Nissan’s Leaf has a permanent place in history for being one of the first modern-day mass-production electric vehicles available anywhere, and arguably the first practical EV (sorry Mitsubishi), so it’s no wonder the compact hatchback quickly became the best-selling electric vehicle in the world.
Nissan investing half a billion into US EV manufacturing and technology operations
Therefore, Nissan is investing $500 million USD to partially transform its Canton, Mississippi assembly plant into an electric vehicle production facility, so that it will be capable of producing new Nissan and Infiniti EV models by 2025. This will include retraining and upskilling approximately 2,000 workers from the plant’s current 5,000 employee total, a process that will result in the Canton plant being Nissan’s centre for EV manufacturing and technology.
“Today’s announcement is the first of several new investments that will drive the EV revolution in the United States,” said Ashwani Gupta, chief operating officer for Nissan Motor Corporation, Ltd. “Nissan is making a strong investment in Canton’s future, bringing the latest technology, training and process to create a truly best-in-class EV manufacturing team.”
Nissan Ambition 2030 project responds to massive EV growth expectations
While it’s only part of a $13.5-billion overall investment in Nissan’s U.S. manufacturing operations to date, of which $4-billion was previously invested in the Canton facility alone, the company is betting on industry estimates that 40 percent of new vehicle purchases will be fully electric by 2030.
There are certain to be even more electrified models sold as hybrids and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles in the near future too, which is why the “Nissan Ambition 2030” project is targeting 23 electrified models within the Nissan and Infiniti brands globally by 2030, of which 15 will be fully electric.
Two new electric mid-size crossover SUVs are the likely candidates for Canton
The 19-year-old Canton assembly plant, which currently produces four Nissan models, including the Altima, Frontier, Titan and Titan XD, and has built almost five million vehicles since opening in 2003, will have two entirely new fully electric models in production by 2025.
The Leaf, which is currently built in Smyrna, Tennessee for U.S. consumption (and the Oppama Plant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan for Asian markets, plus NMUK in Sunderland, UK for European buyers), won’t be transferring production to the revised Mississippi plant, so it’s likely the two new models will be the upcoming Nissan Ariya and something similar to the Infiniti QX Inspiration, both mid-size crossover SUVs that will target large segments of both mainstream volume-branded and premium markets.
Combining EV and truck production could result in future electrified Frontier
Electrified commercial vans are also a possibility, being that Nissan was selling its full-size NV Cargo and NV Passenger vans, plus its NV200 compact cargo van up until September of 2021, when they were discontinued as part of Nissan’s new Business Advantage plan. A fleet of new electric vans could revitalize this segment for the automaker, and simultaneously expand Nissan’s important fleet customer base for its “Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM)” driving technologies, a more advanced version of its ProPilot Assist system that’s already available in many Nissan and Infiniti retail models.
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Nissan and Infiniti
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s…
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s Forester in 1997, this category has been bulging at the seams ever since.
Not long ago, Honda’s CR-V owned this segment, but Toyota’s RAV4 has ruled supreme since introducing its hybrid variant in 2015 as a 2016 model. This allowed Toyota to stay just ahead of the popular Honda, although introduction of the latest fifth-generation RAV4 in 2018, which now even comes in an ultra-quick plug-in RAV4 Prime variant, has helped to push the roomy RAV4 right over the top.
With deliveries of 67,977 examples in 2020, the RAV4’s sales dwarfed those of the next-best-selling CR-V by 17,842 units, plus it more than doubled the rest of the top-five contenders’ tallies last year.
Interesting as well, Toyota was one of only three models out of 14 compact crossover SUV competitors to post positive gains in 2020, with total deliveries up 4.18 percent compared to those in 2019.
Without doubt, the new RAV4’s tough, rugged, Tacoma-inspired styling is playing a big role in its success, not to mention duo-tone paint schemes that cue memories of the dearly departed FJ Cruiser. Likewise, beefier new off-road trims play their part too, as well as plenty of advanced electronics inside, a particularly spacious cabin, class-leading non-hybrid AWD fuel economy of 8.0 L/100km combined when upgrading to idle start/stop technology (the regular AWD model is good for a claimed 8.4 L/100km combined), and nearly the best fuel economy amongst available hybrids in this segment at 6.0 L/100km combined (not including PHEVs).
Another feather in the RAV4’s cap is top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards for the “Compact Utility Vehicle” category, meaning you’ll hold on to more of your money if you choose a RAV4 than any other SUV on this list.
This feat is backed up by a 2020 Best Retained Value Award from the Canadian Black Book (CBB) too, although to clarify the Jeep Wrangler actually won the title in CBB’s “Compact SUV” category, with the runners up being the Subaru Crosstrek and RAV4. The fact that these three SUVs don’t actually compete in the real world gives the RAV4 title to CBB’s Best Retained Value in the compact crossover SUV category, if the third-party analytical firm actually had one.
The RAV4 was also runner-up in the latest 2021 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) in the “Compact SUV” class, while the RAV4 Hybrid earned the highest podium in Vincentric’s most recent Best Value in Canada Awards, in the Consumer section of its “Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category, plus the same award program gave the RAV4 Prime plug-in a best-in-class ranking in the Fleet section of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” segment.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 starts at $28,590 (plus freight and fees) in LE FWD trim, while the most affordable RAV4 Hybrid can be had for $32,950 in LE AWD trim. Lastly, the top-tier RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid starts at $44,990 in SE AWD trim. To learn about other trims, features, options and pricing, plus available manufacturer financing/leasing rates and other available rebates and/or dealer invoice pricing, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Toyota RAV4 Canada Prices page and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Canada Prices page.
