Nissan Murano

Not many car firms have a 4x4 line-up to match Nissan’s

  • More legroom and slightly larger boot than in CX-7, standard colour sat-nav, bold, sporting dash pod borrowed from 350Z
  • Adventurous styling starting to date, cabin materials lose out in quality to rival here, nose-heavy handling and vague steering feedback in comparison

Not many car firms have a 4x4 line-up to match Nissan’s. Its offerings range from the compact X-Trail to the chunky Pathfinder and rugged Patrol. As with the CX-7, the Murano is marketed as a crossover vehicle that bridges the gap between a conventional car and an SUV.

And the styling reflects this; it looks very different from Nissan’s other off-road models. Minimal overhangs, angled headlights and a chrome grille give it an athletic appearance, while the upswept D-pillars help to disguise the car’s large dimensions. But the Nissan’s adventurous styling is starting to look a little dated – and it’s a similar story inside, where the cabin isn’t as fresh and modern as the CX-7’s.

It’s still relatively upmarket, and the design is quite bold – the three-pod instrument binnacle has orange dials, while the high-mounted colour sat-nav screen comes with a bank of controls mounted flat in front of it. Yet the materials don’t feel or look as good as those in the Mazda, and as with its opponent here, the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach.

The driving position is comfortable, however, while in the back, the Nissan certainly has the upper hand. Passengers are better catered for than in the Mazda, thanks to the flatter transmission tunnel and greater legroom, while the boot has a generous 476-litre capacity.

The rear seats fold in one move to make a completely flat load area, and overall there isn’t much to choose between these two cars when it comes to practicality.

From behind the wheel, the differences are far more obvious, though. The Nissan tips the scales at 1,865kg – that’s 170kg more than the Mazda – and this blunts performance. The Murano’s nose-heavy nature means it doesn’t turn into corners with the same precision as the CX-7.

Grip is adequate, but there’s more body roll, and the chassis is never as composed. Steering feedback is also vague in comparison, and while the suspension has a softer set-up than the CX-7, the ride is far from perfect. On smooth surfaces it’s more comfortable than the sporty Mazda, but over imperfections, the dampers fail to control the suspension movement, and bumps are sent crashing through the cabin.

So the Nissan can’t match the Mazda for handling, although it’s worth noting that when judged against the majority of off-roaders, the Murano is more than capable on tarmac. It’s just that the CX-7’s dynamics are so car-like that the Nissan comes across as a hefty 4x4 in comparison.

The CVT gearbox also feels lethargic compared to the manual Mazda. However, the auto makes town driving more relaxing, while a responsive throttle means it delivers optimum torque when needed.

While the Murano’s 3.5-litre V6 is smooth, it isn’t very efficient. It delivers 231bhp – 25bhp less than the Mazda – and torque is also down on its rival, so the Nissan is slower than the CX-7 from 0-60mph, at 8.9 seconds. Fuel economy and emissions also take a hit, thanks to the auto box. Our noise figures show it is more refined, though.

Neither of these cars returns good economy, but the Nissan will be the costlier at the pumps. And with a price tag that’s £6,125 higher than its rival’s, it’s expensive to buy, too.

Details

Price: £30,085Model tested: Nissan MuranoChart position: 2WHY: The Murano is popular in the US, and is the tarmac-biased model of Nissan’s extensive 4x4 range.

Economy

With a V6 engine and CVT gearbox, the Murano isn’t going to be an economical car. We averaged 21.4mpg, which at least is close to the 23.0mpg combined figure.

Residuals

The Nissan is worth 49.4 per cent of its value after three years. How both cars will be affected by planned tax rises on heavy polluting SUVs is still unclear.

Servicing

three servicing trips with the Murano total £705. And while Nissan’s network is larger, it came 26th out of 32 in our Driver Power 2007 dealer survey; Mazda was 14th.

Tax

Emitting 295g/km of CO2, the Nissan sits in the top 35 per cent bracket. Add the £30,085 price tag, and the tax bill for a higher-band owner would be £4,212 annually.

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