- Quiet and smooth ride
- Roomy seating
- Excellent continuously variable transmission (CVT)
- Sharp steering and handling
- Fold-flat second-row seats
- Less cargo space than competitors
- Seven-passenger maximum, not eight
- Short on interior storage
Tired of running mid-pack in the minivan race, Nissan completely reworked its Quest last year. Its predecessor's angular, avant-garde styling gave way to a tall, slab-sided design that prioritized function over form, while the interior was refined to luxury levels in the top trims. The end result is a much more appealing minivan, though the Quest still has some drawbacks.
Save for a couple of options changes, the 2012 Nissan Quest follows the same formula. A powerful V6 engine, a smooth CVT, spacious seating and quiet cabin with user-friendly technology make the Quest a comfortable carriage from which to navigate the daily hustle. With above-average handling and power delivered seamlessly upon request, the Quest even feels somewhat playful on open, bending roads.
The Quest offers such reassuring and on-demand spirited passage that you almost forgive its central weakness: It only seats seven. Instead of a small second-row center section that accommodates a third passenger, the Quest offers up two large, comfortable captain's chairs and a removable center console. And although three adults can sit in the reclining third row without much protest, the inability to drop the third row into a rear well -- as competing vans allow -- reduces cargo space and raises another consideration for shoppers. On the upside, however, the second and third rows fold forward and flat, creating a lengthy load floor without your having to remove the middle-row seats. In other words, the Quest prioritizes versatility over maximum utility.
Really, it depends on where your minivan priorities lie. The traditional titans Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna both offer eight-passenger seating and larger cargo spaces. The current-generation Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan are also notably improved and worth a look, especially since their new and more refined Stow 'n Go seating allows for versatility and maximum utility. However, if passenger comfort and overall refinement are key metrics in your minivan search, the 2012 Nissan Quest is well worth consideration.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2012
For 2012, satellite radio is offered standard on SV and SL trim levels.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2012 Nissan Quest is a seven-passenger minivan offered in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and LE.
Standard features on the base S model include 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, keyless entry, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, ambient interior lighting and a four-speaker sound system with six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SV adds alloy wheels, foglights, power-sliding doors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, tri-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a front-seat center console, a conversation mirror, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a 4-inch color display, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface. The SL further sweetens the deal with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, roof rails, a power liftgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat and one-touch fold-flat third-row seats.
The range-topping LE tacks on xenon headlights, a blind-spot warning system, driver memory functions, a four-way power front passenger seat, power-return third-row seats, second- and third-row sunshades, advanced air filtration, a navigation system, a rear entertainment system with an 11-inch widescreen, and a 13-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with an 8-inch display and satellite radio. A dual-panel sunroof is available as an option, but only for the SL and LE models. Unfortunately, most of the features offered in upper trims are not available on lower trims.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The latest Nissan Quest adopted a more conservative design inside and out last year. Interior controls are logically grouped on the center stack within easy reach of the driver. Even when it's loaded with options, operating the various climate, navigation and entertainment systems is simple and intuitive. Interior materials are above average in the lower trim levels, while the leather-appointed cabins in the SL and LE foster a luxurious and serene environment. Even the CD player/radio is built to a classy aesthetic, with a simple faceplate and chrome-banded volume and tuning knobs.
Unlike the Odyssey or Sienna, which can accommodate three passengers in the second row, the Quest offers only two captain's chairs, separated by a removable center console. This effectively makes the Quest a seven-seater. The upshot is that the second-row seats slide and recline, and are quite comfortable. Like the third row, they also fold forward and flat in the floor. This makes it easier to carry longer items than in a Sienna and Odyssey, which require you to physically remove their second-row seats.
The downside is that the Quest carries less than the Odyssey and Sienna; its 108 cubic feet of cargo capacity is about 40 cubes shy of its rivals due to its taller floor. The Quest's deep storage bin behind the third row also isn't as roomy, though its design doesn't preclude storing items in it when it comes time to lower the rear seats, unlike with the other vans.
Ultimately shoppers will have to decide whether the convenience and flexibility of the Quest is worth the trade-off in cargo space, though a compromise could be found with Chrysler's Stow n Go system. While its second and third rows are more difficult to lower than the Quest's, they leave more room after disappearing into the floor.
Standard safety features for all 2012 Nissan Quest models include antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat active head restraints. A rearview camera is standard on all but the base S trim level.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Quest earned the agency's top rating of "Good" in frontal-offset and side-impact collisions, and a second-best rating of "Acceptable" for rollover protection.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Quest stopped from 60 mph in 134 feet -- a bit longer than average for a minivan.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
A 3.5-liter V6 powers the Nissan Quest with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) sends power to the front wheels. In Edmunds testing, the Quest accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, comparable to the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Fuel economy is also on par, with EPA estimates of 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
On nearly any road surface, the 2012 Nissan Quest pleasantly silences wind and road noise, with ruts and bumps in the road ably absorbed by the compliant suspension. Steering is precise, but feels needlessly heavy at slow speeds. In concert with the suspension, the steering effort gives the Quest an almost sporting feel in the curves.
Power from the V6 is certainly adequate, and we even prefer the smooth CVT over traditional stepped transmissions in this application. Quick reactions from the throttle and transmission make easy work of passing maneuvers and ascending grades, the latter scenario the only time the steady-state rpm drone of the CVT becomes evident.
The 2012 Nissan Quest continues to make the once perennial also-ran model fully competitive with the top vans in its class.