What’s bigger than a breadbox yet is still very much shaped like a breadbox and just so happens to be the squarest thing to happen to the minivan class since the old VW Vanagon disappeared from the our shores about the time Jerry Garcia died? Well, it may not be anywhere near as cool as the Vanagon or Jerry Garcia but it’s the 2012 Nissan Quest which doesn’t shock and awe so much with clever features or new design motifs but rather stupefies onlookers with its resolute lack of style.
Now for some minivan buyers it may be all well and good that the 2012 Nissan Quest is very sensible and practical but how does it fare as a family hauler when compared with class rivals like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna? Those vans not only feature some curves in their sheet metal but they also happen to be somewhat fun to drive all the while managing to incorporate clever family friendly features such as the Odyssey’s built-in waste basket. The Quest can haul seven family members in distinct comfort but it does so without any real design pizazz. Is that sort of thing too much to expect from a minivan?
Now we realize that not all minivans are created equal but we were admittedly let down by the fact that the 2012 Nissan Quest utterly lacks any sort of special “surprise and delight” feature to set it apart from the herd. No, we don’t count the one hidden cargo compartment under the floor behind the third row of seats as a “surprise and delight” feature most notably because Chrysler folds its second row of seats into two similar containers thanks to its very clever Stow N’ Go system. The Nissan Quest’s second and third rows fold down for cargo hauling but they don’t fold completely flat as one would expect in a cargo van.
But what if you think a stylistic breadbox on wheels is the answer to your transportation and personal visual stimulation needs? As a matter of fact you could do worse than the 2012 Nissan Quest because as we are about to lay out for you in this review, there are some positive attributes that make this minivan perfectly capable of handling the toughest family duties. Sure, it may not do it all in style but it will do everything you ask of it without annoying you with any major flaws. Unless you consider having a personality bypass a flaw.
Exterior Styling and Interior Design
We wonder how a car company like Nissan can design a vehicle called the “Cube” which doesn’t look ordinary or boxy in any way but they managed to give the Quest a silhouette that we could only refer to as “style challenged.” Thankfully the pug nose front end of the Quest was granted a somewhat ornate and festive chrome grille that gives the van a cool stance when viewed head on. It’s too bad that from every other angle the Quest looks like something a 3 year old would draw to represent the family car. Overall, the Quest’s exterior just screams “awkward” louder than a pre-teen middle school student wearing full orthodontia head gear on the first day of class.
Interior Layout, Design and Family Friendliness
Materials quality and the overall layout inside the Quest was irrefutably excellent with the controls for navigation and the audio system coming up for mention as extremely easy to reach and manipulate while piloting the van. Rear seat passengers in the Quest LE enjoy an 11-inch DVD entertainment screen which should keep sibling battles to a minimum even if it does without the Toyota Sienna’s trick dual screen unit that can play two movies at one time. Yes, in this Nissan your kids will have to suffer with only one movie option or the unfathomable notion of having to look out the windows at the world passing them by.
Our LE tester was strictly a seven seat family hauler due to the inclusion of super comfy folding and reclining second row captain’s chairs separated by a beverage/storage console. The console between the captain’s chairs is removable to make a center entry path for third row passengers as otherwise they can get access by folding and sliding either captain’s chair. We felt that legroom was plentiful even in the third row with sufficient cargo room left to handle light family duty even when the van is full of passengers.
To be more accurate, the 2012 Nissan Quest offers 25.6 cubic feet of storage space behind the third row of seats as long as you aren’t counting the aforementioned hidden cargo compartment. That hidden cubicle offers 11.4 cubic feet normally but drops to 6.7 when the van is equipped like ours with the Bose upgraded audio system and resultant subwoofer. Fold down the third row of seats and cargo space grows to 63.6 cubic feet while tossing down all of the back rows turns the Quest into a medium sized U-Haul with 108.4 cubic feet of space. This, dear readers, is where all of that boxiness pays dividends.