Honda claims a solid second-place with its recently refreshed CR-V
Lagging behind arch-rival Toyota in this important segment no doubt irks those in Honda Canada’s Markham, Ontario headquarters, but 50,135 units in what can only be considered a tumultuous year is impressive just the same.
This said, experiencing erosion of 10.42 percent over the first full year after receiving a mid-cycle upgrade can’t be all that confidence boosting for those overseeing the CR-V’s success.
Too little, too late? You’ll need to be the judge of that, but the CR-V’s design changes were subtle to say the least, albeit modifications to the front fascia effectively toughened up its look in a market segment that, as mentioned a moment ago, has started to look more traditionally SUV-like in recent years.
Of note, the CR-V took top honours in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards in the “Mid-Size Crossover SUV” category, not that it actually falls into this class. Still, it’s a win that Honda deserves.
The CR-V is also second-most fuel-efficient in this class when comparing AWD trims at 8.1 L/100km combined, although the Japanese automaker has chosen not to bring the model’s hybrid variant to Canada due to a price point it believes would be too high. Hopefully Honda will figure out a way to make its hybrid models more competitor north of the 49th, as an electrified CR-V would likely help it find more buyers.
The 2021 Honda CR-V starts at $29,970 in base LX 2WD trim, while the top-line Black Edition AWD model can be had for $43,570 (plus freight and fees). To find out about all the other trims, features, options and more in between, not to mention manufacturer rebates/discounts and dealer invoice pricing, go to the 2021 Honda CR-V Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada.
Mazda and its CX-5 continue to hang onto third in the segment
With 30,583 sales to its credit in 2020, Mazda’s CX-5 remains one of the most popular SUVs in Canada. What’s more, it was one of the three SUV’s in the class to post positive growth in 2020, with an upsurge of 10.42 percent.
Additionally, these gains occurred despite this second-generation CX-5 having been available without a major update for nearly five years (the already available 2021.5 model sees a new infotainment system). This said, Mazda has refined its best-selling model over the years, with top-line Signature trim (and this year’s 100th Anniversary model) receiving plush Nappa leather, genuine rosewood trim, and yet more luxury touches.
Its Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probably helped keep it near the top, an award that gives the CX-5 a leg up on the RAV4 and CR-V that only qualify for Top Safety Pick (without the Plus) status.
At 9.3 L/100km combined in its most basic AWD trim, fuel economy is not the CX-5’s strongest suit, but Mazda offers cylinder-deactivation that drops its city/highway rating to 9.0 flat.
The CX-5’s sleek, car-like lines buck the just-noted new trend toward truck-like ruggedness, while, as noted, its interior is arguably one of the most upscale in the segment, and overall performance very strong, especially with its top-tier 227 horsepower turbocharged engine that makes a commendable 310 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available from $28,600 in base GX FWD trim, whereas top-level 2021 100th Anniversary AWD trim starts at $43,550 (plus freight and fees), and the just-released top-line 2021.5 Signature AWD trim can be had for $42,750. To learn more about all the trims, features, options and prices in between, plus available no-haggle discounts and average member discounts thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best price, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page.
Hyundai holds onto fourth place despite slight downturn
With 28,444 units sold during the 12 months of 2020, Hyundai is so close behind Mazda in this category that its Tucson might as well be tailgating, and that’s despite losing 5.42 percent from last years near all-time-high of 30,075 deliveries.
Sales of the totally redesigned 2022 Tucson have only just started, however, so we’ll need to wait and see how well it catches on. Fortunately for Hyundai fans, and anyone else who appreciates things electrified, a Tucson Hybrid joins the fray in order to duel it out with Toyota’s mid-range RAV4 Hybrid.
This last point is important, as the conventionally-powered 2022 Tucson AWD is only capable of 9.0 L/100km combined, making the Tucson Hybrid the go-to model for those who want to save at the pump thanks to 6.4 L/100km. Of note, a new 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid is now the fourth PHEV in this segment.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson starts at $27,799 in its most basic Essential FWD trim, while the conventionally powered model’s top-level N Line AWD trim is available from $37,099. Moving up to the 2022 Tucson Hybrid will set you back a minimum of $38,899 (plus freight and fees, before discount), while this model is substitutes the conventionally-powered N Line option for Ultimate trim, starting at $41,599. The model’s actual ultimate 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid trim starts at $43,499 in Luxury AWD trim, while that SUV’s top-level Ultimate trim costs $46,199. To find out about all the trims, features, options, prices, discounts/rebates, dealer invoice pricing, etcetera for each of these models go to CarCostCanada’s 2022 Hyundai Tucson Canada Prices page, 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Canada Prices page, and 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Canada Prices page.
Nissan Rogue sees one of the biggest sales losses in the segment for 2020
While top-five placement from 25,998 sales in 2020 is nothing to sneeze at, Nissan’s Rogue is a regular top-three finisher in the U.S., and used to do just as well up here as well.
The last full calendar year of a longer-than-average six-year run saw the second-generation Rogue’s sales peter out in 2020, resulting in a year-over-year plunge of 30.73 percent. In fact, the only rival to fare worse was the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that lost 40.66 percent from the year prior, and that sportier model isn’t exactly a direct competitor due to its coupe-crossover-like profile. On the positive, that unique Japanese crossover earned best in its Compact XSUV class in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which is something Mitsubishi should be celebrating from the rooftops.
Fortunately, an all-new 2021 Rogue is already upon us, and was doing extremely well over the first half of this year, with Q2 sales placing it in third. That model provides compact SUV buyers a massive jump in competitiveness over its predecessor, especially styling, interior refinement, ride and handling, electronics, plus ride and handling, while its fuel economy is now rated at 8.1 L/100km with AWD.
