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.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Sports SUVs

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LS 500h
    First Drive
    14 December 2017
    New flagship saloon from Lexus provides a luxury interior to rival the best but comes up short due to its hybrid powertrain
  • Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI SE
    First Drive
    14 December 2017
    Volkswagen's has high aspirations for its new crossover be the best in class and then some. We've driven the 1.0 TSI T-Roc out in the UK to see if it's as good as Wolfsburg says
  • Dacia Sandero Stepway LPG
    First Drive
    14 December 2017
    We’re familiar with the Sandero – it’s the cheap fuel that really intrigues us. We’ve sourced a dual-fuel Dacia to determine whether running a car on LPG is practical in Britain
  • Ford Mondeo ST-Line
    First Drive
    13 December 2017
    The Mondeo ST-Line marries sporty styling with that car's signature dynamism to make a rather appealing package designed for private buyers
  • Audi RS4 Avant
    First Drive
    12 December 2017
    The Audi RS4 Avant covers ground like few, if any, other estate cars, but it doesn’t involve you all that much in the process