2020 Nissan Pathfinder

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
October 4, 2019

Buying tip

On 2020 Pathfinder SVs, the $995 Rock Creek edition adds a tow package and special wheels that separately would cost more. Pick it if you plan to tow.

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder three-row crossover steers into the middle lane among rivals with just-enough for most families.

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder three-row crossover blazes a trail right down Main Street for families. 

It returns this year without any changes from last year and is now a few years removed from a light update. 

It hits at the heart of what families need from big vehicles but the Pathfinder lacks a hook. 

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We rate it at 6.3 overall, a high score that reflects its good space and good crash-test scores. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Like last year, the 2020 Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL, and Platinum trims. A Rock Creek edition is available again and it adds tougher looking exterior elements but doesn’t much change the Pathfinder’s mission as a mainstream crossover. The Pathfinder costs $32,725, including destination, and tops out at $43,965 for a Pathfinder Platinum. All-wheel drive adds $1,690 to any model. 

The Pathfinder hasn’t changed its looks much in the past few years; it’s inoffensive and affordable, albeit not very interesting to look at. 

Same goes for the interior, which is bright in lighter shades but also unadorned. 

The Pathfinder is powered by a workaday 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 284 horsepower mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It works best when it’s not asked to break a sweat, like us. When forced into hard labor, coarser noises abound (us and the Pathfinder). 

Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is an option, but comfort trumps capability in any instance. The Pathfinder is rated to tow up to 6,000 when properly configured. 

The Pathfinder seats up to seven in three rows of seats, but the wayback is best for children. Rows one and two are fine for adults and long-haul comfortable, with ample leg room and head room. 

Behind row three is more than 16 cubic feet of cargo room, which is about the same size as a trunk of a mid-size sedan. With the third row folded, that space grows nearly three-fold to more than 47 cubic feet. 

The IIHS called the Pathfinder a Top Safety Pick for 2019, and every crossover is equipped with life-saving automatic emergency braking. Blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on Pathfinder SV and higher. 

Nissan includes 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, seating for up to seven, keyless ignition, up to six USB ports, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment on every Pathfinder, but no amount of money adds smartphone software. That’s an oversight to us.

5

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

Styling

No risks here, just bread-and-butter family crossover with the 2020 Pathfinder.

The rounded shapes of the 2020 Pathfinder won’t offend many, but they’re blending into the same-ness among three-row crossovers. It’s a 5 on our style-o-meter. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

From the front, the 2020 Pathfinder looks more car-like than its blocky namesake and bulges around the wheels add much-needed flair to otherwise-plain sheet metal. Large windows are a boon to outward visibility and a small kickup toward the rear pillar adds some pizzazz to the profile. In back, the Pathfinder has a big rear window—good for visibility again—but it’s not as expressive as the two-row Murano.

Inside, the three-row Pathfinder is nearly as straightforward. Lighter shades brighten up an otherwise dark cabin, and there’s not much variation in a broad dashboard with a long expanse of soft-touch materials. Dressier Pathfinders sub in wood accents that’s a welcome change for the center console and infotainment display. 

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6

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

Performance

A comfortable ride is the 2020 Pathfinder’s best performance figure.

Comfort is the 2020 Pathfinder’s first priority above speed or handling prowess. 

Nissan stitches together the right threads for a competent crossover: V-6 engine, front- or all-wheel drive, automatic transmission, and four-wheel independent suspension. 

Starting from an average score, the Pathfinder gets a point above average for a smooth ride that doesn’t stray far from its family-first mission. It’s a 6 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Under the hoods of all Pathfinders is a 284-hp 3.5-liter V-6 that’s rough around the edges, but competent. It can tow up to 6,000 pounds when properly equipped and it returns combined fuel economy in the mid- to low-20s consistently. It’s not blindingly fast, but seeing the road is more important, right? (Eds note: Rimshot.)

The V-6 is tasked with hauling more than two tons of crossover unladen, which it does well. It’s mated to a CVT that’s meant to keep the Pathfinder off the boil to stay quiet and also efficient. 

The CVT in the Pathfinder is similarly adequate but pressing it up a hill can reveal some of the engine’s coarser notes and the transmission takes a second or two to catch up with instructions from our right foot. 

All-wheel drive adds all-weather traction, but the Pathfinder won’t scramble up many difficult trails with just 7.0 inches of ground clearance. That optional all-wheel-drive system can be locked by the driver in front-drive only, automatic, and all-wheel-drive modes. It’s similar to other crossovers from Chevy and GMC, but we still prefer an all-automatic system that needs even less attention. 

The Pathfinder rides atop a four-wheel independent suspension that includes front struts and a rear multi-link. Compared to other crossovers, the Pathfinder is a little heavier on the road with some body lean, but it rides well on its 18- or 20-inch wheels. 

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9

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Pathfinder is spacious and comfortable for most families.

The Nissan Pathfinder isn’t the vehicle you may remember from the 1990s. That’s a good thing for comfort and space. 

The 2020 Pathfinder is a three-row family crossover with space for up to seven passengers. It doesn’t have the same room and accessibility as others in its class, but the Pathfinder trades on a familiar Nissan name and its relative affordability among pricier competitors. 

Starting from an average score of five, the Pathfinder gets points above average for its people hauling ability, cargo-hauling capability, comfortable first- and second-row seats. It’s a 9 for comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The front seats are the most comfortable and spacious and were drawn from Nissan’s deep well of ergonomic studies. They’re all-day comfortable for a wide range of body types and sit up high for a good view of the road ahead. 

