2014 Nissan Quest Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 27, 2014

The Nissan Quest may drive well, but its below-average seating and safety put it behind the rest of the minivan options on the road today.

The 2014 Nissan Quest is a family-oriented minivan; yet perplexingly, it's not at its best in safety ratings or seating versatility, both items that matter for minivan shoppers. But compared to peers like the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Chrysler minivans, the Quest has a driving experience that's more eager.

Depending on your expectations, you might find the design a little more adventurous, too. With an upright stance and lots of flared lines in front, the Quest's straight-edged passenger box bears more than a passing resemblance to the Ford Flex, mostly at its pillarless greenhouse and its almost vertical tail. The interior is more formal and less risky, with woodgrain trim on a plain dash that stacks some controls in unintuitive places. The audio knobs and switches, for examples, are grouped into two locations, some to the right of the shifter, halfway out of sight.

The Quest's use of space is a little disappointing. It's still a big vehicle in the grander scheme, and front-seat passengers won't lack for leg or head room, or for storage of small items. From there, the Quest slips behind other minivans, first with sliding side doors that don't open wide enough to load in large people or objects. The second-row seats fold forward, but don't disappear into the floor, and they can't be removed. The third-row seat folds flat, too, but stays in place while every other minivan's third-row seat folds away to create a flat cargo floor. A lot of usable space is lost in the process, and in a type of vehicle that places a priority on seating, space, and safety, it's a letdown.

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As for performance? It's a highlight. A 3.5-liter V-6, coupled to a continuously variable transmission, is the Quest's only powertrain. It doesn't grumble as much here as it does in some other Nissans, and it's pretty perky for such a large vehicle. The steering has good feedback, the CVT has some pre-programmed "shift' points to cut down on typically rubbery response, and body roll is tempered more than in other big minivans. In all, the Quest has the best handling of its kind, which follows its slightly more compact footprint. Gas mileage is among the lowest of the front-drive minivans, though.

Safety and features are an area for improvement. The IIHS says the Quest earns "good" ratings for front and side impacts, but gives it "acceptable" scores for roof crush. The base van comes with the usual airbags and stability control, but all-wheel drive is not offered, and to get Bluetooth and a rearview camera--essential safety items, we think--you'll have to spend more than $32,000. With major options--such as power side doors and a power tailgate; leather; satellite radio; and a DVD entertainment system--it's possible to spend nearly $40,000 on Nissan's minivan.

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2014 Nissan Quest

Styling

The Quest looks distinctive, with a glassy greenhouse resembling one of our favorite crossovers.

Looking back to the Nissan Quest of the 1990s and 2000s, this current model minivan may or may not surprise you. Each generation of the van has had distinctive styling, keeping its design fresh in comparison to–and totally different from–the models that have preceded it. Prior to the current version of the Quest, it was a quirky and swoopy-looking family hauler that broke new ground for the segment, for better and for worse.

The Quest now leans on its Japanese-market van roots, standing more upright and boxy than ever before. It has a faint resemblance to the Ford Flex from its profile, giving it some small amount of hip appeal, especially by comparison to some of its more curvaceous competitors. The nose looks lower and smaller, thanks in part to its large air inlets. The rear ends abruptly and harshly, intended for better aerodynamics, and large taillights will make this one easier to tell apart from other vans in the dark.

Inside, the Quest's interior keeps more to the standard minivan passenger-friendly and utilitarian themes, though it feels almost modern-retro Japanese with its plain-looking LCD displays and stacking of rectangles. There's a mix of wood and shiny gray plastic trim pieces throughout the interior, making the Quest feels a little upscale at times, and a little unfinished at others. The transmission lever lines up vertically on the center stack, and it blocks the driver's view of some knobs and buttons.

Atop these controls, Nissan parks an LCD screen slots. The screen is offered on mid-level models, where it’s a simpler 4.3-inch LCD. On top models the screen grows to 8 inches and incorporates more audio and navigation controls. A deck of buttons sits at the screens’ feet, piano-key style. If you're not accustomed to playing, you'll wish you'd studied, as you figure out the Quest's audio controls.

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2014 Nissan Quest

Performance

The Quest has a strong V-6 and good steering, but we'd swap out its CVT if we could.

The Quest is fun to drive as far as minivans go. It feels smaller on the road than most other minivans, and it's steering is better, too–and even the CVT transmission works well for the task of hauling family and cargo.

The Quest is powered by Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6, which produces 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It's a little smoother and little quieter than most of the cars in the lineup with the same engine, though the new Altima does it even better than the Quest. Even so, the minivan never feels strained for power.

With an independent suspension at all four corners, the Quest benefits from a smaller footprint than other minivans. It feels the most nimble of all its competitors, and in big part, that's due to the electrohydraulic steering. Using signals to direct the power steering's hydraulic pump instead of a belt, the Quest delivers the most natural steering feel of its class--though the electronic power steering in the Toyota Sienna is quite good, it doesn't rebound from inputs with the same relaxed feel.

The continuously variable transmission (CVT) that takes the place of a conventional, stepped-gear automatic is a workable solution here. CVTs use belts and pulleys to constantly change "gear" ratios, and in many cases, feel sluggish to respond, and can also amplify noise and vibration since they linger at high engine speeds, without downshifts to relieve the racket. Since minivans don't require, or even encourage, sporty driving, the typically slow CVT response to throttle inputs isn't a concern. This CVT also has some preset "shift" points that simulate a six-speed automatic that reinstate some of the feel of a conventional automatic. Most important of all, the drivetrain's sized right for the package.

