Nissan Pathfinder: Affable and Affordable
The Car Family
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Sometimes a car simply amazes you and that is the way it was with the new Pathfinder. Nissan has made this seven passenger SUV into a well mannered, fun, and versatile vehicle capable of handling most any terrain and with enough options to satisfy any taste. Perhaps, best of all, the Pathfinder starts around $30,000 (US). In other words Nissan has priced the this gentle giant under the cost of many mid-sized sedans.

The Pathfinder is a radical departure from older generations and provides ample evidence that Nissan knows how to produce a seven passenger SUV that can match luxury brands in quality and performance. The unibody constructed Pathfinder offers ample cargo space, an upscale interior, and spry performance. Indeed, this Nissan is a joy to drive. It has excellent acceleration, good braking, is easy to park and offers superior value. The Pathfinder is very nimble.

Visibility in all directions is among the best ever in a large SUV and the 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 gave us over 23 mpg in mixed driving and 25 on the highway. That is impressive considering its towing capacity is 5000 pounds. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) in our test vehicle was unobtrusive, quick to react and kept the engine on task. A hybrid Pathfinder is also available.
2015 Nissan Pathfinder

Mom’s view: What a surprise. This is a big SUV that drivers like a small one. It has a turning radius that enables you to quickly maneuver into tight mall parking spaces. Safetywise, Pathfinder models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags, traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system. Options include a voice-activated navigation system, a 13-speaker Bose stereo and the best Around View system in the business providing a clear, 360-degree overhead view of nearby obstacles. A blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert are available on SL and up models. You can also order all wheel drive, but we found the front wheel drive enough to power through the recent snowfall without slippage.

The interior has plenty of storage spaces, but the real plus was the usefulness of the second row seats that have over five inches of travel and help make access to the third row of seats easier. I was impressed on how easy the seats folded flat enabling us to haul a six foot table with room to spare. A great place to put those bargains. The Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL and Limited trim levels. Even the base model is well equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system, and 18-inch alloy wheels and more. Nissan has created a value oriented SUV for families that has a 19.5 fuel tank making 500 miles trips possible without refueling.

Working woman’s view: I reommend the SL version with its leather interior, power liftgate, remote start, heated front and rear seats, an electric-adjustable front passenger seat, and a digital compass as well as a 120V outlet. The center armrest is equipped with jacks for just about any devise. I would also add the Tech Package with its 13-speaker Bose stereo and a navigation system, eight-inch touchscreen, NavTraffic and NavWeather, and an around-view monitor that provides a 360-degree birds-eye view of the surrounding area. The interior is understated and quite funcitonal. I believe the information center was the easiest to use of any I have tested and the large touch screen was quick to accept inputs. There is also a DVD Family Entertainment Package that shows images on 7.0-inch screens located in the back of the front seat headrests.

Dad’s view: This is not a performance vehicle and is tuned more for economy. The results are very good, but its real pride is in its handling and ride. If you haven’t driven a vehicle with a continuously variable transmission it might take you a short time to adjust. The braking is good for its class and the government crash test scores were all above average. The seats are very comfortable and the optional heating element works quickly. I highly recommend you look into the Pathfinder hybrid which, unlike the Toyota Highlander hybrid, can be purchased in models with a minimum of extras and thus starts around $35,000. Since Nissan also produces the best selling all-electric car, the Leaf, that technology certainly helps when they created the Pathfinder hybrid and were able to package the batteries with a minimum loss of cargo space. Essentially, the Pathfinder is a family vehicle for drivers who don’t like minivans. I found this Nissan refreshing and it showed quality throughout. I kept it in front wheel drive for better fuel mileage, but the recent bad weather gave me the opportunity to try it on slick roads and it never faltered. This is the type of one-size fits all households. It is easy enough to go grocery shopping, take a weekend trip, or commute with equal aplomb.

Family conference: This is an excellent choice for 909 readers looking for a large, family oriented SUV that is enjoyable to drive, has great visibility, and an abundance of features. Clearly, Nissan has done its homework and the Pathfinder gets our most improved SUV award. It certainly deserves a test drive. As always, we highly recommend you buy from a reliable dealer.

