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If you've been shopping for a new family minivan this year, you're probably confused.
All is forgiven. There’s plenty of action on the minivan front this year. As luck would have it, every minivan model that’s sold in America is being updated or replaced for the 2011 model year. You and other family-car shoppers are faced with completely new versions of the 2011 Toyota Sienna and 2011 Honda Odyssey, for starters. The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country have been revamped, too, with new interiors and new powertrains. Even the 2011 Kia Sedona gets a new grille and a new drivetrain this year.
But none of these have been so dramatically changed as the 2011 Nissan Quest. The Quest, through the 2009 model year, had been a built-in-Mississippi also-ran in the minivan market. While it had excellent performance, intriguing styling and one of the most flexible interiors in the segment, the Quest didn’t sell well. As a result, the U.S.-made Quest has been discontinued, and the name now is applied to an upgraded version of Nissan’s new Japanese-market Elgrand minivan.
While it's more attractive and more nimble--maybe the best minivan in America, in both respects--the new Quest also is now the smallest, least flexible and least fuel-efficient minivan, when it once trumped almost all comers in all those ways. It looks the part of a smaller, more sporty minivan, but the cabin suffers from some misplaced controls for features added to please American tastes.
The Quest’s new V-6 and CVT powertrain are probably the best combination yet of those pieces in the Nissan empire, and steering and ride quality are high points for the new minivan. Fuel economy’s a low—the lowest among front-drive minivans, tied with the bigger Toyota Sienna.
Functionistas will find the most to quibble with inside the Quest. The old version had fold-away second- and third-row seats that flipped down to expose a huge, flat cargo floor. Now the seats fold, but not into the floor—and they can’t be removed. Much of the interior space has been lost in the changeover, and worst of all, the Quest’s sliding side doors barely open to the width you’d need to load in a car seat.
The Quest hasn’t been scored for safety as of yet, but its features list is tilted to favor the more expensive versions. To get Bluetooth and a rearview camera—safety gear, in our opinion—you’ll spend more than $32,000.