Growing up, the only use of the word ‘hybrid’ I knew was in relation to my dad’s tea-roses. Since then, the word has inveigled itself into everyday usage, especially in the ever fuel economy and environmentally more conscious automotive industry.
These days, petrol-electric and diesel-electric hybrid vehicles, from exotic sports cars and SUVs to heavy transports, can be found around almost every street corner.
Pathfinder began life as little brother to the Nissan Patrol. A seismic shift came with the introduction of the X-Trail, a compact SUV that took the market by storm. What to do with the Pathfinder, which still had its fans?
Nissan beefed it up and ran it as a practical alternative to the new street-smart Murano, the latter with its newly developed leading edge continuously variable transmission and sports coupe-style looks.
Now Nissan has slotted in a petrol-electric hybrid to its Pathfinder range. It uses a 2.5-litre supercharged four-cylinder petrol engine coupled with a 15kW electric motor, resulting, Nissan claims, in V6 performance with fuel consumption of a four-cylinder SUV.
The entry-level ST 2WD version, on the market for $39,990, plus on-road costs, was our test vehicle.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Pathfinder ST is powered by a 2.5-litre supercharged four-cylinder petrol engine and a 15 kW electric motor, giving maximum total outputs of 188 kW and 330 Nm, with a torque curve almost identical to that of the V6 petrol powered model.
The highly efficient petrol / electric powertrain, which claims a combined-cycle fuel consumption of 8.4 litres per 100km with the 2WD variant, makes use of an intelligent dual-clutch system.
The first clutch operates in conjunction with the petrol engine, the second controlling engagement of the electric motor, each determined by where and how the vehicle is being driven.
Power is put to ground via Nissan’s latest-generation Xtronic CVT.
The result is a 15 per cent claimed decrease in fuel consumption over the V6 petrol-only model.
The electric torque-assist motor functions as a power generator during braking and deceleration, recharging the on-board 144-volt lithium-ion battery.
A true seven-seater, the Pathfinder is more than five metres long and almost two metres wide. A bold front to match carries the Nissan signature V-motion grille.
It sports a Hybrid badge low down on the front door. Chromed door handles, brushed metal roof rails, rear roof-mounted spoiler and privacy glass add a touch of prestige to the package.
Sharp price positioning means the entry-level Pathfinder Hybrid is light on in information technology. Around-view monitor, satellite navigation with 8-inch colour LCD front display, premium Bose audio and 9GB music box are available only on ST-L and Ti high-end models.
The ST owner has to be satisfied with a 7-inch front monitor with Drive Assist energy flow meter, reversing camera with predictive path technology, rear parking sensors, hill start assist, triple zone climate control and keyless entry and engine start / stop with the Nissan intelligent key. Bluetooth connectivity is a given.
However, a couple of clever pieces of technology put the Pathfinder Hybrid out on its own in the SUV field. Electric engine mounts support the petrol engine and minimise vibration when it is detected by applying a reverse-phase cancelling force to counter them. The aim is a smoother, more comfortable ride, more in keeping with the standard V6 powerplant.
Active noise control is also used in-cabin; microphones monitor the presence of undesirable sounds. When detected, they are cancelled with an equal and opposite sound frequency emitted by the vehicle’s audio system. Wonder if it cancels out whining kids?
Six airbags are boosted by front seatbelts with load limiters and pretensioners; plus three-point emergency locking retractor front and rear seatbelts.
An ABS anti-skid brake system with electronic brake-force distribution, vehicle dynamics control and traction control provide active safety measures to the two-wheel drive variant.
Nissan says the Pathfinder Hybrid consumes petrol at a 15 per cent lower rate than the V6 petrol model, equivalent to 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres for the two-wheel drive SUV.
The test vehicle recorded 12 litres per 100 kilometres in city traffic and, impressively, just half that on a motorway run.
As it was a two-wheel drive, off-road work was given a miss.