That said, it's still a minivan, and as direct as its steering can be, and as well as it damps out road surfaces, the Quest corners and accelerates with almost nothing but safety in mind. It doesn't bound over long bumps like the Chrysler minivans, though, and its near-equal curb weight seems to be damped more effectively.

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2014 Nissan Quest

Comfort & Quality

The Quest has a fold-flat seating system, but it's not tucked away efficiently--and that robs interior space.

Since the Quest is now built in Japan, rather than Mississippi, it's lost some of its flip-and-fold big-van flexibility in favor of better comfort for its passengers.

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.

The Quest has few flaws, from the front seats. There's ample leg room and head room, and large adults will fit comfortably in its plushly upholstered buckets. The view ahead reminds us a lot of the first Japanese minivans that came to the U.S. in the 1980s, with a flat dash structure that makes for easy entry and exit, along with wide doors.

The trouble starts in the second row, where the Quest's sliding side doors don't retract enough for adults to clamber up and into the seats with ease. It can be difficult to maneuver a car seat into the opening--never mind a kid with a mind of their own. The Quest lacks a middle seat position, which means the other eight-passenger minivans have a one-seat advantage over it. 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.

In terms of overall length and wheelbase, the Quest isn't that much smaller than the Chrysler minivans, the Toyota Sienna, or the Honda Odyssey. At 200.8 inches long, on a 118.1-inch wheelbase, it's reasonably close to those competitors in almost every dimension. Where it loses out is interior volume: its fixed seats take up space where a good fold-away third-row seat would leave a flatter cargo floor--and where the Chrysler vans' fold-away second-row seats would win the functionality wars, every time.

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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.
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2014 Nissan Quest

Safety

With a low rating in the roof-crush crash test, the Quest doesn't earn safety scores as high as its competition.

The Quest lacks some of the newest safety technologies found in a few of its competitors, and it hasn't yet been rated by the agencies that crash-test cars for 2014. 

The Quest does have a good amount of standard safety equipment, though it's far from class-leading. Dual front, side and curtain airbags are standard; so are anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. A rearview camera is standard on the top three trim levels, with a 360-degree-view camera on the LE, but none is unavailable on the base Quest. The top Quest model also has a blind-spot warning system.

Nissan's tire-pressure monitors are standard as well, and they beep a warning at drivers when a tire is low. On models with power sliding side doors, a periodic beep signals the doors' closing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't yet crash-tested the current Quest. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested the 2013 Quest under its new regimen, which includes a roof-crush score. The Quest does well in front-impact and side-impact tests, but in the roof-strength test, it earns an "acceptable" rating--the lowest in the segment, aside from the outgoing Kia Sedona. That score prevents the Quest from earning the IIHS' Top Safety Pick designation, a key for a vehicle in such a safety-conscious segment.

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2014 Nissan Quest

Features

You'll have to spend more than $30,000 on a Quest to get the features we'd require.

The Quest does come relatively well-equipped for the segment, though it certainly wouldn't be considered the innovator for features in minivans today–that title goes to the Chrysler products, followed by the Toyota Sienna. There are many options to choose for the Quest, but like the other Japanese minivans in the segment, those features can come at a price.

Every Quest comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors; an AM/FM/CD changer (a dying breed); climate control; and pushbutton start. The base model doesn't offer some nearly ubiquitous features at all--there's no option at all for satellite radio, a rearview camera, or Bluetooth.

In the high $30,000 range, the Quest SL verges on luxury territory, with standard 18-inch wheels; power tailgate; leather seating and power passenger front seat; heated mirrors; heated front seats; and automatic headlights. At more than $42,000, the Quest LE gains a standard navigation system; satellite radio; power assist for the third-row seat; a DVD entertainment system with a sharp 11-inch screen; blind-spot detectors; a 360-degree AroundView camera; and xenon headlights.

The Quest SV is the most popular model and our recommendation, since it bundles the most convenient features at the lowest price. From the low $30,000s, this model has standard Bluetooth; a USB port; power sliding side doors; a rearview camera; automatic climate control; and a 4.3-inch LCD audio display. The audio system deserves some study before you buy: it's split into two locations, with some controls clustered under the LCD screen, and the rest tucked away near the gear selector. It can be confusing to scroll through audio functions up top, and to select radio presets and volume levels below.

The Quest offers few options. The DVD player is available on the SV and SL, while a Bose speaker package is offered on the SL. Satellite radio is now offered on mid-line Quests. Dual sunroofs are available on the SL and LE models. The Quest has mostly skipped other cutting-edge luxury features, like Chrysler's uConnect wireless hotspot or Toyota's wide-screen DVD entertainment system.


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2014 Nissan Quest

Fuel Economy

The combination of a CVT and a powerful six-cylinder nets the Quest good, but not stellar, fuel-economy figures.

The EPA rates the 2014 Nissan Quest at 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. That puts it more or less on par with the other minivans in the segment, especially since the Toyota Sienna no longer has a four-cylinder option. No hybrid or diesel editions of the Quest are currently planned.

The Quest rings in about average for highway fuel economy, though there are some vehicles in the segment that do much better. The Honda Odyssey earns 28 mpg on the highway in its most expensive, six-speed-automatic version; Chrysler's minivans get 25 mpg highway. However, for city mileage, the Quest is a leader. Its 19 miles per gallon on the city cycle equals the Sienna and the Odyssey, while Chrysler's minivans check in significantly lower.


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7.2
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 7
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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