The new Rogue’s overall goodness was recently recognized by the Automobile Journalist’s Association of Canada (AJAC) that just named it “Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021”, even though it falls within the compact camp.
For those who just need to know, sixth in this compact crossover SUV segment is Ford’s Escape at 23,747 unit-sales, although deliveries crashed by a staggering 39.89 percent from 2019 to 2020, and that’s after a 9.37-percent loss from the year before, and another 9.0 percent tumble from the 12 months prior. Back in calendar year 2017, the Escape was third in the segment, but for reasons that are clearly not related to the Escape Hybrid’s best-in-class fuel economy of 5.9 L/100km combined, the Escape Plug-in Hybrid’s even more miserly functionality, or for that matter the industry’s recent lack of microchips that seem to have crippled Ford more than most other automakers, the blue-oval brand is losing fans in this class at a shocking rate.
And yes, that last point needs to be underlined, there can be many reasons for a given model’s slow-down in sales, from the just-noted chip shortage, as well as the health crisis that hampered much of 2020, to reliability issues and the age of a given model’s lifecycle, while styling is always a key factor in purchasing decisions.
All said, Volkswagen’s Tiguan sits seventh in the compact SUV category with 14,240 units sold in 2020, representing a 26.02-percent drop in year-over-year deliveries, while the aforementioned Forester was eighth with 13,134 deliveries over the same 12-month period. Chevrolet’s Equinox was ninth with 12,502 sales after plummeting 32.43 percent in popularity, whereas Kia’s Sportage capped off 2020’s top 10 list with 11,789 units down Canadian roads after a 6.71-percent downturn.
Continuing on, GMC’s Terrain was 11th with 9,848 deliveries and an 18.09-percent loss, Jeep’s Cherokee was 12th with 9,544 sales and a 30.27-percent dive, Mitsubishi’s Outlander (which also comes in PHEV form) was 13th with 7,444 units sold due to a 30.43-percent decline, and finally the same Japanese brand’s Eclipse Cross was 14th and last in the segment with 3,027 units sold and, as mentioned earlier, a sizeable 40.66-percent thrashing by Canadian compact SUV buyers.
Ford’s Bronco Sport newcomer already making big gains
The Rogue wasn’t the only SUV to shake up the compact SUV class during the first six months of 2021, incidentally, with the second honour going to the Bronco Sport that’s already outselling Jeep’s Cherokee at 2,772 units to 2,072, the Cherokee being the SUV the smaller Bronco most specifically targets thanks to both models’ serious off-road capability.
The Bronco Sport was actually ranking eighth overall when this year’s Q2 closed, beating out the Sportage (which will soon arrive in dramatically redesigned form) despite its two-position move up the charts, this displacing the Forester (which dropped a couple of pegs) and the Equinox (that’s currently ahead of the Forester).
The Cherokee, in fact, moves up a place due to sluggish GMC Terrain sales, but to be fair to General Motors, both its Chevy and GMC models (which are actually the same under the skin) would be positioned in eighth place overall if we were to count them as one SUV, while the Hyundai–Kia pairing (also the same below the surface) would rank third overall.
Make sure to check out the gallery for multiple photos of each and every compact crossover SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use the linked model names of each SUV above to find out about available trims, features, options, pricing, discounts (when available), rebates (when available), financing and leasing rates (when available), plus dealer invoice pricing (always available) that could save you thousands on your next new vehicle purchase.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
The Murano has been with us for a long time, at least as far as crossovers are concerned. Sports car nameplates like Corvette, SL, 911 and Mustang date back to the mid-‘50s and ‘60s, while economy…
The Murano has been with us for a long time, at least as far as crossovers are concerned.
Sports car nameplates like Corvette, SL, 911 and Mustang date back to the mid-‘50s and ‘60s, while economy cars have a couple of old-timers in their midst too, particularly the Corolla and Civic that have been with us since 1968 and 1973 respectively. The oldest mid-size sedan still available is Honda’s Accord, which dates back to 1976, while BMW’s 3 Series holds title to the most seasoned compact luxury car name, having arrived in 1975, and Mercedes’ S-Class the most experienced premium four-door model of all, hailing from ’72.
Interestingly, two of the three oldest automotive names still in use denote SUVs, specifically Toyota’s Land Cruiser (albeit not in our market) that arrived in 1951, and Chevy’s Suburban that goes all the way back to 1935, making it the oldest surviving nameplate of all—the second-oldest vehicle name, incidentally, is Ford’s venerable F-Series that began life in 1948.
Excluding car-based unibody or integrated-frame models that started life as traditional body-on-frame SUVs, such as Jeep’s Wagoneer that helped initiate the sport utility craze way back in 1963, Chevy’s full-size Blazer that soon followed up in ‘68, Jeep’s Cherokee that took on the K5 in 1974 (along with GMC’s Jimmy that together with the Blazer more directly targeted Ford’s Bronco—the latter first arriving in 1965, with the full-size variant showing up in 1977), the just-noted blue-oval brand’s Explorer that became the go-to soccer mom conveyance in 1982, Jeep’s Grand Wagoneer that added a surprising amount of luxury to the original Wagoneer in 1984, Nissan’s Pathfinder that challenged the two-year-old Toyota 4Runner in 1985, Honda’s Passport that was nothing more than a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo (without the hilarious Joe Isuzu ads) in 1993, Hyundai’s Santa Fe that hit Canadian roads and trails in 2000, Kia’s Sorento that did likewise in 2002, the Grand Cherokee that successfully pulled in the premium SUV crowd in 1992, and the Dodge Durango (which currently shares the GC’s unibody underpinnings) that was a big hit in 1997, plus at the smaller end of the spectrum Kia’s Sportage that arrived on U.S. shores (with some pretty funny TV ads of its own) in 1993, yet wasn’t available in Canada until the end of the last millennia along with the entire Kia brand, the earliest purely crossover names I can think of that are still in existence have to be Toyota’s RAV4 and Subaru’s Outback, which both entered our market in 1994, with the Honda CR-V showing up a year later, the Subaru Forester in 1997, and the Ford Escape in 2000.
