An abundance of space. Nissan has performed a clever trick with the Pathfinder. Parked on the road, it doesn’t look especially large – certainly not compared to lumbering leviathans like Cadillac’s Escalade or GMC’s Yukon. Yet fling the doors open, and you discover a Tardis-like interior capable of seating seven, albeit in varying levels of comfort.

Let’s start in the front, where soft and spacious front seats include 10-way power for the driver if you skip base S trim – we’ll explain in a moment why that’s a good idea. Next to the middle row, where you can opt for squishy captain’s seats or a bench that’ll slide forwards even with a child seat in. We’ll admit the third row is less impressive, but the seating is still comfortable, and you’ll find around 17 cubic feet of cargo space behind this bench. There’s even generous oddment and cupholder capacity throughout the interior, while soft-touch materials boost the quality score even higher.

Equipped for battle. Large SUVs like the Pathfinder wade into battle in a congested market where luxury is increasingly used to justify the disparity between affordable base models and pricey flagship ones. You can park a Pathfinder on your drive for around $36,000, though you wouldn’t really want to. Base S trim is something of a disappointment, with its manually adjustable cloth seats and mediocre eight-inch infotainment screen.

Instead, move one rung up the Pathfinder ladder to the $41,000 SV, which brings largely autonomous highway driving and a heated power-adjustable driver’s seat among other goodies. An additional $3,000 nets you SL’s leather and surround-view camera system, while the $52,500 Platinum includes second-row captain’s chairs. Premium models in the Pathfinder range also get a larger nine-inch infotainment screen.

2023 Nissan Pathfinder Interior

Drives how you’d expect. Nobody buys a large SUV expecting a dynamic driver’s car, despite the best efforts of Range Rover and BMW to disprove the rule. As you pilot a Pathfinder, you can feel its 114-inch wheelbase and heavy body being pummeled by both physics and computer-aided interventions. The outcome is a smooth cruiser with a particularly impressive ride on smaller wheels, while sound deadening helps to further insulate occupants from what’s going on outside.

As a payoff for that compliant ride, the driver is also insulated from what’s going on dynamically. The electric power steering is uncommunicative, and the nine-speed automatic transmission has clearly been briefed to focus on fuel economy rather than performance or rapid kickdowns. At least the 3.5-liter V6 has enough grunt to get the big Nissan rolling in good time, while you can tow up to 6,000 lb in the right configuration. Just don’t expect to have any fun in the bends.

Impressive safety. Regardless of which Pathfinder you choose, you’ll receive a generous slew of standard safety equipment. This ranges from automatic emergency braking and active lane control through to blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts. Avoid S trim, and you also benefit from Nissan’s ProPilot Assist, which can control the vehicle on well-marked highways. This is initially terrifying, but ultimately very helpful during long commutes.

One potential fly in the ointment is the NHTSA’s disappointing four-star safety rating, though the IIHS gave the Pathfinder their highest honor. There’s little that concerns us in terms of occupant safety.

Final thoughts. There are no red flags surrounding the Pathfinder. It's by no means a perfect SUV, with the stingy S trim and weak fuel economy worth noting – though AWD versions manage to improve on front-drive economy figures, bizarrely. The third-row seating is best for small children or wizened oldies, and the presence of a flat-bottom steering wheel does not translate into driving dynamics. We’re also not convinced by the retro styling – those eyebrow-style indicators snaking towards the outside mirrors look quizzical, while the rear window extends too far forwards along the sides for our liking.

Grumbles aside, the Pathfinder is a highly competent entry into a highly competitive market. Its lazy V6 acceleration is smoothly deployed by an economy-focused CVT gearbox, while squishy front seats and a refined ride accentuate the sense of being on board a land yacht. Prices are competitive, space is outstanding, and practicality is impressive thanks to seemingly endless storage cubbies and cupholders. Add the available AWD, and the Pathfinder is a strong choice as a year-round family hold-all.

Check 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Prices Near You »