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New Car/Review

Driving impressions:
Nissan Pathfinder

by Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief

There is a rather attractive advertisement in magazines extolling virtues of Nissan's off-road/on road Jeep rival. Sport utility is how they describe it and I must say they have a point.

Driving in Europe and again in the hills of Marin county it is quite clear that the Pathfinder is one tough machine. I cannot blame the copy-writers of the ad , the Nissan does feel as though it would go anywhere, do anything. In Africa.. That is all very well but what if you live in London or Marin county? Do you need all that ruggedness? The answer is maybe. If all you want to do is drift down Sloane Street in London to check out the latest Prada store or the beautiful girls-and boys- around King's Road then the answer is probably no. If on the other hand you are thinking of a quick dash to France for a week-end's skiing then the answer has to be yes. The Nissan will certainly get you there if you can afford this thirsty beast. Look for an under 20mpg situation at all times, especially on the autoroutes at 90 miles per hour. The same applies to San Francisco. If the hills of the City are as far as you're going then an "ordinary" car would do just as well. If on the other hand Friday evening means a trip up I-80 to Squaw Valley then Pathfinder is the word.

There are of course minuses. This is most definitely not a car for your Mother-in Law. I know, I have tried getting her in and out of one. Boy, what a struggle. She nearly fell out twice in the process. So did my wife for that matter. Don't believe me? Try it! The trunk(boot)is not that vast but there is plenty of room on top. There are all sorts of attachments for skis and things that should make carrying everything you need up the mountain painless. The back seats seemed rather small and cramped, I for one, would not like to travel there for more than an hour.

My problem with the Pathfinder is that it is trying to be all things to all people. Yes, it is great off road. Yes, it is OK in town but the phoney plastic/wood combo is tacky and so is the doorlock.

Some of you may remember that once upon a time Nissan was called Datsun. Purveyors of possibly the worst car ever made-together with Yugo, Skoda and Trabant-they quite rightly decided that apart from improving the product they needed a new name as well. Hence Nissan, which is fine. I wonder therefore, why on Earth did they keep the doorlocks which must have been a carry-over part from the very first Datsun ever made? Yuk. On the other hand if one had to chose between a tough car with a tacky door-lock or the other way round it is a no contest.

Please Mr. Nissan, drop the horrid plastic, change the doorlocks, don't try to our Range-Rover the British product, stick to what you are good at-an honest to goodness, go anywhere sports utility. That you are very, very good at.