OK, I admit that intro was even long for my standards, not to mention one of the lengthiest run-on sentences I’ve written since, I don’t know, last week? Anyway, to get back to the plot, Nissan’s Murano, which dates back to 2002, is a time-tested name amongst mid-size crossover SUV forerunners, only pre-dated by Toyota’s Highlander that arrived two years earlier. Now that we’ve ventured so far down this rabbit hole, you might as well know that Honda’s Pilot entered the picture in 2003, Ford’s Edge, GMC’s Acadia and Mazda’s CX-9 showed up in 2006, while Chevy’s Traverse and the Toyota Venza arrived in 2008, with everything else no more than a decade old. Plenty of crossover names have come and gone too, but don’t worry, I’ll leave those for another look down memory lane at some point in the not-too-distant future.
I was on the Murano’s original Canadian press launch back in 2002, by the way, and I think it’s fair to say that it thoroughly impressed most of the auto scribes who drove it around Vancouver’s Fraser Valley on that cloudy day. It was one of, if not the first mid-size SUV with a continuously variable transmission that I’d ever driven (although not the first all-wheel drive vehicle with a CVT, that being my dad’s mid-‘80s Subaru Justy). Nowadays, an SUV with a CVT is hardly novel, but combined with its 245 horsepower 3.5-litre V6, standard all-wheel drivetrain, and nicely sorted chassis, it made for smooth yet sporty performance, while its styling really pushed boundaries for the time.
That first-generation Murano lasted just five model years, from 2003 to 2007, and while the second-gen Murano was better in every way, I didn’t find the styling as alluring during its heyday, but looking back its design probably aged better. Once again, powered solely by a 3.5-litre V6 (at least in our market), and mated to a CVT with standard AWD (plus FWD in the U.S.), albeit upgraded by 20 horsepower to 265, it was a force to be reckoned with in its two-row mid-size class, but after six model years, from 2009 to 2014, Nissan smartly updated it to the current design, which truly was as eye-popping when it came out as the original in the early aughts.
Now, seven years later, or eight if we include the upcoming 2022 model that will see no significant changes, the Murano is somewhat dated. Don’t get me wrong, as it’s still an attractive utility that remains sleeker and more progressive looking than many in its segment, but thanks to styling trends that are diverting away from sinuous curves and other types of organic forms to more abrupt angles combined with complex folds and creases, time has a way of making anything look old. Why Nissan has chosen to leave the Murano so long between updates, other than a subtle mid-cycle refresh that you’d need to be an owner to notice, is anyone’s guess, but this certainly hasn’t helped it remain near the top of the sales charts.
After six months of 2021, the Murano sits in fourth place amongst dedicated two-row crossover SUVs due to just 3,691 Canadian deliveries, which isn’t a bad ranking considering all the competition in this segment, not to mention all the challenges the automotive market has been facing over the past two years, but it’s a far cry from the success enjoyed in previous years, 2017 its best year ever at 15,120 unit-sales. Then again, when factoring in mid-size models that provide three rows, the Murano plunges to 12th place in the mid-size SUV segment. That’s a long downward slide from third in the two-row class and fifth overall in 2016, which at least in part shows the importance of regular redesigns.
So far this year, the top-selling model in the entire mid-size crossover SUV segment is Toyota’s Highlander with 10,403 units down the road, while Ford’s Explorer comes in second with 8,359 deliveries. Third is Hyundai’s Santa Fe with 7,514 new customers to its credit, while Jeep’s Grand Cherokee (arguably more of a true 4×4) is a close fourth at 7,234 units. I could go on, but it’s easy to see that Nissan’s five-occupant contender now lags far behind these front-runners, therefore a replacement is long past due.
Of course, the Murano was never a top-three player solely due to styling. Its single 3.5-litre V6, which was considered a no-cost bonus when pump prices were lower, is hardly the most fuel-efficient these days either, the AWD variant that I most recently tested achieving a less-than-ideal rating of 12.0 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway and 10.4 combined, although at least now there’s a base FWD version in Canada for those wanting to reduce both initial and ongoing costs, thanks to a slight mileage improvement to 11.7, 8.3 and 10.2 respectively. How does that compare to others in the class?
It’s actually not that bad when sidled up to the segment-leading Highlander, at least when compared to its base 3.5-litre V6 that’s rated at 10.3 L/100km combined, but that model is available with a hybrid drivetrain as well, which allows for a much more appealing 6.7 L/100km estimated rating, plus the new five-passenger Venza, which is only available as a hybrid and targets the Murano more directly, ekes out a shockingly good 6.1 L/100km rating. The base Santa Fe isn’t as thrifty as the Venza at 9.1 L/100km combined, while the same SUV with AWD is rated at 9.9, but a new hybridized version is good for 7.4 combined (just how Toyota makes its Venza and Highlander Hybrid so efficient is anyone’s guess?). A more common comparison might be Ford’s Edge, which while doing better on the sales charts (despite the blue-oval brand’s especially difficult time allocating microchips), only slightly edges the Murano out when it comes to fuel economy at 9.8 for the FWD model and 10.0 with AWD.
