceptable" ranking in roof-crush safety and "Poor" grade in the new small overlap front crash test.
The 2015 model year brings some updates to the Quest lineup. The former top LE model has been renamed Platinum and now includes moving object detection. All models get a reprogrammed CVT transmission that yields an extra 1 mpg in highway driving. On the infotainment front, Nissan's new 5.0-inch touchscreen replaces the old 4.3-inch unit and includes an updated interface.
Past Nissan Quest minivans
Before the current Quest went on sale, two previous editions had managed the family-van duties for Nissan. They were quite different from each other in both specification and size.
The first Quest was launched in 1993 to replace the odd Axxess tall wagon. Aimed at the heart of the minivan market, it was powered by a 151-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 and four-speed automatic. While that first Quest minivan had decent space, the seating configuration wasn't particularly versatile compared to the best competitors. The third-row seat slid on a track, but none of its rear seats could be stowed under the vehicle's load floor. It was co-developed with Ford, which sold a similar model under the Mercury Villager nameplate.
A refreshed version was sold from 1999 through 2002, which built on the existing van but upgraded to a 170-hp, 3.3-liter V-6. (A design refresh and the same upgrades came to the Villager, as well.) This version included three rows of seating, but yet again, its interior space and ease of reconfiguration suffered in comparison to the rest of the segment. Filled with sub-par hard plastics, the interior wasn't very welcoming, but the second-generation Quest drove quite well, with a good ride and reasonably good handling. That said, its 3.3-liter never felt even as perky as its power figures might suggest.
Through 2002, when the second-generation Quest was discontinued, a slightly different version was sold as the Villager by Ford's now-discontinued Mercury brand. Compared to the Quest, the Villager had a slightly upmarket look, and in some cases the Villager could be bought with more equipment for less money than the Quest.
After a one-year absence, Nissan returned in 2004 with a completely new Quest. Much larger than the previous model, this one set a style statement that was completely unlike its predecessor or any other van on the market. Aiming for fashionista families, the Quest employed a flowing, organic exterior with an even more dramatic interior. In addition, seating was completely redone, with all three rows given a more luxurious look in other minivans. A conventional instrument panel was eschewed for a plasticky setup that included an oval-shaped, podlike center stack, housing climate controls and audio, with the shifter mounted up on the dash. Gauges were up in the center of the instrument panel, along with a trip computer screen or navigation screen.
Although slightly less functional, this was clearly the most stylish minivan on the market. But the new Quest was never well received. Its interior was functionally better, as both the second and third rows were made to fold flat into the floor. Those seats in back weren't that comfortable or supportive, though, and the one-piece third-row seat proved cumbersome. Safety proved to be an issue, too; even in 2009, electronic stability control still wasn't standard. But strengths included strong acceleration from the 235-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and smooth shifts from the five-speed automatic.
Nissan addressed some, but certainly not all, of the Quest's deficiencies in 2007, when it smoothed over the instrument panel, brought the gauges in front of the driver, upgraded interior materials, and introduced integrated headrests for the second and third rows that automatically tilted forward when folding, making stowing easier.