Nissan Rogue: Bigger and Better

by The Car Family

There are few cars so misnamed as the Nissan Rogue. Indeed, it is an honest vehicle that has great reliability and is ranked among the best affordable compact SUVs for families, and certainly no rogue. And although 909 readers have an average household income of about $100,000, Nissan went so far as to provide a Select model with a starting price around $20,000 for those on a budget.

Labeled a crossover, the Rogue has an abundance of cargo space, fairly good fuel mileage, and excellent crash scores. The standard four-cylinder engine runs through a continuously variable transmission and they combine for a 26/33 mpg average, near the top in this segment. The handling is fine for commuting and the whole kit and caboodle make for an ideal drop off the kids, go to the mall, or take a trip to Las Vegas. Top that off with a third row seat and you have a handy utility vehicle well worth a test drive. There isn’t any real sport in the Rogue, but that is just fine with us. No doubt, the new Nissan Rogue is both bigger and better.

2014 Nissan Rogue

Mom’s view: I enjoyed driving the Nissan, although the third row is best left for the younger set. You have a large cargo bay made even better as the rear seat has a 40/60 split and the seats can fold flat. I liked Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide cargo system designed to keep things in place as well as away from prying eyes. Very handy, but read the manual first. The interior is rather plain, but the Rogue’s useful dash display and handy buttons makes it very workable. I especially liked the optional Nissan’s Around View monitor that uses four cameras to provide an aerial perspective of what is around the vehicle. You must order this system, especially for those who park in crowded lots. Standard features include a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, auxiliary audio jack and a USB port. Safety-wise the Nissan can be ordered with LED headlights, Forward Collision Warning and Safety Shield, a phrase for a battery of safety features that includes Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning and more. I liked the theater type seating for those in the second row. Overall, this is truly a family vehicle. It does everything a carrier of people should with a touch of elegance and a huge amount of safety equipment. Best of all, it does this in a workmanlike fashion

Rogue 2014 de Nissan

Young working woman’s view: If you need a third row of seats on a consistent basis move up to the Pathfinder. Secondly, although the base price of $22,490 is attractive, it only takes a couple of option packages to drive that sticker price well north of $33,000. However, Nissan is offering some great lease deals that make the Rogue an extremely attractive alternative. The Roguege is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top award and its did well in other crash tests as well. As Mom said, a great family vehicle especially with the optional Forward Collision Warning. The Rogue is Nissan’s second top selling vehicle and it is easy to see why with additional standard features including Nissan’s Advanced Air Bag System with dual-stage supplemental front air bags; front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags; roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags with rollover sensor for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection among other features. The Nissan is easy to drive and maneuver and park. It is a handy size and the entry height isn’t too high, but the rear hatch is a reach. Dad’s view: No question that the Rogue’s engine comes in for a fair amount of criticism due to its noise under stressful conditions. I didn’t mind it knowing that the 2.5-liter four cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and uses Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission to provide an excellent fuel economy. In fact, the Sport mode helped make the transmission respond more appropriately to driver input when driving in the mountains. Tight canyon turns were  no challenge and driving down valleys found that Nissan had provided the transmission with the ability to help brake the Rogue (Active Engine Braking). Nissan is promoting its NASA inspired zero gravity driver’s seat to reduce stress. I found it comfortable, but you need to test it yourself. One interesting feature was the Easy Fill Tire Alert system that uses the Rogue’s horn to signal when the tire inflation at the correct level. Young working male’s view: This vehicle is loaded with useful features. For example, the Moving Object Detection enhances the driver’s awareness of objects around it when starting out. The electronics are good with a seven-inch color monitor and a GPS that is quick to refresh. The standard stereo is mid-range. What impressed me was the interior storage space. With the rear seats down you get 70 cubic feet of room and the rear seats can be reclined and can move forward or back. The Rogue doesn’t live up to its name, thank goodness. Hey, check out my latest music video ( Family conference: The Rogue is a good choice and an excellent value and a trustworthy, family friendly vehicle,

Nissan Versa Note: You Can Carry it All

By The Car Family

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Searching for a snappy vehicle that gets gas mileage in the 40 mpg range, offers ample cargo space for a growing family and is cute enough to brighten up a gloomy day, take note; Nissan’s Versa Note. This roomy hatchback also adds one element missing in the competition and that is a starting list price under $15,000. Not bad for a competent, willing, and easy to maneuver vehicle, but it has one more notable attribute. This Versa Note would make it an ideal go to college car. You can pack the all the dorm room furnishing inside, park it in the tightest of parking spots, and never have to worry about your future graduate being in a speed contest because the 109 horsepower engine is built for frugality not velocity. Nevertheless, there is ample torque from the four cylinder engine to make freeway merging reassuring.

