- Strong, smooth powertrain
- Right-sized for urban duty
- Coherent styling, outside and in
- Strange toothy grille
- Visibility an issue
- Interior feels a little tight
It's stylish and refined, but the 2012 Nissan Murano isn't the most space-efficient crossover.
The Nissan Murano's grown popular because it has so few of the usual tired SUV cliches. It's a five-seater without much off-road ability or towing capacity, and it's stylish, too--almost to a fault.
The Murano is a good-looking tall wagon, and ties together its sheetmetal and its cabin in a convincing way. This generation's much more flamboyant than the first Murano, and the toothy, chromey grille is a distraction from the rest of the buff, smoothly integrated design. It's as slickly styled inside, with a unified look that coordinates well with the slightly bulbous shape.
All Muranos are powered by the latest iteration of Nissan's VQ engine. Here, the 3.5-liter V-6 puts out 260 horsepower through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We're not usually enthusiastic about driving CVTs, but Nissan tunes their performance well with the Murano, giving it brisk acceleration without an excess of the drivetrain noise CVTs can induce. Unlike the smaller Rogue, though, the Murano's transmission doesn't have pre-programmed "gears," and it's still a bit rubbery compared to a conventional automatic. Fortunately, the Murano's above average when it comes to handling, with responsive steering and an absorbent, slightly firm ride. Most models are front-drive, but all-wheel drive is available, and comes standard on the most expensive Murano LE. Gas mileage tops out at 18/24 mpg; the latest turbo Ford Edge, by comparison, nets 31 mpg on the highway cycle.
The Murano's swept-back styling cuts down on usable interior space. Its utility is significantly hampered by the low roofline and the sloping rear end, especially when compared to the more upright Ford Edge. The Murano's front seats are comfortable, and can be adjusted to fit a wide variety of drivers, though the sunroof cuts deeply into head room. The rear bench seat is lower to the floor than we'd like, and head room is still scant for tall adults, as is leg room. As a four-seater, though, the Murano suffices. There's not a lot of cargo space available behind the second row when it's in use, and the cargo floor sits higher than in some crossovers, but the rear seat folds forward to expand storage space.
Crash-test scores from the NHTSA give the Murano four stars overall, and the IIHS rates it "good" for front- and side-impact protection, but calls its roof strength "marginal."
Standard features on the Murano include power windows, locks and mirrors; climate control; and an AM/FM/CD player. Other available features include a heated steering wheel; Bose audio; leather upholstery; a navigation system; Bluetooth; and a rearview camera. Adding up options on a high-line Murano can push its pricetag into Infiniti territory, overlapping that brand's even more compact EX35 crossover.