From £32,2707

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.

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.

Top 5 Large SUVs

  • Range Rover Sport
    The new Sport, from a keen driver’s point of view, might just be the best SUV in the world at the moment

    Range Rover Sport

  • The Porsche Cayenne is available as a hybrid for the first time

    Porsche Cayenne

  • BMW X5
    The X5 uses in effect the same platform as the previous generation, but it's been substantially revised

    BMW X5

  • Land Rover Discovery
    The Discovery really is the defining go-anywhere super-utility vehicle

    Land Rover Discovery

  • The Mk2 model, also based on the Porsche Cayenne, is lighter, roomier and more economical than the first

    Volkswagen Touareg


First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    1 December 2015
    Bentley's big seller has a facelift for 2015 and we've driven it on UK roads for the first time in twin-turbocharged 4.0 V8 form. Is it still the pick of the range?
  • First Drive
    27 November 2015
    We try the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol version of the Golf Bluemotion. If you're not doing mega miles, it's a better bet than the diesel
  • 2015 Mercedes-AMG A45
    First Drive
    27 November 2015
    Mercedes couldn't let the Audi RS3 get away with having more power than its AMG A45. As part of a wholesale A-Class facelift, it now has 376bhp and a host of other revisions
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    More powerful Clubsport version of Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch proves thoroughly entertaining on our track-only first drive in Portugal
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    Suzuki has added an automatic diesel powertrain to its S-Cross crossover line-up. Does it offer a compelling choice over the manual versions?