FIRST DRIVE: 2019 Nissan Murano

By Shari Prymak

The Nissan Murano has built a long-standing reputation as a practical, capable, and, as of late, style-driven choice among mid-sized crossovers. It competes in the same space as the Ford Edge, Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Chevrolet Blazer, all of which offer more space, power, and capability than the highly popular compact crossovers that dominate the market. The Murano offers much of the same with the added twist of eye-catching design and a surprisingly strong value for money proposition. Now well into its third generation, the 2019 model sees a mild refresh aimed at sharpening some of those aesthetic details and adding a few desirable features. 

Given their mission as practical A to B transportation devices, crossovers aren’t particularly well known for eye-catching design. The Murano, however, is quite visually interesting with its swoopy side profile, shapely front grille, and chiseled LED headlight and taillight treatment. It’s a bit too busy and over-styled for my taste, but I applaud Nissan for not taking the bland, inoffensive route. Size-wise, the Murano is positioned neatly between the slightly smaller Rogue and the larger, three-row Pathfinder.

The Murano’s large-ish proportions pay off in terms of interior accommodations. Both the front and rear seats offer plenty of room for adults to sit comfortably, with the front seats being especially comfortable thanks to Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” memory foam technology. The look is more utilitarian than luxurious, but there are nice touches here and there, the nicest of which is the available semi-aniline leather upholstery which uses a stylish quilted pattern similar to that of a well-optioned Infiniti. Most of the controls are straightforward and the touchscreen is easy enough to use, though the graphics appear to be a generation behind many rivals. At least it is compatible with both Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

With its softly sprung suspension and quiet cabin, the Murano maintains its comfort-oriented driving experience perfectly suited to road trips and long-distance commutes. The drivetrain consists of Nissan’s well-proven VQ-series 3.5L V6 engine matched to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With 260 horsepower on tap, the Murano has more than enough power, but it can sound a bit gruff when pushed thanks to the CVT’s tendancy to hold engine revs under heavy acceleration. Fuel economy is rated at 11.7L/100km city and 8.5L/100km highway, which is about average for the class. The more surprising figure is the 680kg towing capacity, which is far lower than that of many V6-powered rivals.

The Murano has a starting MSRP of $32,248 which gets you the base S model with front-wheel drive. All other models come equipped with all-wheel drive. I wouldn’t hesitate to move up to the $42,948 SL model which includes desirable features such as the around-view monitor, leather seating that’s heated both front and rear, a Bose premium audio system, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. For $45,998, the top of the range Platinum models adds ventilated front seats, lane departure warning with intelligent lane intervention, reverse emergency braking, and various aesthetic upgrades such as the semi-aniline quilted leather.

The Murano competes in a crowed space filled with excellent options. Compared to its rivals, however, it comes off as great value for money given the high features content of each trim level relative to the price. Nissan’s frequent use of purchase incentives helps it to further undercut most of its rivals by a significant margin, making it even more enticing. The Hyundai Santa Fe is the only alternative with a comparable value factor. With the added bonus of bold styling and a semi-luxurious driving experience, the Murano has plenty to offer as a well-rounded practical crossover.