The cabin is agreeably quiet, no doubt due to the innovative active engine mounts and noise cancelling technology.
Visually, one bright spot is the 3-D instrument set-up directly in front of the driver. It’s clear, concise and instantly readable.
Although the middle row of seats tumble forward by means of a single lever to allow easy access to the third row, entry is still awkward because of a high step up.
The rear-most seating position is unnatural, with any occupant’s head not quite between the knees, but sufficiently stilted to make even the thought of a long journey ahead quite uncomfortable. Also, with the head rests up the back window is all but blanked out.
an advantage is that the rear seats fold flat, opening up a large area for carrying cargo.
Although the lithium ion battery is positioned under the third row of seats, its relatively compact dimensions mean the Pathfinder Hybrid shares the same rear occupant space and cargo capacity as its V6 counterpart.
The tailgate rises only to roof level, making it easy to reach to close but is a constant threat to the head of any above-average-height person when loading or unloading.
A tug o’ war between the Hybrid and its conventional Pathfinder cousin is no contest, with the towing capacity of the Hybrid at a lightweight 1650 kg with a braked trailer, as opposed to the Pathfinder V6’s 2700 kg.
As a seven-seat two-wheel drive wagon, the Pathfinder Hybrid ST is more people mover than serious off-bitumen bush basher. Equipment specification in our ST review vehicle was sparing, but so is the price.
AT A GLANCE
Pathfinder ST V6 2WD: $39,990
Pathfinder Hybrid ST 2WD $42,990
Pathfinder ST-L V6 2WD:: $50,490
Pathfinder ST-L V6 2WD:: w option pack $52,590
Pathfinder Ti V6 2WD:: $60,990
Pathfinder ST V6 4WD:: $44,490
Pathfinder ST-L V6 4WD:: $54,490
Pathfinder ST-L V6 4WD:: w option pack $56,490
Pathfinder Hybrid ST-L 4WD:: $57,490
Pathfinder Hybrid ST-L 4WD:: w option pack $59,590
Pathfinder Ti V6 4WD:: $65,090
Pathfinder Hybrid Ti 4WD $68,090
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for drive-away prices.
Regenerative braking system
Electric Active Control Mounts
Active Noise Control
Seven seats as standard
EZ Flex seating system (for easy access to the third row of seats)
Reversing camera with predictive path technology
Rear parking sensors
Hill Start Assist
Tri-zone automatic climate control
18-inch alloy wheels
LED tail lights
(2.5-litre four-cylinder supercharged petrol engine and 15 kW electric motor)
Capacity: 2488 cc
Configuration: Six-cylinder, supercharged direct injection petrol engine
Electric power: 15 kW motor with 144 Volt lithium ion battery
Maximum Power: 188 kW @ 5600 rpm (combined)
Maximum Torque: 330 Nm @ 3600 rpm (combined)
Emission rating: Euro 5
Drivetrain: Two-wheel drive, Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 5008 mm
Width: 1960 mm
Height: 1768 mm
Wheelbase: 2900 mm
Ground clearance: 165 mm
Approach angle: 14.7 deg
Departure angle: 22.3 deg
Tare mass: 1969 kg
Gross vehicle mass: 2814 kg
Towing capacity: 1650 kg (braked) / 750 kg (unbraked)
Seating capacity: 7
Fuel Tank Capacity: 73 litres
Turning circle: 11.8 m
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Suspension: Independent (front/rear)
Brakes: Ventilated discs. ABS anti-skid brake system with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Dynamics Control. Traction Control. Regenerative braking system
Steering: Speed sensitive electric power assisted rack and pinion
Wheels / tyres: Alloy 18in / 235/65 R18. Space-saver spare
Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Fuel type: 91 RON unleaded
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 8.4 litres per 100 km. CO2 emissions 200 g / km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 6.5 / 10
Air Pollution Rating: 5.5 / 10
3 years / 100,000 kilometres