The Nissan Quest fights minivan dullness with satisfying road manners and rewarding driving traits. Passengers will like the Quest’s smooth ride, while drivers will appreciate its performance and steering response, and owners will appreciate its fuel economy.
Performance benefits from Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6, matched well with a responsive continuously variable transmission. Responsive CVT is considered an oxymoron, but Nissan has some of the best CVTs on the market. The transmission incorporates some pre-programmed virtual shift points, to reduce any rubbery response, which has been the bane of some CVTs. All models are front-wheel drive.
On the whole, the powertrain doesn’t struggle or complain. In fact, the entire setup feels quite peppy while propelling such a big vehicle.
Steering delivers good feedback to the driver, while body roll is better curtailed than in other large minivans. Simply put, Quest may offer the best handling among minivans.
Space utilization is disappointing, however. Front-seat passengers get sufficient leg and head room, as well as storage for small items. But sliding side doors don’t open wide enough to easily accept large people or objects. A Quest seats only seven passengers, while most rival minivans seat up to eight, though that won’t matter to buyers who want a seven-seater. The second-row seats fold forward, but doesn’t disappear into the floor and is not removable. The third-row seat does fold flat, but remains in place.
Cargo space totals 35 cubic feet behind the third-row seats, 108 cubic feet with all rear seats folded down, and 64 with the back row folded. Most rival models top 140 cubic feet.
Many consider Quest design to be more adventurous than that of other minivans, helped by an abundance of flared lines up front. At Quest’s no-pillar greenhouse and near-vertical tail, there’s a similarity to the Ford Flex crossover SUV.
This fourth-generation Quest was introduced as a 2010 model. There are no significant changes for 2016.
Despite family-friendly intentions, safety ratings fall below average. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Quest Good crash-test ratings for front and side impacts, but Acceptable for roof crush. In the small-overlap crash, Quest was among the worst they’d observed.
The 2016 Nissan Quest is available in four trim levels. Quest S comes with power air conditioning but lacks satellite radio, rearview camera, or Bluetooth.
Quest SV includes Bluetooth, USB port, rearview camera, power sliding doors, a 4.3-inch LCD audio display, and automatic climate control.
Quest SL upgrades with leather seating, power front passenger seat, power liftgate, heated front seats, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, and 18-inch wheels. Quest Platinum adds satellite radio, a navigation system, power third-row seat, DVD entertainment with 11-inch screen, and xenon headlights.
Safety features include a full complement of airbags, stability control. Extra-cost safety features include a rearview camera (standard on the top three trim levels), a 360-degree AroundView camera and blind-spot monitoring.
More upright and boxy-profiled than in the past, with a straight-edged passenger compartment, the Quest comes across as more trendy than most minivans. Quest’s roots stem from Japanese-market models, while other minivans are typically more curvaceous.
Thanks to large air intakes, the front end looks lower and smaller, whereas the tail ends rather abruptly, or even harshly. Large taillights make it easier to find the Quest in a parking lot, or in the dark.
On the inside, Quest appears more typical of minivans: passenger-friendly and pragmatic. Yet even here, it feels somewhat formal, with a dashboard of plain-looking LCD displays and stacked rectangles. Atop the controls is an LCD screen: five-inch on midrange models, or eight inches on upper versions. Piano-key type buttons sit below the screen.
Audio controls can be confusing, and some controls are in non-intuitive places. The transmission lever may block the view of certain knobs and buttons.
Though purposeful, Quest fails to offer the cargo and seating benefits of the best minivans, lacking some of the practicality expected in a family vehicle. Front riders get ample leg and head space, and the plushy-upholstered bucket seats allows for large adults to fit comfortably.
Second- and third-row seats are supportive and neatly angled, but they don’t move; seatbacks merely fold over. Seats do fold easily enough, using levers and pull straps. The third-row seat is tight and cramped for adults, but acceptable for youngsters. Squeezing a car seat through the narrow sliding-door opening can be tough.
In addition to having a relatively high load floor, the Quest feels small inside. There’s no telescoping steering wheel, though a high seating position helps.
Compared to most minivans, the Quest is fun to drive, providing the best acceleration and steering feel in that vehicle class. Steering beats all competitors, and performance excels, though some may not appreciate the relatively sluggish CVT.
With a smaller footprint than rival minivans, Quest doesn’t feel as big as it looks. Due largely to electro-hydraulic steering, it’s the most nimble of the group, delivering the most natural steering feel. Ride comfort is helped by an effectively-damped, fully independent suspension. It doesn’t bound over long bumps like Chrysler minivans. Despite such impressive handling talents, a Quest seems to corner and accelerate with safety uppermost.
Smoother and quieter than most Nissans that use the same V6, the Quest almost never feels strained or lacking sufficient power. Even the CVT behaves well, thanks in part to Nissan’s D-Step shift logic. Those virtual gears help keep the CVT fairly responsive. While CVTs often feel sluggish to respond and amplify noise and vibration, stepped “gears” help it feel fairly responsive, and few will be bothered by occasionally slow reactions to throttle inputs.
The CVT helps make Quest one of the most fuel-efficient minivans, EPA-rated at 20/27 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined.
Taking its pluses and minuses into account, the Quest isn’t an easy vehicle to recommend in the minivan segment. In safety, space, and features, the Quest doesn’t quite compete. To get Bluetooth capability and a rearview camera, you have to step up to a Quest SV, which is the version we recommend. With a full load of amenities, you could spend more than $44,000.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.