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2020 Nissan Murano Review: The non-SUV SUV

Auto123 reviews the 2020 Nissan Murano: What does it think it is?

Flagstaff, AZ - Since its arrival on the market in 2003, the Nissan Murano hasn’t really changed its vocation. It's an SUV that doesn’t trouble itself much with the usual concerns of an SUV.

Its sportier styling compared to most other models in its category places the Murano closer in feel to a Maxima sedan than a utility model. On the down side, space is less generous than in many of its rivals, and the specific shape of the roof is a bit of a handicap for rear visibility. Not to mention that the city-slicking Murano has no desire to go play in the mud, and if you have to tow something hefty, you’re out of luck: the towing capacity is only 680 kg while serious competitors are all around 2,250 kg in this segment.

So why buy a Murano in 2020? You'll love this crossover SUV if you're looking for qualities that are not usually associated with a mid-size ‘ute. First, there’s that styling with its unique silhouette to give it proper sports-car flair. More aerodynamic than those of most of its rivals, the Murano’s lines succeed in giving it excellent fuel economy.

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Photo: Nissan

Then, you will probably love the driving experience, even with the CVT in place. That unit makes for initial accelerations that are a little laborious, but beyond that the power is generous and the performance exemplary.

Comfort and functionality
Even in its base versions, the Murano comes with a generous roster of standard equipment that creates the impression of driving a model in a higher segment. The base model comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, roof rails, heated mirrors and chrome door handles as standard goodies.

Inside, you get an 8.0-inch infotainment display, 7.0-inch drive assist screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, passive keyless entry, tilt steering and telescopic, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated front seats with manual settings (driver and four-way passenger) and fabric seats.

Photo: Nissan

Entertainment features include a 6-speaker audio system (with CD player!), satellite radio and USB inputs front and back. Safety features include rear door alert and forward collision warning with automatic braking.

All this at a price that barely exceeds $32,000. Our Platinum model at just over $46,000 adds a panoramic sunroof, hands-free power liftgate, 360-degree outdoor camera, intelligent cruise control, a full range of advanced safety and driver assistance features (pedestrian detection, automatic rear braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane intervention, traffic signs recognition, rear parking sensors beams).

The Platinum also gets 20-inch wheels, fog lamps, chrome roof bars, navigation system, garage-door opener, ventilated front seats, quilted leather seats and dark wood trim, plus an 11-speaker Bose audio system and front parking sensors.

Photo: Nissan

Still the same V6
All models share a 3.5L V6 engine that still offers the same 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque and a CVT automatic transmission. The S model is the only FWD version, with all the others receiving all-wheel drive as standard equipment. Fuel economy is estimated at 11.7/8.3L/100 km (city/highway) for the FWD model; all-wheel-drive versions are rated at 11.7/8.5L/100 km.

Powerful and economical
The biggest quality of the Murano is to offer a pleasant and economical drive. Of the 3,600 km we drove covering Route 66 this fall, we racked up more than 1,500 km at the wheel of the Murano on the sometimes bumpy roads of the original Route 66 plus other highway segments at average speeds exceeding 130 km/h, with an impressive average fuel consumption of 8.5L/100 km.

Power is not a problem. It simply lacks reaction time when first applying pressure on the gas pedal firmly (as per that CVT). But once you’re on your way, there’s nothing to complain about regarding the drive. The zero gravity seats are also appreciated for the comfort they provide when you sit long hours behind the wheel.

Photo: Nissan

Those looking for a little more space will go to the Honda Passport and those who want more robustness will look at Toyota for a 4Runner. But for anyone who just wants a dependable, economical SUV that's stylish to boot, you're at the right place.

If you don’t want to go Platinum
Many consumers might understandably shy away from that $46,000 price sticker for a mid-size crossover. Our recommendation is to go for the SV model, which offers the majority of the equipment you’ll want, for instance leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof racks and safety aids - with the option of adding a couple more if you want to include a few more features. The 18-inch wheels of the SV also offer a more comfortable ride than the larger 20-inch wheels, especially on our often-cratered Canadian roads.

Photo: Nissan

We like

Comfortable zero gravity seats
Roomy back-row space
Exemplary fuel economy
Elegant exterior design

We like less

The modest cargo space
Limited towing capacity
That elegant exterior design translates into compromised visibility out the back

The competition

Chevrolet Blazer
Dodge Durango
Ford Edge
GMC Acadia
Honda Passport
Hyundai Sante Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Mazda CX-9

Photo: Nissan
Photo: Nissan
Photo: Nissan