Interestingly, the Murano was available as a hybrid in the U.S. market for one single model year, 2016, but Nissan didn’t have high hopes for the electrified model, with expectations of selling just 600 units, or about one percent of all the V6-powered Muranos sold the year prior. As it was, Nissan’s U.S. division had a stellar 12 months in 2016 with 86,953 Murano deliveries, but I’m guessing the take-rate on the Murano Hybrid was even worse than hoped for, because it was killed off before most potential buyers even found out it existed. At 8.1 L/100km combined (reached by converting its 29-mpg combined EPA rating), its fuel economy wasn’t as good as Toyota’s hybrid SUVs either, which might be why would-be buyers didn’t take the bait, but its combination of a supercharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, electric motor, and lithium-ion battery pack certainly sounds intriguing.
Moving inside, a feature that especially ages badly in this modern age is in-car electronics, and to be kind the Murano could use an update to its primary gauge cluster and infotainment system. The former is actually pretty good, having received a big, colourful multi-information display back when this third-gen version was new. Of course, the graphics require some attention and the screen’s resolution isn’t exactly high-definition, but most users shouldn’t be put off, and it’s certainly packed full of useful features. This said, some of the Murano’s rivals are sporting fully digital driving displays that can even be configured for personal style and info, with some Korean models even integrating monitors that automatically project rear-facing cameras onto the display when using the turn signals, but the Murano’s electroluminescent dials to either side of the MID are wonderfully bright and easy to read in any lighting condition, plus they look really good.
As for the centre display, it’s a nice, straightforward touchscreen measuring a reasonable 8.0 inches and appearing unchanged over the past seven or so years, which of course is way too long for any user interface to go without a significant update. Again, its resolution is not up to today’s standards, and graphics, while colourful, are a bit remedial, plus its response times to inputs aren’t exactly the quickest. All the expected features are either standard or available, even including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. My tester included a helpful overhead parking camera too, as well as a very accurate navigation system, which comes standard in all trims above base, while as-tested Platinum trim adds SiriusXM-powered NissanConnect Services for improving in-car safety, security and convenience.
Where the Murano continues to shine despite its age is in near premium levels of materials quality. Truly, it’ll make you wonder why Nissan didn’t just badge it with Infiniti’s logo, thanks to thickly padded fabric wrapping around each roof pillar, a soft composite dash top, an even nicer padded leatherette instrument hood complete with contrast stitching, the same high-quality surfacing used for the dash on the door uppers front to back, nicely padded door panels that stay pliable all the way down to the very bottom of the doors, yet more padded leatherette used around the outer edges of the centre console, and gorgeous diamond-quilted leather upholstery with breathable perforations covering the seats from front to back.
Nissan finished my tester’s cabin in a rich looking ivory-cream hue dubbed Cashmere, which while a tad challenging to keep clean, looked absolutely gorgeous (a more chocolaty Mocha colour is also available). While the hides on the seats were very real, and soft semi-aniline leather to boot, the matte-finish woodgrain inlays across the dash, centre console, centre armrest, plus door panels only looked and felt authentic, attributes that can also be lauded upon the satin-finish silver accents and chrome detailing found throughout the entire interior.
There’s a premium level of solidity to the Murano too, which few in this class measure up to. This likely comes from unseen features, such as thick insulation used within the doors and under the floor, not to mention overhead within the roof liner and outer panel, plus the bulkheads separating the engine compartment from passengers, etcetera. It all comes together to create a wonderful hush that once again feels more like what one would expect from an Infiniti, rather than a Nissan. In fact, this fully-loaded Murano comes close to matching the dearly-departed Infiniti QX70, a vehicle I particularly liked, especially due to its diamond-pattern upholstery.
The Murano Platinum’s seats are wonderfully comfortable too, and provide plenty of accommodation for larger body types. Nevertheless, my smallish five-foot-eight frame also fit in well, while the power steering column was able to reach far enough rearward to provide a good seating position for my somewhat awkward long-legged, short-torso body type, thus allowing for optimal comfort and control.
When seated behind the driver’s seat that, as just noted was setup for my relatively longish legs, I had plenty of room for legs and feet, this being a key benefit that comes when choosing a five-passenger utility over most competitors with three rows, as the rearmost row can often compromise second-row spaciousness. There was ample room from side-to-side in back too, plus more than enough headroom for taller folk.
Likewise, the Murano’s cargo compartment is sizeable thanks to the SUV’s long, low and lean profile design being more of an optical illusion than actually incorporating a radically raked rear hatch. This is partially created by the Murano’s floating roof design, which melds fluidly into a blackened rear rooftop spoiler. All said, Nissan’s two-row mid-sizer provides 941 litres of dedicated cargo space, whereas lowering both its 60/40-split rear seatbacks, via handy levers located on both sides of the cargo wall, results in 1,890 litres of total cargo volume. That should be more than enough for most families’ needs, but of course Nissan provides its three-row Pathfinder for those who require more. The only improvement I’d make to this setup for the next-generation Murano is to divide the rear seats into a 40/20/40 configuration, which provides space down the middle for longer items like skis while both rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable window seats, not to mention warmed cushions if so equipped.
The Murano Platinum does provide two-way rear seat heaters in those outboard positions, incidentally, plus USB-A and -C charging outlets on the backside of the front console, along with a set of HVAC vents. A centre armrest can be folded down when only two are in back, filled with large cupholders and a small storage tray. Also benefiting rear passengers is a panoramic glass sunroof overhead, which stretches all the way back for a wonderfully open and airy ambiance that elevates the luxury experience to (dare I once again say) a premium level.
Features in mind, the Platinum model’s leather-wrapped steering wheel rim is heatable, and the front seats heated or cooled via two metal-edged rotating dials on the lower console, including three settings per function. Additionally, powered USB-A and -C ports can be found on the base of the centre stack just ahead, right between the ignition button and a 12-volt charger. There is no wireless charging pad, however, a downer for those of us who live with such conveniences at home.
