2014 Three-Row Crossover Comparison Test

4th Place - Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Premium Hybrid

 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

Wait, how is the Nissan Pathfinder in fourth place? An how did it wind up behind the Hyundai Santa Fe? Didn’t the Pathfinder beat the Santa Fe in a comparison test last year? Yes astute reader, you’re correct. However, there is one major difference between that test and this test. In this comparison the Pathfinder arrived in Hybrid trim.

To become hybridized, the Pathfinder ditches its 3.5-liter V6 engine for a more efficient gasoline-electric set-up. Essentially a mild, assist-style hybrid, the vehicle comes equipped with a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor to produce a total of 250 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. This makes it the least powerful vehicle in this group and it shows.


Not Worth the Hybrid Trade-Off 

The 4,714 lb. Pathfinder is slowest to respond and really strains to garner passing speeds on the highway. In the city, the transition between hybrid and gasoline power is somewhat rough and not being a two-stage hybrid, it can never run on electric power only.

Officially rated at 25 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway, the Pathfinder Hybrid is rated significantly higher than all the other vehicles here. But when it came to real world testing, it could only muster a 23.5 MPG average that was still best in test, but not as lofty as the EPA ratings.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid Review

The Pathfinder offers a smooth ride, almost to a fault as some found it to be a bit floaty. It doesn’t enjoy changing directions quickly, but is otherwise easy to operate. The front seat drew a lot of praise for its comfort while the middle seat did not.

As we have said before, the trade-offs experienced with the Hybrid versions of the Pathfinder are not worth it. To put things in perspective, on a 100 point evaluation scale, the Pathfinder Hybrid missed coming in first place by only 1.1 points. Had a regular V6 Pathfinder been entered, it would have given up a few points in terms of fuel economy, but it would have gained points in price, engine and NVH. Who knows, that might have been enough to win the comparison.

Fast Facts:2014-Nissan-Pathfinder-Hybrid-04.jpg

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $44,710
  2. ENGINE: 2.5-liter supercharged four-cylinder plus electric motor, 250 hp, 243 lb-ft
  5. CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 47.8 cu. Ft.



  • Fuel efficient
  • Driver position
  • Comfortable ride
  • Good third row



  • NHV
  • Little hybrid payoff
  • Second row
  • Engine power

3rd Place – Toyota Highlander XLE AWD


Anyone who wonders why Toyota does so well as an automaker needs to look no further than the 2014 Highlander. All-new this year, the third-generation doesn’t really shine in any specific category, but it doesn’t offend either. Aside from exterior style and third row space, the Highlander scored at least mid-pack or higher in every category.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise then that the Highlander was voted to have the best balance of power, ride comfort, handling and fuel efficiency. Power continues to come from a 3.5-liter V6 making 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. But don’t let those numbers deceive you; Toyota has programed this crossover to feel more powerful than it really is.2014-Toyota-Highlander-03.jpg

Upper Mid-Pack All-Around

Fuel economy was – surprise, surprise – just above mid-pack with official ratings of 18 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway while our observed average came in at 20.7 MPG. Ride comfort and NVH were also rated above average and many staff members commented on how easy the Highlander is to drive.

The center console and front seat storage were deemed second best after the Pilot and most of AutoGuide.com’s editors liked the large infotainment display screen. Complaints were few, like the old-school heated seat buttons, a steering wheel that wouldn’t telescope far enough and a tuning knob some staffers found was positioned too far away.

The one area the Highlander did out-right win was price. At $38,360, it undercut all other crossovers on hand, but was also one of the least equipped vehicles. That said, it still came with most of the essentials like a sunroof, reverse camera, navigation, a power driver’s seat and heated front seats. And for such an affordable package the interior was surprisingly high quality.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Toyota Highlander Review

It is also the smallest of the eight-passenger crossovers in our comparison, but with 83.2 total cubic feet of cargo carrying capacity, it still offers more space than four of the entrants including the Ford Explorer. The second row seats tied for best in test, but that may come at the expense of the third row seats that were rated worst in test.

