LA Show 2010 Highlights: 2011 Nissan Quest

When Nissan desperately craved a minivan to sell in the 1990s, it partnered with Ford to rebadge the Mercury Villager as the original Quest, an arrangement that lasted for another generation. The Villager was killed in the early 2000s, so Nissan then struck out on its own to create the funky third-gen Quest on the bones of the Altima sedan, but sales were terrible, generating rumors that the company would pull out of the segment altogether. A fourth Quest wasin the cards, though, and to bring the van to life, Nissan found another partner: itself—specifically, the Japanese mother ship.

Indeed, the 2011 Nissan Quest is twinned with the Japanese-market Elgrand, a strategy that allows the automaker to hedge its bets against picky U.S. shoppers; if we don’t buy the thing, production ostensibly can be re-allotted to Japan. (That’s where this new Quest will be built, unlike the previous model, which was assembled in Canton, Mississippi.) It’s a strategy that makes sense, but might need to be enacted sooner rather than later: Innovative styling isn’t typically among minivan buyers’ highest priorities, and this new Quest is as bizarre-looking as its slow-selling predecessor. That said, we like this van’s samurai-helmet-meets-the-suburbs look, and its wraparound glass and slabby body sides create some visual drama—at least as much as you can expect from a minivan, anyway. The new model’s styling is based on that of theForum concept, which was penned in the U.S.

Bold looks tend to turn off minivanites, but features and ease-of-use get them hot and bothered. As you’d expect, the Quest’s second and third rows fold to accommodate all the flat-pack furniture you can buy, but the chairs aren’t removable and don’t fold into the floor; instead, they fold forward to make a flat load surface, which Nissan notes allows constant access to the deep cargo well behind the third row. That well gets its own 60/40-split cover, too. Dodge, of course, offers the Stow ‘n Go second row, where the seats fold into the floor. In the Odyssey, the third row folds forward like the Quest’s, and must then be flipped back into the cargo well to create a flat load floor, which Nissan’s press materials imply is a terrible inconvenience.

But the Quest comes with its own inconveniences. Total passenger volume is about what you’d expect for the segment—all range from 160 to 170 cubic feet or so, depending on equipment—but the Quest’s non-removable seats eat up a fair chunk of cargo room when they’re flattened. At a maximum of 63.6 cubic feet behind the second row, it lags 20 to 30 cubes behind the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Dodge Grand Caravan. And its 108.4 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded trails the Odyssey by more than 40 cubic feet. (Admittedly, that Honda figure is with the seats pulled out, and only Toyota gives a figure for a folded, but installed, second row: 117.8 cubes.) The Quest is in line with its peers behind the third row, with 35.1 cubic feet available, though, and Nissan says that the step-in height through the sliding side doors is lower than on other minivans, which is a nice touch for both small kids and older folks.
Thanks to: Car and Driver

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