Another negative, the HVAC system, which sits just above on the centre stack, is only dual-zone in a market that sometimes offers three zones or more with rear controls in its loftiest trims, but the Murano’s simple twin-dial and multi-button interface design is easy to sort out and works well, while just above, an overhead console boasts LED illumination as well as a much-appreciated sunglasses holder.
Other Platinum features (some of which are pulled up from lesser trims) include auto on/off LED headlights with high beam assist, fog lamps, redundant LED turn signals within the side mirror housings, LED taillights, roof rails, remote start, proximity key, a motion-activated powered liftgate, front illuminated aluminum kick plates, adjustable ambient interior lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, hands-free text messaging, a great sounding Bose audio system with 11 speakers and two subwoofers, satellite radio, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar, a four-way powered front passenger seat, driver-side memory for the seat, steering column and mirrors, and a haptic steering wheel that vibrates in order to alert a driver of impending danger.
This brings up the Murano’s advanced safety features, which for 2021 include Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Moving Object Detection, Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Lane Departure Intervention, Intelligent Driver Alertness, Traffic Sign Recognition, and Rear Door Alert.
Speaking of highly advanced features, the Murano’s parking brake is not one of them. Then again, I can remember back to the days you needed to reach down and pull a lever under the dash to unlatch the emergency brake of automatic-equipped cars, which made the first time I was able to merely press my left foot down to release an engaged parking brake pedal a newfound luxury. Of course, this was in an era that a tap from one’s right foot switched the high beams on and off, so we should best leave such “technologies” in the past, as I’m sure Nissan will eventually do with the Murano’s old-school parking brake pedal.
All the other pedals work as expected, the rightmost one quite adequately thanks to 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque from the aforementioned 3.5-litre V6, and yes, I’m aware that’s 5 horsepower less than the previous second-gen Murano, not to mention 8 lb-ft less torque. What’s that about? It’s probably a fuel-efficiency issue, although it’s possible Nissan merely provided a more accurate reading of an engine that actually made the same output. Either way, it’s more than enough to get this 1,873-kilo (4,129-lb) SUV up to highway speeds quickly.
It’s a smooth engine too, especially combined to its velvety CVT, but keep in mind there’s no way to shift “gears”, and Nissan doesn’t offer a Sport mode to make the experience any more exciting. The transmission does simulate automatic shifts well, however, mimicking a regular autobox, and once again it’s a highly efficient design that pays off at the pump, while it’s proven to provide good dependability over the long haul.
Like the drivetrain, the Murano’s fully-independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension is smooth and comfortable, adding to the premium feel I keep going on and on about, while its handling is easily up to the majority of mid-size crossovers on the market, and better than some.
That’s the thing. If this current Murano was alternatively an all-new model this year, complete with up-to-date electronics, an electromechanical parking brake, and a few other modernizations, it would probably fly out of Nissan’s showrooms. It’s that good, and to my eyes at least, remains a very attractive offering. The problem is it’s going on eight years old, and there’s no way an automaker can maintain customer loyalty without updating its most important models regularly.
Last year’s compact Rogue was getting a bit long-in-the-tooth before being updated this year too, but the new one is superb (more about my week with that SUV coming soon), while I’m guessing the upcoming 2022 Pathfinder redesign will impress just as well (its fourth-generation predecessor went back farther than the current Murano). That model’s new nine-speed automatic transmission bodes well for the next-gen Murano ditching its CVT as well, so good things are in store for this SUV at some point in the future. Let’s hope it’s sooner than later.
As it is, Nissan is offering up to $3,300 in additional incentives for a new 2021 Murano, while CarCostCanada members have been saving an average of $4,300 after first finding out about its dealer invoice price, and then using that money-saving information to negotiate their best deal (find out how there system can save you thousands, and be sure to download their free app as well). With a decent discount the Murano becomes an attractive offering, especially considering that AWD versions start at $40,098, plus freight and fees. The base Murano S FWD, on the other hand, is the model’s loss leader thanks to a $34,098 starting point, while just above the just-noted SV AWD is the third-rung $43,898 SL AWD, plus the $45,098 Midnight Edition AWD (which basically blackens out most of the bright metal trim and wheels), and finally this $46,898 top-line Platinum AWD. None of these prices are unreasonable when factoring in the high level of refinement and quality provided, but a healthy discount is probably needed to pull in buyers that might otherwise look across the street at Toyota’s Venza, which starts at $38,490 with a hybrid drivetrain and AWD, or something similar.
So, should you buy a new Murano? Again, with a decent discount, go ahead. It should be a reliable SUV, being that Nissan has had plenty of time to get it right, but then again, the Murano doesn’t place in first, second or even third in any of the latest third-party analytical firms’ dependability studies, and hasn’t won any of the most recent residual value awards either. Some of the above only show one winner while others show runners up too, with the Canadian Black Book’s 2020 Best Retained Value Awards putting Toyota’s 4Runner on top, the same brand’s Highlander in second, and Mazda’s CX-9 in third, plus J.D. Power’s 2021 ALG Residual Value Awards featuring Honda’s Passport atop its “Midsize Utility Vehicle—2nd Row Seating” category, which might mean a well-cared-for pre-owned Murano could be a better bet.
Hopefully Nissan will have a new Murano available sometime next year for the 2023 model year, which will allow me to sing praises to it as easily as can for the new Rogue, but I’ll guess you’re not here to contemplate new models we know nothing about yet. Until then, choose wisely.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
It’s true, Nissan is walking away from the full-size pickup truck segment in Canada. The Titan before you, as impressive as it is, will no longer be available north of the 49th, aside from Anchorage…
It’s true, Nissan is walking away from the full-size pickup truck segment in Canada. The Titan before you, as impressive as it is, will no longer be available north of the 49th, aside from Anchorage or Fairbanks.
