Downsized to globally palatable dimensions, the 2012 Nissan Quest is no longer the all-around winner it used to be, more of a one- or two-trick pony, as far as minivans are concerned.
It's not alone, of course, since no vans other than the Chryslers have the best kind of seat-storing system. But the Quest is smaller inside and has fixed middle seats, something minivans haven't really seen in more than a decade.
It's not that the Quest is so much smaller overall than the Chryslers, the Honda Odyssey, or the Toyota Sienna. It's 200.8 inches long, and rides on a 118.1-inch wheelbase. But it's far down on interior volume, in part because its seats can't be removed from the cabin or folded away, out of sight.
In the front row, the Quest's faults are few. With as much leg room at the Chrysler minivans, it's pretty comfortable even for big adults, with wide and cushy seats that face the dash at an angle that reminds us strongly of the first Japanese minivans that came to America in the mid-1980s. The door openings are wide enough for easy access, too.
That's not the case in the second row, where the difficulties begin with the Quest's sliding side doors. They're not very wide, and they open on a track that's too short to be as useful as something like a Grand Caravan. The resulting door openings are narrow enough to make car seats a geometry puzzle--not a good endorsement for a family vehicle. There's no middle seat position in the second row, which makes the Quest a seven-seater, and a smallish one at that, while the massive Odyssey can tote eight passengers. The Quest's third-row seat is cramped for adults, acceptable for kids.
In either the second or third rows, the seats themselves are nicely angled and supportive, but they don't move--the seatbacks just fold over when more cargo area is needed. That more than anything makes the Quest feel as small as it is inside, that and its relatively high load floor. The seats fold easily enough, thanks to levers and pull straps. However, if you order the power assist for the third-row seat, know that it stops short of raising the seat all the way. Oddly, it gives up at the vertical position, leaving owners to use a cloth strap to finish the job.
Since the seats no longer store in the floor, as they did in the old Quest, cargo volume is way down. In all, the Quest has 35 cubic feet behind its third-row seats, 64 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 108 cubic feet with the second row folded. The next Kia Sedona has folding second-row seats like the Quest—but still offers up 32 cubic feet, 80 cubic feet, and 142 cubic feet of space. The Chryslers have their class-leading, fold-in-the-floor seats on some models—and with them, they can boast of 33 cubic feet, 83 cubic feet and 144 cubic feet, respectively. The humongous Sienna has 39 cubic feet, 87 cubic feet, and as much as 150 cubic feet of space with the second-row seats folded up and the third row tucked away, respectively. The Odyssey has 38 cubic feet, a vast 93 cubic feet, and 149 cubic feet of space behind the respective rows.Other compromises are less noticeable, but they're there. There's no telescoping steering wheel with the Quest, though the high seating position makes the most of the situation. It offers up 16 cup and bottle holders, though the pop-out pair under the radio are big enough only for cans.