While the previous Pathfinder's cabin took second stage to tow ratings and all-'round ruggedness, the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder feels like it was designed for passenger comfort, interior space, and interior flexibility above nearly all else.
The Pathfinder fits in for height and width within a few inches of the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Toyota Highlander, yet it's quite a bit longer than any of those models—fitting in a few inches shorter than the super-roomy GM full-size crossovers (Traverse, Acadia, Enclave) and around the same length as the Mazda CX-9. Most of that length goes to the cabin, and it follows that the Pathfinder actually fits three usable rows of seating.
In front, the Pathfinder has reasonably comfortable front seats, with good back support and, for the driver, a wide range of adjustability. They don't have any real side support, but they seem built well enough for a long day on the highway—and anyway, this isn't the kind of vehicle to take out testing lateral g-forces on canyon roads.
In the second row, the seats are a bit disappointing—and it's not for lack of space. Even though the bench accommodations can be slid back up to 5.5 inches when there's nobody back in the third row, adults may find it hard to get comfortable as they're quite short, flat, and van-like, as well as surprisingly low—inviting a sort of legs-splayed position. It must be a concession necessary for the seat-folding arrangement to work out well, because there's plenty of headroom above.
Those second-row seats in the Pathfinder, while not all that comfy, have several useful features. Lift a lever alongside the upper portion of the seat, and there's an access mode that lets you tilt the seat surprisingly far forward for stepping back there. Using that same lever, if you have a child seat mounted, with a so-called ‘Latch and Glide’ function you can simply leave the seat there (but not the child, of course) when you're tilting the whole arrangement forward for access to the back.
The third row is way low; and even then we saw some average-height adults have issues with headroom. It's perfectly sized for bringing an extra couple of kids to practice, though—and the third row seatback is adjustable for rake.
You get plenty of bins in the Pathfinder, nice map pockets at the back of the front seats, and two large trays in the center console. Nissan offers a seemingly ridiculous three bottle holders per rear door in back, plus cupholders alongside the third row and in front, two solid cupholders plus one bottle in each door.
Seatbacks for both the second and third rows, if you so choose, can be flipped forward to a flat—well, almost—cargo floor and space, with a total of 79.8 cubic feet. Keep all three rows up and there's not all that much space—just 16 cubic feet, and enough for a modest family grocery run.
Ride quality is another strength for the Pathfinder. It's smooth and refined—Nissan has paid extra attention to secondary vibrations—and you don't hear or feel minor road coarseness. Wind noise is also kept under wraps even at Interstate cruising speeds, and the V-6 here is one of the few engines mated to a CVT that doesn't drone insufferably when accelerating rapidly. We dare say it sounds okay.