As with most cancellations, it came down to a lack of sales. Nissan sold a mere 1,218 units last year and just 2,807 in 2019, while even at its peak of 2017 the Japanese automaker found just 5,692 Canadian buyers. This is actually bad news for Toyota, because its Tundra will now inherit lowest sales status, despite managing to push out a respectable 11,053 units last year (it’s high of 11,738 was in 2018). Although the Tundra’s numbers may appear lofty when shown next to the Titan’s, even mighty Toyota’s full-size offering hardly matches Ram’s 83,673 full-size pickup truck sales in 2020, or GM’s collective Chevy/GMCSilverado/Sierra deliveries of 104,279 units during the same 12 months, while Ford once again topped them all last year with 128,650 F-Series down the road.
The sad reality is, Nissan’s failure to launch the Titan as a serious full-size pickup truck contender has nothing to do with the vehicle’s quality and capability. It’s one rugged, well-built half-ton, or rather two tough trucks when factoring in its larger Titan XD heavy-half sibling, with its only serious weaknesses being fewer cab/bed options and just one, lone V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission combination.
Currently, the Titan is just available as a Crew Cab in Canada, having dropped its smaller King Cab variant for 2020. Both cabs remain in the US, although American buyers can no longer purchase the Single Cab work truck.
The Titan’s sole V8 displaces 5.6 litres and makes 400 horsepower plus 413 lb-ft of torque; the XD’s turbo-diesel was discontinued for 2020. Part-time four-wheel drive is standard in Canada, with no lower priced rear-drive alternative, but it must be said the Titan’s nine-speed automatic transmission certainly gives it an edge compared to some competitors, Toyota’s Tundra only offering six forward speeds. Still, Ford uses a 10-speed automatic in all of its full-size trucks, while GM offers the same transmission (literally) in some of its large pickups.
Notably, Nissan Canada’s retail site never bothered updating its Titan page with a 2021 model (clearly displaying the 2020 truck instead), even though the brand’s dealers continue to advertise the newer model year, plus third-party car sites, such as CarCostCanada, have integrated all 2021 specs along with the elimination of base S trim, which was $50,498 before, and addition of a new base 2021 SV trim for $63,698. Now (June 30, 2021), Nissan isn’t even showing trucks as an option on its side pull-down menu, strangely hoping would-be 2022 Frontier customers manage find the redesigned model in its “Future & Concept” section.
The just-mentioned 2021 base price doesn’t come anywhere near to matching the entry prices of the Titan’s domestic rivals, by the way, with the class-dominating F-150 starting at just $34,079, which isn’t even as affordable as the base Chevy Silverado 1500’s $32,048 entry point, or for that matter the Sierra 1500’s lowest window sticker of $33,248. The least expensive Ram 1500 Classic is priced just a bit higher at $36,890, and the aforementioned Tundra significantly more at $47,010. Compare those numbers to the Titan’s $63,698 base price, and it’s easy to understand how it might be difficult to get someone’s attention, unless they clearly understood that similar equipment and trim levels sold by all of the above cost around the same.
Unfortunately, that’s not how we tend to buy vehicles. There’s a reason that dealers advertise a vehicle’s base price, after all. We might initially become interested in a Silverado because it’s the lowest priced truck on the market, but after we get sold on one with more features, we quickly forget about the initial “loss leader” that motivated us to come down to that particular dealer in the first place. Soon it’s all about how much you can afford each month, and the sales team turns you over to the finance department.
To be clear, the domestic trucks’ lower prices are mostly due to their inclusion of regular cab body styles, multiple engine choices, and a whole lot of additional trims, with the cheapest of each U.S. brand’s truck focused more on attracting high-volume commercial fleet buyers. The sheer volume of such trucks sold actually allows for the seemingly endless cab, bed, engine, drivetrain and trim combinations to exist, making it possible for a buyer to configure a truck exactly the way they want. Most pickup truck consumers, however, would rather buy a well-equipped four-door pickup, which is the key reason Nissan and Toyota only offer such variants.
The Titan I most recently tested was a Crew Cab Pro-4X optimized for off-road work and pleasure. So equipped, it’s priced at $66,998, which is right in the realm of pricing acceptability for this class of truck. As stated earlier, the sales leads enjoyed by Nissan’s rivals have nothing to do with any specific competencies over the Titan. It’s a tough, capable on- and off-roader with better than average expected reliability, beefy towing and payload capacities of 9,270 lbs and 1,580 lbs respectively, plus no shortage of style. I think the Titan’s recently refreshed design, and particularly my Pro-4X-trimmed test model’s upgrades, look great, while Nissan’s interior finishing was even a bit more refined than some of its competitors.
In detail, the Pro-4X’s dash top was completely covered in a padded soft leather-like synthetic with cool orange contrast stitching, while others only apply hard plastic to this area. This said, Nissan only uses hard-shell composites for the Titan’s door uppers, which makes them uncomfortable for those who like to rest their elbow next to the side window. The Titan does provide nicely padded leatherette door inserts above even more comfortable armrests, also featuring contrasting thread work, while the Japanese model gets even more pampering with a soft, padded bolster ahead of the front passenger.
The Titan Pro-4X’ seats also include contrast stitching, complete with the model’s “PRO-4X” logo embroidered into their backsides, but their wide, flat shape didn’t allow much side support for my smaller body type. The driver’s seat was multi-adjustable, however, providing good positioning, but its two-way powered lumbar support never met up with the small of my back as well as others do in this class. At least it was roomy and accommodating.
