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Two Cars With One Name

Two Cars With One Name

Stephen Smith is used to seeing farms from behind the wheel of a tired old bakkie, so imagine his delight at driving around in a Nissan Pathfinder.


Words: Stephen Smith

Pictures: Stephen Smith and Supplied 

You know the sort of old farm bakkies I’m talking about – grass stalks coming out of the radiator grille, mud permanently replacing the original paint colour, chains, wire and tools rattling around under the seats, and idiosyncrasies that can leave the uninitiated driver stuck miles from home, surrounded by contemplative cows. Instead, here I was on a farm in a Nissan Pathfinder 2.5 dCi, cosseted from the bumping and jarring by considerately smooth suspension, and a heated leather seat keeping the first chilly fingers of winter at bay. I could even leave the engine running when I got to a gate and not have to worry about the vehicle relocating without me.

Internationally, 2013 sees an entirely new vehicle being given the Pathfinder badge, a more luxurious and city-slicker class of vehicle than the one we are used to associating with the Pathfinder name. In SA, though, the Pathfinder remains an SUV loosely based on the Navara bakkie (unless the Navara is a bakkie based on the Pathfinder SUV – it’s hard to tell which is more accurate) to take advantage of our lust after the Toyota Fortuner and its ilk. So don’t Google ‘2013 Nissan Pathfinder’ and then accuse me of getting my facts wrong or using outdated pictures – there are two very different beasts with this name.So as I drove around the farm, pretending to be a country gentleman, checking on the cows and switching off (probably the wrong) pivots, I realised why SUVs based on bakkies are so very popular. Modern bakkies have come such a long way from their ancestors that an SUV can be based on one without feeling too agricultural (even on a farm).

Room for one more?

Room for one more?

I’m not saying the Pathfinder is as luxurious, comfortable or sophisticated as, say, a Land Rover Discovery, but that’s part of its charm. It feels as though it has been made to get the job done with not too much fanfare. Driving on dirt roads and farm tracks is what the Pathfinder is best suited to, along with highway cruising, but not for hectic off-road driving that proves your manhood but damages your undercarriage.

Yes, the Pathfinder has a very capable part-time 4×4 system, selectable via a rotary dial on the dashboard and yes, it has ground clearance of 232mm, but it is also a very long vehicle that has been fitted with running boards, while the suspension is too soft for proper off-road driving.

What confused me, though, was all the fancy kit that had been fitted into the Pathfinder LE that I was driving. A very sophisticated navigation system for one, complete with a touch screen display, the heated seats that I previously mentioned, separate controls for the rear air-conditioning – the list goes on and the price goes up.

Which brings me to the biggest Pathfinder news – the SE model. Nissan obviously took a look at the Pathfinder’s sales, then at those of the Fortuner, and got to wondering where they were falling short. Price, it seems. The result is the March 2013 introduction of the Pathfinder SE, a slightly pared down model that comes in at a staggering R150 000 less than the vehicle I was currently driving, the LE. With that R150 000, disappear the rearmost row of seats, the navigation system, the leather seats and a few other nice luxuries. But more important is what remains – the same 2.5 dCi diesel engine, the same part-time 4×4 system, six airbags and ABS braking. And the SE is by no means utilitarian, featuring cruise control, a very decent sound system complete with Bluetooth for your phone, plus electric windows, steering wheel-mounted controls for the cruise control and audio system and even climate control.

The 2.5-litre dCi engine that is used in three of the four current Pathfinder models boasts
a very impressive 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, and when it’s up and running it proceeds very swiftly towards its destination. But getting it moving in the first place can be a little frustrating, with significant turbo lag below 2000rpm, especially frustrating when paired with the manual gearbox. A vehicle this good deserves better, I feel.
Thanks to the huge disparity in price, the Pathfinder range is now almost two different cars, the SE aimed at the Toyota Fortuner and the LE at the Prado/Land Rover Discovery. The Pathfinder may have been around for a while now, but it is only with the release of the SE that it finally makes sense.

Fact file

  • Name: Nissan Pathfinder
  • Body type: SUV
  • Engine capacity: 2,5-litre turbodiesel
  • Power output: 140kW
  • Torque: 450Nm
  • Price: 2.5dCi 4X4 M/T SE R450 900
    2.5dCi 4X4 A/T SE R470 900
    2.5dCi 4X4 A/T LE NAV R594 900
    3.0dCi 4X4 A/T LE NAV R694 900


The Nissan Pathfinder SE manual is priced at R450 900, but the top-of-the-range model is a staggering 55 per cent more expensive, at R695 000. I’m still battling to wrap my mind around this. The entire range comes with a service plan of 3 years/90 000km and a warranty of 3 years/100 000km. For interest’s sake, a Toyota Fortuner 3.0 D-4D 4×4 is priced at R465 000.

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