The Nissan Pathfinder is an unpretentious SUV that is unashamedly rugged with genuine off-road ability. But for all its rock and mud crawling talent, it offers reasonable refinement and tough construction. There are many parallels with the Land Rover Discovery, but the Nissan undercuts its more upmarket rival by nearly £4000.

That has as much to do with the relative unsophistication of the Pathfinder as it does with the prestige placed on the two brands. It might lack the accuracy and smoothness of rivals more biased towards tarmac use, but is still a credible performer.

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The Pathfinder's 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is industrial sounding, with an induction 'whoosh' when cold. And overtaking requires some planning, particularly with a gearbox that requires smooth, unhurried changes.

The five-speed auto is offered alongside a six-speed manual which increases emissions from 224 to 238g/km and fuel consumption from 33.2 to 31.4mpg on the combined cycle. The auto is marginally faster to 62mph though, with its 10.7sec cutting three tenths of the manual version's figure.

A full set of low-range gears and a lockable diff give make it impressive on the rough stuff. However, the Pathfinder's ride is its primary weakness, proving unsettled on uneven roads, accompanied by steering wheel shimmy over surface imperfections. It almost feels like the body (with separate ladder chassis) is flexing and, indeed, when we put the axles on minor opposite articulation, the tailgate closed with reduced conviction.

Two trim levels are offered: Acenta and Tekna, but regardless of model there's plenty of equipment. The cabin is spacious, but the construction is more tough than tactile despite revisions to improve perceived quality for the 2010 model year. The Pathfinder is very closely related to the Navara pick-up, and it shows most in the cabin - it feels like a commercial vehicle at heart.

It is practical though, with a split-opening tailgate, seven seats with plenty of room for them all to be used, door bins designed to hold an A3-sized map and a one-litre bottle and an optional rear park camera. Dynamically, then, the Pathfinder can't match more road-focussed SUVs like the XC90, Touareg or RX300. But pitch it against the more rugged Mitsubishi Shogun or Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Pathfinder's £32k price tag looks tempting.