Rear occupants get limousine-like legroom, while seat comfort in back is decent enough. An airy panoramic sunroof made my tester feel even more spacious, while rear outboard passengers get the comfort of a warmer behind thanks a set of seat heaters.
Back up front, the Titan Pro-4X’ steering wheel is leather-wrapped with sporty thumb indentations for optimizing comfort and control, plus yet more contrast stitching gave it plenty of style to go along with its heatable rim (not available with every rival), while Nissan’s multi-information display is also larger and filled with more features than some others in the class, but is missing some useful ancillary dials within a primary gauge cluster that’s otherwise analogue.
The Titan’s centre touchscreen is fairly large and plenty colourful too (the permanent blemishes to my test model’s display were due to a previous journalist’s ammonia-infused wipe down), with no shortage of functions either. High-quality switchgear could be found through the cabin as well.
I learned how to drive using column-shifters, so naturally didn’t mind swapping cogs next to the Titan’s steering wheel. The arrangement (also used by Mercedes for most of its cars) frees space up on the lower console as well. The aforementioned nine-speed auto was updated by two forward gears for 2020, and delivers smooth, positive shifts via fast kickdowns when needing to take off quickly. And yes, the Titan sprints away from stoplights with little hesitation, blasts past slower moving highway traffic with only a hint of provocation, and provides a soul-stirring V8 snarl while doing so.
Like most trucks in this segment, the Titan rides on a fully-boxed frame and uses an independent suspension up front plus traditional leaf springs in back, which provide good composure over the majority of surfaces. The Ram 1500 is the only large truck that utilizes coil springs all-round, while all trucks in this class use steel for their cabs and boxes, other than the F-150 that’s significantly lighter due to an aluminum out shell.
Nissan has an enviable 4×4 heritage, which left me with no concerns about going off-road with the Titan. It features a dial for engaging two- and four-wheel drive high, plus four-low when the going got tough, while its electronic and mechanical driving aids not only aid handling during slippery condition on pavement, but help overcome challenges on the trail as well. Therefore, it was easy to crawl over rocks and logs before swamping through ruts and mud-soaked pits, not to mention plenty of deep sandy spits, while generous suspension travel helped make the Titan’s ride comfortable at all times.
When it comes to reliability, plus resale value, the Titan should fare well over time. Yes, I know it’s being discontinued, which never helps when trying to predict the latter, but Nissan has a great reputation for holding values overall, and trucks tend to do better than cars in today’s market. There are even some models that start going up in value, something we’ve seen with well-cared-for examples of the Xterra and earlier off-road capable versions of the Pathfinder in recent years. The Armada may experience similar depreciation resilience if the overland trend continues, so it makes sense that trucks like this Titan will also hold onto their value in the used market.
After everything is done and said, the Titan isn’t perfect, but it scores high in all the categories it needs to, particularly its better than average expected reliability, impressive refinement, well-stocked features, thoughtful design, solid construction, and potent powertrain. It’s not even that bad on fuel with a claimed combined city/highway rating of 13.3 L/100km, so you might just want to snatch one up before all the new ones are forever gone from this country.
It’s been nearly a decade since Nissan launched its car-based Pathfinder crossover, representing a risky move that replaced three generations of body-on-frame SUV predecessors, as well as the Quest minivan that faded away five years later, but it proved positive for sales. Now those awaiting its replacement before trading up can take heart, because the all-new fifth-gen Pathfinder just started rolling off the automaker’s Smyrna, Tennessee assembly line.
“Start of production of the new Pathfinder marks another major milestone in our Nissan NEXT momentum story,” said Jeff Younginer, Vice President, Nissan Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant. “The Smyrna plant team is thrilled to put the newest version of this iconic vehicle on the road for customers.”
The new Pathfinder, which has been built in the Nashville suburb since 2004, pulls its sole 3.5-litre direct-injection V6 engine from Nissan’s Decherd Powertrain Plant in Decherd, Tennessee, located about an hour south on Interstate 24. The drivetrain’s all-new nine-speed automatic transmission, on the other hand, hails from ZF’s production plant in Gray Court, South Carolina, but would-be buyers hoping for greater performance will likely be more interested to know that it’s not the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the outgoing model.
The new nine-speed auto should provide quicker, more engaging shifts when performing passing manoeuvres or managing the three-row mid-size SUV through fast-paced corners, while Nissan promises smooth operation as well. Additionally, standard Intelligent 4WD with a seven-position Drive and Terrain Mode Selector means Canadian buyers will enjoy optimal traction year-round. This is especially important off the line thanks to the powertrain’s strong 284 horsepower, the torquey V6 partially responsible for the new SUV’s impressive 6,000-pound (2,721-kg) maximum towing capacity.
Along with wholly renewed styling that should appeal to Nissan’s many truck buyers thanks to plenty of sharp angles and rugged details, the bigger and broader version of its trademark “U” shaped grille especially notable, a completely redesigned interior provides seating for up to eight, new available second-row captain’s chairs (which reduce seating to seven), plus an optional 10.8-inch head-up display that projects key info onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, a large 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and the brand’s ProPilot Assist semi-self-driving capability with Navi-Link, while the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced driver assistive systems comes standard.
The new 2022 Pathfinder will start showing up in Nissan Canada dealer showrooms this summer, although those wanting to take advantage of especially good savings may want to consider the outgoing 2020 Pathfinder which utilizes the same V6 engine. Nissan is currently offering up to $7,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a 2020 model, and new zero-mileage examples are still available being that no 2021 version was produced. Be sure to check out CarCostCanada for all the details, and remember to download their free app so you can access timely info on available factory rebates, manufacturer financing and leasing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on any new car, truck or SUV.
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