The second row is easily accessible and seats up to three adults with more than 40 inches of leg room. The seats slide fore and aft for better accessibility to the third row and can recline for better long haul comfort (at the expense of anyone in the third row). Second-row captain’s chairs aren’t on the options list at all, which some rivals offer. 

The third row in the Pathfinder is best for children and the seats offer just 30 inches of leg room once aboard. The load floor in the Pathfinder is relatively high, so third-row riders may sit knees up even with short legs. 

Behind the third row, the Pathfinder offers more than 16 cubic feet of cargo room that expands to more than 47 cubic feet with the third row folded. 

The material quality in the Pathfinder is up to par for the class but the crossover is best dressed in lighter colors. Leather upholstery is standard in the first two rows in the SL and Platinum versions and Rock Creek editions get special black and orange color combo that reads more macho than the rest of the lineup but can be a little dark inside.  

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8

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

Safety

Good crash-test scores and standard automatic emergency braking make the 2020 Pathfinder a safe pick for families.

Good active safety features and an impressive safety scorecard net the 2020 Pathfinder an 8 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Federal testers gave the Pathfinder a five-star overall score for crashworthiness, but that included four-star scores for front and rollover crash safety. 

The IIHS gave the Pathfinder a Top Safety Pick nod for 2019 when equipped with LED headlights, the last year that data was made available. The IIHS gave the Pathfinder mostly “Good” scores in its tests, including the driver-side small-overlap crash and its automatic emergency braking system, but noted that passenger-side small-overlap safety was only “Acceptable.” Small-overlap crashes simulate a car hitting a fixed, small object such as a light pole or tree. 

Every Pathfinder is equipped with automatic emergency braking that the IIHS said prevented a forward crash at 12 mph and slowed the car by 14 mph in a 25-mph test. 

Blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and rear cross-traffic alerts are standard on Pathfinder SV and higher trims and are nearly mandatory for the large crossover. A surround-view camera system is standard on SL and Platinum Pathfinders. 

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6

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

Features

The 2020 Pathfinder gets most of the basics right but lacks smartphone software that’s sorely needed.

Most 2020 Nissan Pathfinders will have the convenience features that families need. The crossover lacks standout options that others in the class now offer, including advanced driver-assistance technologies and second-row captain’s chairs, but the basics are all covered. 

Starting from an average score, the 2020 Pathfinder wins points above average for its base infotainment system, but it lacks smartphone compatibility. It’s a 6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Every Pathfinder gets at least 18-inch wheels, seating for up to seven, keyless ignition, cloth upholstery, up to six USB ports, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, and automatic emergency braking. 

Like last year, the Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL, and Platinum trims with a Rock Creek Edition package available on SV and SL trims. The Pathfinder S costs $32,725, including destination, all the way up to a Pathfinder Platinum that costs $43,965. All-wheel drive is an option on every Pathfinder for $1,690. 

We wouldn’t stray far from the base Pathfinder unless heated seats or blind-spot monitors are must-haves. The 2020 Pathfinder SV offers both (heated seats cost extra) and costs $35,515 to start. It adds a power-adjustable driver’s seat, adaptive cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that’s heated. 

The Pathfinder Platinum goes all-in with 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, dual-pane sunroof, premium audio, navigation, wood trim, a surround-view camera system, and power-adjustable front seats and a power-adjustable steering wheel. Pathfinder Platinum crossovers start at $43,695, including destination. 

A rear-seat entertainment package is available for $1,700 on Platinum versions, but its value is dubious. Tablets or smartphones could probably accomplish that task better.

Nissan infotainment

All Pathfinders come with an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, with Bluetooth and USB connectivity but not Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. There are redundant hard buttons beneath the touchscreen for navigation and audio, including a clickwheel controller that’s only mildly useful. 

Navigation is included in SL and Platinum versions (optional on SV models), but we’d prefer the convenience of Waze, Google Maps, or Apple Maps, instead. 

The touchscreen can wash out in direct sunlight, and although the matte finish resists smudges better than shiny screens, it also soaks in sunlight. 

Nissan’s native navigation system isn’t as slick as others in the class, and the menus can be confusing at first. 

It’s best to set frequently used destinations into the navigation system, such as work or home, and use those quick buttons instead of manual destination entry, which can be frustrating. 

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4

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder keeps pace with other family crossovers.

You won’t find hybrid batteries in any 2020 Nissan Pathfinder but the big three-row crossover manages respectable fuel economy among competitors nonetheless. 

With all-wheel drive, the Pathfinder manages 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined. That’s good for a 4 on our fuel-economy scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

One caveat: Those are EPA ratings from last year. Nothing’s changed, so we expect the scores to remain the same. We’ll update this space if they do. 

Front-drive Pathfinders fare slightly better in official ratings. The EPA scores those at 20/27/23 mpg. The 2020 Pathfinder Platinum, which is only all-wheel drive, has bigger wheels that get rated separately: 19/26/21 mpg. 

Among three-row family crossovers, the Pathfinder is competitive. The 2020 Chevy Traverse is rated at 20 mpg combined with all-wheel drive, and most Honda Pilots manage 21 mpg, according to the EPA. 

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6.3
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 5
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 8
Features 6
Fuel Economy 4
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