Pricing, Value and Fuel Economy
Our Quest tester was a fully loaded 3.5 LE model that came packed to the gills with every bell and whistle to the tune of a mighty $43,715 final MSRP. The LE trim level starts at just a little over $41,000 and our only additional options were the $1,350 dual opening sunroof which really did brighten the rather somber grey cabin and $205 for floor mats. Standard features included leather seats, a Bose 13-speaker audio system, an excellent in-dash navigation unit, back-up camera, Bluetooth, DVD rear seat entertainment, USB/iPod integration, Bi-Xenon headlamps, a power tailgate/sliding doors and a unique advanced climate control system featuring a polyphenol microfilter and a plasmacluster air purifier that in tandem help keep allergens out of the cabin.
Although we enjoyed having all of the Quest’s features at our disposal, if it was our money we would no doubt be more sensible about which trim level we chose. Basic S models are pretty mean with the standard features but start at $25,990. A better bet for families on the go is the SV trim ($31,050) which nets you a USB port, back-up camera, alloy wheels and Bluetooth. For a smidgen more luxury there is the $34,500 SL trim which adds leather seats, rear seat DVD entertainment and a power tailgate. Sadly, Nissan only offers navigation with the Quest LE.
As for fuel efficiency, the 2012 Nissan Quest boasts up EPA estimate of 19 city/24 highway on regular unleaded with our one week average turning out to be a still rather decent 18.4 miles per gallon. We know that this is below the EPA estimates but we tend to enjoy sending Nissan’s corporate 3.5 liter V6 wailing towards redline quite often so a more passive driver could no doubt eke out better results. The Quest also has a very large 20 gallon fuel tank which ensures long cruising distances for family road trips.
Driving Impressions and Safety
There is one caveat on safety and that comes from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) which awarded the Quest top marks in front and side impact crash tests but gave this van a disappointing “average” score for roof strength. Currently the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler minivans all are “Top Safety Picks” with the IIHS which is certainly a designation that matters given the fact that people usually buy these vehicles for the sole purpose of transporting their family. That’s definitely something to consider and for many people may be the deal killer in regards to possibly purchasing this Nissan minivan.
Fortunately things take a turn for the better once you get behind the wheel of the 2012 Nissan Quest as this humble breadbox has the heart of a lion in the form of the iconic 3.5 liter 260 horsepower/240 lb. feet of torque V6 that has served duty so capably in the Z and Maxima. This engine loves to rev and sings a melodic symphony of harmonic notes as it makes its way to redline via the CVT (continuously variable transmission) that was surprisingly smooth and quiet in comparison to how this unit behaves in other Nissan products.
Steering feel is a bit light but that makes for short work in supermarket parking lots which every suburbanite knows can be highly treacherous due to the frightening number of people who pilot vehicles that are far too large for them in relation to their driving ability. The Quest also boasts a very nimble chassis which means that this van takes to corners just as capably as an Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna SE. We did notice, however, that tire and road noise is more noticeable in the cabin of the Quest at cruising speed in comparison to those two aforementioned rivals.
Now, the 2012 Nissan Quest may look about as exciting as a political debate but that is little reason to discount a vehicle whose purpose in this world is as utilitarian in nature as the family minivan. This vehicle exists to serve as transport for as many people and as much of their stuff as is humanly possible. So doesn’t it make sense then to design this vehicle to look like a super-sized breadbox?
There honestly isn’t anything on Earth better designed for the act of holding bread than the breadbox and similarly with the minivan there isn’t a vehicle concept better equipped to fulfill the needs of a large family. The 2012 Nissan Quest, most especially when you fold all of the rear seats down, can quite easily become a de-facto moving van making it an extremely handy device to have around.
To finish on a wholly positive note, however, we were surprised at how vigorous the 3.5 liter 260 horsepower V6 engine felt when mated to Nissan’s sometimes clumsy CVT automatic. The motor revs freely and quickly in this minivan giving the driver plenty of passing power and a surprising level of personal entertainment. You may just find that while the Quest isn’t as fun to drive as the Maxima sport sedan, it most definitely is more fun to pilot than the rather dim-witted Murano SUV.
What we Loved About the 2012 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE
- Nissan’s excellent 3.5 liter V6 gives this van plenty of Passing Power
- Interior Ergonomics are Spot On
- Plenty of Room for Passengers and Cargo even When Using all Three Rows
What we Loathed About the 2012 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE
- The Boxy Exterior Styling makes this Van as Sexy as a U-Haul truck
- Pricey When Fully Loaded with Must Have Family Friendly Options
- Roof Strength Test from IIHS Shows Quest not as Crashworthy as Rivals