But if the third row is only needed in a pinch for smaller passengers and value is a top priority, the Highlander is tough to beat. It continues to rely on that magic Toyota formula of making vehicles consumers want.

Fast Facts: 2014-Toyota-Highlander-02.jpg

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $38,360
  2. ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6, 270 hp, 248 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
  5. CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 42.0 cu. Ft.



  • Price
  • Fuel efficient
  • Easy to drive
  • Easy to live with



  • Missing options
  • Third row seats
  • Driver position


  • Rickers

    This is total bullshit. No Hyundai deserves to win anything.

  • Honest Abe

    I’m seriously shocked. Not by the winner.. but by the Dodge Durango. I didn’t even know they still made it… and now I find out it’s actually good. Shocking.

  • Juan

    Where’s the Mazda CX-9? I demand a re-do.

  • Chris

    Then you haven’t been paying attention to Hyundai in the last few years. They’ve worked extremely hard to improve their offerings and it’s showing.

  • Todd

    I love weighted tests like this. Had Dodge chosen a cheaper durango with a V6 and less fancy features, it wouldn’t have been nearly as high on the list. Lets take a comparison of these same vehicles after 3 or 4 years of ownership (half the “lifetime” of todays cars). The Koreans will rattle like they are falling apart, the Japanese will still be trucking, and the Americans will have all of their fancy features failing.

  • Richard

    Actually, I owned a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport for almost a year. But the
    larger “regular” Santa Fe comes with the V6. The problem with the Santa
    Fe Sport is the underpowered engine as no V6 is offered in the five seat
    version. Unless I am badly mistaken, the same Kia version is offered with a
    V6 which makes an enormous difference. I’ve seen the 2014 Kia, and
    personally, I prefer it over the Hyundai. It is noteworthy that Kia
    assembled my Santa Fe. I don’t believe there are that many differences
    really. Check their dimensions, etc., on an Edmund’s comparison page
    and it is fairly obvious they are essentially the same vehicle.

  • Todd, today’s american vehicles are much better than they were just 10 years ago. I replaced my loaded 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD CC Diesel last year with a new version of the same pickup, the 2005 having over 120,000 miles on it. I had no issues with any of the “fancy features”, everything in and on it still worked as new. That was easily the best vehicle I have ever owned, even less maintenance than our BMW 328 Xi.

  • Todd

    I have a “newer” GM, an 05 Avalanche Z71. It had a cushy life with little to no towing, hauling or 4WD usage. I put a transmission in it @105K…same 3-4 clutch problems that the 4L60E has had since it was the 700-R4 in my 85 Camaro. The sunroof doesn’t work and the leather seats were replaced because of cracking. The drivers side window switch has a life of its own and frequently turns on the seat heaters at will (adj pedals and seat heaters are run through the window switch). The quality is better, but still doesn’t match the japanese. Of course, not nearly as bad as my 2013 Jetta TDI where the sunroof has been fixed at the dealer twice already…

  • That’s rather interesting as my ’05 Silverado would have utilized many of the same parts as your Avalanche as far as the seats and window switches go and I had just the opposite experience with mine. No tranny issues whatsoever with regular towing of both a large four season travel trailer and also a 20′ enclosed snowmobile trailer however comparing the Allison tranny to the 4L60E is not at all apples to apples.

  • mike

    mom jeans ftw

  • mike

    We just bought our second Flex. Too bad you chose the Explorer…or is that all Ford would provide?

    Didn’t read the article since it didn’t include the D471. Not sure why I even received an email telling me about this since I never signed up for your site.

    EcoBoost V-6!

  • mike

    Hyundais and Kias should never be left out of the trailer parks in which their owners live…

  • Rickers

    Too bad the Chevy Traverse is 10 years old then.. lol.

  • J Mac

    But the Flex is so… well… UGLY!

  • Sargegxp

    Avalanche still the best

  • Sargegxp

    Right on!!

