- CVT is fairly responsive
- Smooth ride
- Steering feels direct
- It's boxy, but good-looking
- Confusing audio layout
- Seats don't fold away
- Less interior space than other minivans
- Sliding side doors don't open very wide
- Highway fuel economy lags a little
The Nissan Quest isn't the safest or most practical vehicle in the segment, but it is one of the better driver's choices.
The 2015 Nissan Quest minivan leaves us wanting. Despite its family-friendly intentions, The Quest's safety ratings are below average and its seating system is the least flexible on the market. It's more rewarding to drive than its competitors, but the Quest remains a difficult vehicle to recommend in this segment.
Safety and features are an area where the Quest just doesn't compete. The IIHS says the Quest earns "good" ratings for front and side impacts, but gives it "acceptable" scores for roof crush--and marks its small-overlap crash performance as one of the worst it's seen.
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.
Depending on your expectations, you might find the Quest's design a little more adventurous than other vans. 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 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.
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.
2015 Nissan Quest
The glassy greenhouse on the Nissan Quest makes our brains flex; the cabin's less adventuresome.
If you trek back through the Nissan Quest's previous generations, the current model may not come as much of a surprise. Each version has had a distinct style all its own, and this model is no exception.
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 5.0-inch LCD, which replaces the 4.3-inch display from the previous model year. 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.
From the outside, 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.
2015 Nissan Quest
We'd swap out the Quest's CVT if we could, but its acceleration and steering feel are tops among minivans.
As minivans go, we'd say the Quest is fun to drive. It doesn't feel as big as it looks, and the steering is better than its competitors–even the CVT works well here–and that only gets better for 2015, where it now comes with Nissan's D-Step shift logic.
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 now comes with Nissan's D-Step shift logic, which emulates shifts as it climbs in speed.
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.
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.
2015 Nissan Quest
Comfort & Quality
The Quest has a flexible seating system in back, but it doesn't package as neatly as a Caravan or even a Sedona.
The Quest used to have one of the most flexible interiors of all minivans. In its latest edition, it's simply lost some of the usefulness that we expect from a family vehicle.
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.
The Quest has few other flaws, from the front seats on back. 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.
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.
2015 Nissan Quest
Good crash-test scores are a minivan essential, but the Quest falls short.
The 2015 Nissan Quest hasn't yet been rated by the agencies that evaluate vehicle safety, and it lacks some of the industry's newest safety technologies.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested the 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.
To make matters worse, the IIHS has also performed a small-overlap test on the Quest, and gave it a Poor rating, calling it one of the worst performances yet in the 40-mph test, which simulates impact with a telephone pole.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't yet crash-tested the current Quest.
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.
2015 Nissan Quest
With the features we consider essential in a minivan, the Quest's base price vaults past $30,000.
The 2015 Nissan Quest comes with all of the expected options for the minivan segment, making it a well-equipped vehicle for the segment, but not necessarily one that lives on the cutting edge. This year, the Platinum trims replaces what was once the LE model, and this trim receives the moving object detection feature.
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.
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.
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 Platinum 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.
2015 Nissan Quest
Better fuel economy helps the Quest take the class-leader title in at least one category.
The Nissan Quest may suffer in comparison with other minivans in other respects, but in terms of fuel economy, it's emerged a winner after a round of technical improvements.
For 2015, the EPA says the Nissan Quest's fuel economy has gotten much better. Nissan itself says it's bettered the car's transmission, with new shift logic and simulated stepped "gears" in its continuously variable transmission.
The result is higher gas mileage on paper, higher than almost anything in its class. The Quest is now rated at 20 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. The Honda Odyssey earns 28 mpg on the highway; Chrysler's minivans get 25 mpg highway, for comparison.
In city mileage, the Quest is a leader. Its 20 miles per gallon on the city cycle tops the Sienna and the Odyssey, while Chrysler's minivans check in significantly lower.
No hybrid or diesel editions of the Quest are currently planned.
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