2014 Nissan Versa Note

Mom’s view: A sharp looking exterior hides a rather bland interior. However, the controls are easy to reach and visibility is outstanding, I would opt for the more upscale SV and SL models that offer the amenities I appreciate such as an ungraded interior fabrics and available heated seats. Speaking of which, the seats are a bit tight for those with girth concerns, but they are comfortable even on long trips. Those riding in the backseat are going to love the huge amount of room the Note offers. The rear cargo space is very generous and there is even a slim package shelf under the main floor for that iPad or laptop to cozy. Nissan’s Versa sedan costs less so you may want to cross shop them, but I found the looks of the Note more aesthetically pleasing and the hatchback configuration makes it easier for me to load. The greatest plus in owning the Note is in its versatility giving ample credence for the company’s selection of the Versa name. I also liked the way it handled in traffic and the slightly higher seating position that made it easy to enter and leave as well as see traffic ahead. Good value, a cute face, a tight turning radius and achieving hybrid type fuel mileage without the high cost of a hybrid were the closers for me.


Dad’s view: The 1.6 liter engine is designed for fuel economy and thus I would recommend the more upscale CVT equipped models to keep the engine in its sweet spot as much as possible. The initial acceleration is adequate, but you are going to have to be a bit abusive to the accelerator when going skiing with four adults and luggage. Brake feel is good and the steering surprisingly well weighted. Overall, this is a very enjoyable rig to commute with as can safely navigate through traffic and an wiggle its rear into tight parking spots the Kardashians could only dream about. The engine noise is fairly well muted and at cruising speed things settle down allowing you time to appreciate the option packages the Note offers. In fact, there is so much optional technology available that you could tickle the $19,000 mark. But I have noted that Nissan dealers are offering some enticing deals that truly make the MSRP truly a suggestion.


Young working woman’s view: The 360 degree Around view monitor comes only on the high level models, but it has to be seen to be believed, literally. It is so useful that it is almost a necessity once you get used to it as the Around system provides an “aerial” view of the Note and its surroundings. Great for tight parking situations. In fact, it is going to spoil you for any other vehicle that does not have this safety feature. Go to your Nissan dealer just to see the 360 Around view if nothing else. You can also order GPS and information and entertainment systems that go far beyond what you would expect in a car at this price. Young parents are going to love how easy it is to put a baby seat in as you don’t have to stress your back. The rear doors open wide and the height of the Versa means you don’t have to reach so far. The seniors shouldn’t pass up the Note either. It is economical to own and operate, carries large yard sale finds with ease, and there aren’t the usual blind spots. If you own a RV, with the proper equipment towing the Note with its light weight and spacious interior would make it an ideal choice. The Versa Note is a funky hatchback with a lot to love

2014 Nissan Versa Note


Young working male’s view: If you go with the SL package you can get USB socket, 4.3-inch color display, a fun to use Easy Fill system that monitors tire pressure, and an assortment of other smart driving and comfort features. Step up to the SL with the Tech package, which I recommend, and you get a larger monitor, navigation, the sensational Around View camera, satellite radio, Pandora, voice reading texts, Bluetooth audio streaming, and more. You just have to get this package as it adds so much to the Note’s enjoyment and if you are driving a Note you must have your tunes.


Family conference: The Note is unique in that it could be ideal for a one car family or as a second car or even as a handy tow behind RV choice. It is not a luxury car. For that move up to the smooth Nissan Maxima. What really separates the Versa Note from the competition is the myriad of technology available and its ability to offer owners a vehicle that can meet their needs without challenging their budget.


Nissan’s Leaf is to be sold in Europe, too, starting in January.

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Since March, nearly 12,000 customers in Europe have signed up for regular updates on Nissan LEAF’s introduction, and in the US and Japan pre-orders have exceeded 23,000 units since online reservations began in April.

