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SAFETY | 8 out of 10
Good," frontal offset impact; "good," side impact with side airbags; "marginal," side impact without side airbags
Four stars, front impact protection; five stars, side impact protection; three stars, rollover rating
Side-curtain airbags and power-adjustable pedals are optional
The 2008 Nissan Pathfinder is a comfortingly safe vehicle, provided that you spring for the optional side airbags. Even without the airbags, however, the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder comes loaded with myriad safety features.
After subjecting the Nissan 2008 Pathfinder to its full battery of crash tests, the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Nissan Pathfinder four out of a possible five stars for front impact protection and a full five stars for side impact protection. Less appealing is the Nissan Pathfinder's three-star rollover rating, but a weak rollover score is not uncommon among SUVs.
The other authority on crash testing in the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), also tested the Nissan Pathfinder and gave it similarly high scores. The IIHS awards the Nissan Pathfinder a "good" rating, the Institute's highest, for frontal offset impacts. They also bestow upon the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder a "good" rating for side impact protection, provided that it is equipped with side-impact airbags. However, if the Nissan 2008 Pathfinder does not have those optional airbags, the IIHS rating drops to "marginal," due to what the IIHS describes as "inadequate" head protection.
In addition to generally good crash-test ratings, the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder also comes equipped with a generous list of safety features. Edmunds reviewers write that "every 2008 Nissan Pathfinder comes with antilock brakes and stability control," but they also note that "only the LE comes with a full set of six airbags; all other models require buyers to order front-side airbags and full-length curtain airbags as an option package." Kelley Blue Book adds that a "tire pressure monitoring system" is standard on all Pathfinders, along with "hill descent control and hill start assist" on the SE Off-Road model. In reference to those SE Off-Road features, The Auto Channel says that the "enhanced technology in itself" makes for "a safe off-road system."
While most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com approve of the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder's safety characteristics, one gripe that does appear is that the Pathfinder offers poor driver visibility. ConsumerGuide claims that visibility over the shoulder is "impeded by thick roof pillars, rear windshield wiper, and rear stop lamp." In parking lots and other tight spaces, the poor visibility is mitigated somewhat by the backup camera that comes standard on all but the base S trims, according to Edmunds.
If you're looking to buy a 2008 Nissan Pathfinder, make sure to check the box for side impact airbags.