  • Sargegxp

    Maybe you need to see a doc Korean vehicles may look good from the specs but fail in every category

  • Sargegxp

    Best reply award.

  • MeetTerry

    Did you own the 2.4L? I drive the 2.0 Turbo model, and the 274 rated horsepower is extremely peppy.

  • MeetTerry

    How do they fail in every category?
    But alright. You can believe whatever you want. but CarMD has already rated Hyundai to be the most reliable manufacturer.

  • Shiratori1

    Calling BS on this comparison. During motortrend’s 2014 SUVOTY testing, they indicated that the Santa Fe was a complete rattlebox and had a back end that “sounded like it was made out of styrofoam”. Hyundai/Kia in my book are two companies that try to hook (sucker) customers into buying their vehicles by loading them with a bunch of standard features with questionable quality and constantly mentioning their 100,000 mile warranty, all of which, is intended to distract those customers away from the fact that the cars are unrefined, aren’t fun to drive, and have questionable build quality.


  • alexmcyd

    I would like to see a test where minivans are mentioned without the reference to the inane “soccer mom’s hate it” meme. The Honda Odyssey blows these overweight, overly expensive dinosaurs into the weeds in every element you tested. Better driving, handling, better use of space, better sightlines, hugely better mileage, quieter, faster – no contest. Put away your pre-conceived bias and minivans totally own crossovers.

  • Materialman

    The Explorer was highly touted but is a bust.

  • ColumWood

    @alexmcyd:disqus You’re going to love our upcoming 2014 Odyssey review!

  • catinpa

    I don’t understand why on most of the leave it lists are the second and third row. That is the main reason my mother is looking for a vehicle like this. Is that recommendation based on the fact there is no leg room and it is a waste of space? The one she is looking at didn’t even make your list.

  • Shannon Hummell

    If the Hyundai sante fe XL is on the list then the 2014 Outlander should be on there as well….

  • DqsPoster


    We live in CA and have a Sienna and a HiHy and they serve different needs.

    Can the Odyssey or the Sienna or the Quest handle say the 30-mile Titus Canyon drive to Death Valley National park? Can they make it to the Racetrack? Green Water Valley Road? West Side Drive? How about mountain dirt roads with nasty pot holes and ruts in the Sierras? We have seen vans slowing to a snail’s crawl trying to negotiate deep holes and ruts. Both on BLM, NPS and NFS land? These are roads we often must navigate to reach trail heads.

    In the mountains, how about plowing through 6- to 8-inches of snow blocking our driveway on snowy wintery days?

    The van is wonderful on dry paved surface or rain or a little ice and snow. A van simply cannot handle any High-Clearance roads for active families who venture off the beaten paths. None of these crossover are 4x4s, so they are not rock crawlers or mud-plowers but they can go places where only High-Clearance car is needed.

    Hope that helps.

  • Belinda Richards

    Why was a V8 Citadel tested instead of a V6 Limited? You know, to give more credibility and accuracy to your comparison by having all vehicles be as similar as possible? Gotta love grossly weighted reviews like this.

  • ColumWood

    @belindarichards:disqus You make an excellent point and the real answer is simple: that’s the only one Dodge would give us. In many ways the factors even themselves out. The V8 Citadel gets extra marks for features, looks and performance, but loses marks for efficiency and price. We actually thought about dropping it entirely from the comparison, however, the as-tested price is barely more than the Ford Explorer’s.

  • ColumWood

    All of the vehicles listed have sufficient 2nd row legroom for adults, however, some aren’t OVERLY spacious – like the Traverse or Pilot are. We only listed the Pathfinder and Explorer as having less than ideal space for adults in the 2nd row. However, if we listed 3rd row space as a LEAVE IT then in that case, the area is really too small for adults. (I’m glad you brought this up, a clarification of our methodology would be a help for future comparisons like this).

