The Nissan Quest may have the best road manners of any minivan, but it lags in safety and space, two musts for most minivan buyers.
The 2016 Nissan Quest minivan leaves us wanting. Despite its family-friendly intentions, the Quest's safety ratings are below average and its seating system is the least flexible on the market. It's more rewarding to drive than its competitors, but the Quest remains a difficult vehicle to recommend in this segment.
Depending on your expectations, you might find the Quest's design a little more adventurous than other vans. With an upright stance and lots of flared lines in front, the Quest's straight-edged passenger box bears more than a passing resemblance to the Ford Flex, mostly at its pillarless greenhouse and its almost vertical tail. The interior is more formal and less risky, with woodgrain trim on a plain dash that stacks some controls in counter-intuitive places. The audio knobs and switches, for example, are grouped into two locations, some to the right of the shifter, halfway out of sight.
The Quest's use of space is disappointing. It's still a big vehicle in the grander scheme, and front-seat passengers won't lack for leg or head room, or for storage of small items. From there, the Quest slips behind other minivans, first with sliding side doors that don't open wide enough to load in large people or objects. Second, it seats only seven while most rivals seat up to eight. The second-row seats fold forward, but don't disappear into the floor, and they can't be removed. The third-row seat folds flat, too, but stays in place while every other minivan's third-row seat folds away to create a flat cargo floor. A lot of usable space is lost in the process, and in a type of vehicle that places a priority on seating, space, and safety, it's a letdown. In all, the Quest has 35 cubic feet behind its third-row seats, 64 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 108 cubic feet with the second row folded. Most rivals top out at more than 140 cubic feet.
Performance? It's a highlight. A 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the Quest's only powertrain. It doesn't grumble as much here as it does in some other Nissans, and it's pretty perky for such a large vehicle. The steering has good feedback, the CVT has some programmed "shift" points to cut down on typically rubbery response, and body roll is tempered more than in other big minivans. In all, the Quest has the best handling of its kind, which follows its slightly more compact footprint.
Safety and features are areas where the Quest just doesn't compete. The IIHS says the Quest earns "Good" ratings for front and side impacts, but gives it "Acceptable" scores for roof crush and marks its "Poor" small-overlap crash performance as one of the worst the agency has seen.
The base van comes with the usual airbags and stability control, but all-wheel drive is not offered, and to get Bluetooth and a rearview camera—essential safety items, we think—you'll have to spend about $31,000. With major options—power side doors and a power tailgate, leather, satellite radio, and a DVD entertainment system—it's possible to spend more than $44,000 on Nissan's minivan.
The CVT helps make the Quest one of the most fuel efficient minivans on the market. The Quest delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of 20 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. The combined number matches the new Chrysler Pacifica in combined mpg.