Such high demand has meant the Nissan LEAF will launch slightly later than planned in the Netherlands. Sales are now expected to start in June 2011, with pre-orders opening to customers in October this year. All other market launch dates remain unchanged.

Nissan LEAF features  air conditioning, satellite navigation and a parking camera. Also available is a smart phone connectivity which will allow an owner to heat or cool the interior of the car remotely via a mobile phone.

The car’s AC motor develops 80 kW of power and 280 Nm of torque, enough for a maximum speed of more than  (90 mph.  The electric motor uses  laminated lithium-ion battery with a power output of more than 90 kW.

A full charge delivers a potential range of 100 miles. Global research indicates that the average daily mileage for 80 percent of the world’s population is under 60 miles for a daily commute.

Box Cars: Perfect for Hauling Coal for Stockings

by The Car Family

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Looking for the best vehicle to haul that coal for the undeserving one’s stocking this holiday season? Well it might not be that simple since there are five main types of coal. Of these, Anthracite, which is an environmentalist nightmare, has significant carbon content, but high heating value. Bituminous, the most common, is used mainly for generating electricity and casts a large carbon footprint, too. There is also Subbituminous, which gives less heat, but also has less carbon, and Lignite, a younger coal with less potential.

So which coal to buy is the question, but equally of note is which box car to tote home the combustible sedimentary rock? Fortunately, this holiday season there are three fairly newly minted vehicles that provide good fuel mileage, room for four adults as well as a few bags of coal within their squared off exteriors. The box cars are the Scion xB the Kia Soul, and the Nissan Cube and they are as different as Bituminous is from Lignite despite their similar Lego-like looks.

Mom’s view: The most conservative of the trio is the fairly “spacious” Scion xB with nearly 70 cubic feet of interior space and a lengthy list of options from stereo upgrades to an integrated navigation system. There is an abundance of standard features, especially considering the mid-$15,000 price range. Acceleration is PCH brisk, which means it can get you to 40 mph in a hurry, but after that no rush. The engine is eager to please while still yielding above 30 mpg in mixed driving. The interior is quaint, but legroom is tight. Safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front active head restraints. Crash scores have been above average. Overall, this is a handy rig, but the bus driver type seat and steering wheel angle were obviously designed for a younger dudette.

Dad’s view: If you are into a bit more sport and a whole lot more fun the Kia Soul is worth a tug at your purse strings. Starting under $14,000, this cool coal hauler has a great seating position, good handling, although it can be harsh on tax deprived roads, and offers 53 cubic feet of cargo space or about room for 40 bushels. Besides its looks, the Soul has such standard features as a four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, and auxiliary input jacks, as well as 12-volt power outlets. An enormous number of options can help give the Soul more soul, but definitely check out the glowing upholstery options and get the larger engine. The base engine and local canyons don’t make a good mix. Safety features include antilock brakes. stability control and front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A bit noisy, but with the excellent stereo it really doesn’t matter. Overall, a worthy utility machine that is loaded with value. However, a safety reminder is in order. Never, ever start the Soul after a member of the younger generation has driven it without first turning off the stereo first. You heard me, didn’t you?

Young guilty male driver’s view: Priced around $15,000, the Nissan Cube is an oxymoron, a round box. Every inch of this vessel has been exposed to the French curve and the result is, well, French like. Perhaps this is owing to the fact that Renault has controlling shares. Nevertheless, this is a compelling machine and practical, too. It has just over 58 cubic feet of cargo space and the rear hatch can be accessed through the side-hinged door. The interior is interesting, especially with the optional 20-color interior lighting and distinctive instrument panel. The easiest to park and maneuver, the Cube is full of fascinating features and doesn’t short change the buyer on safety equipment as front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, stability control and antilock brakes are standard. Cool, but the stereo is n’t as sick as the Soul.

Family conference: All of these diamonds in the rough are great coal haulers, but after the season is over they are also ideal for driving the kids to the therapist and still have room in back for the peace making dog in the process. And if you are into positive reinforcement and don’t cater to the Sicilian tradition of coal in the stocking, or perhaps want to substitute Carbone Dolce, these three boxcars are great fun and attract more attention than a Maria Shriver with a cell phone.

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