  • ColumWood

    @shannonhummell:disqus We actually included the Outlander in our compact crossover comparison. While it is a 3-row crossover, the 3rd row is mostly useless. Check our the comparo here: http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2013/10/2013-2014-compact-crossover-shootout-toyota-rav4-vs-honda-crv-vs-chevy-equinox-vs-subaru-forester-vs-hyundai-santa-fe-sport-vs-mazda-cx5-vs-jeep-compass-vs-mitsubishi-outlander.html

  • alexmcyd

    That goes to show how much an SUV is needed for SUV type duties. I’m guessing that a true SUV with do even better than these at that purpose.
    For this test none of those functions were tested or evaluated.

  • TractorDriver

    So the winner of the 3-Row Crossover Test scored near the bottom in: Rear Seat; Third Seat and Cargo Usability!?
    You as the tester need to work harder to acquire more comparable vehicles, and if you can’t then you need to adjust your scoring accordingly.

  • autoguide

    You make a great point! This is why we include our rankings for each vehicle in each category. It allows the reader to examine the data and come to their own conclusions. Someone who values 3rd row space over fuel economy could definitely come to a different conclusion than we did.

  • ImNotTheWalrus

    The Hyundai rides like a garbage truck

  • ImNotTheWalrus

    I agree might be the best drivers SUV out there

  • bd

    Give me a break – like the new Highlander hasn’t gotten some middling reviews?

    And the Santa Fe also won Automobile Magazine’s Family Crossover Comparison


    and the Santa Fe Sport came in 2nd (to the Grand Cherokee) in Cars.com/Motorweek’s $38k Midsize SUV Challenge.
    And what’s of questionable quality (not to mention cheap, nasty interiors) and unrefined rides are Toyotas (in a lame attempt to be “sportier” – the Camry, Avalona and ES have all been dinged for their unrefined ride) and of all brands, Toyota (“King of Beige”) is the one known for being the least fun to drive.

  • bd

    Must not have much experience with the newer Japanese models.

  • bd

    Hardly the 1st time a Hyundai (much less the Santa Fe) has won a comparison test.

  • bd

    Except, Toyotas tend to have a lower ATP across the board.
    The Camry, for instance, has a lower ATP than the Chrysler 200 whereas the Kia Optima has one of the highest ATPs in the segment.
    So sorry, it’s Toyotas that are filling the trailer parks (as well as rental fleet lots).

  • bd

    Apart from the not being true thing.

  • Mike

    I’d take the Toyota hands down. First, Toyota has the world’s best resale on their vehicles(for a reason-QUALITY) , and second they are the most dependable, long lasting vehicles. Consumer Reports just did a 12 yr quality comparison of ALL makes, and of course Toyota led the pack. They always do. The Subarus and Hondas did not even come close. Educated buyers always go with a Toyota or a Lexus. And almost all Toyota models are made in America with largely American made parts. Forget Government Motors and Ford, who both have been backsliding in quality the past year and a half. Kia and Hyundai will give anyone a vehicle, regardless of their credit. What does that tell you about their vehicles? Their quality is also mixed.

  • TJ

    I wont debate Toyota, as they have proven them selves as a manufacture, but I love it how people always put Kia and Hyundai’s quality into question. Have you ever owned one? I have two and one of them is ten years old with 120,000 miles, my local mechanic does a “wish list” when he looks at cars, basically a list of things that are going bad or need to be replaced. My car has a cracked headlight assembly on that list and nothing else. Sure when Kia and Hyundia first came to the US their cars werent that good and had issues, they have since fixed that. Thus the 10 year 100k warranty, that you can even extend past that. They learned from Deawoo, maybe own before you judge. I will never own a Toyota because of the people that drive them in my town.

  • TJ

    I’d say if you see someone at a gas station with one you have been looking at ask them, or go test drive them for yourself. A test drive does not commit you to anything. Though this test wasn’t very good, it is what they decided they liked, neither of those gentlemen looked like soccer moms and probably would never use the 3rd row.

  • Mike

    Actually TJ my other half owns a new Kia Sportage and loves it. I see all the cost cutting inside. Built nothing like my Toyota. And while I agree they have increased their quality by a wide margin, they are VERY behind Toyota in regards to quality. Pick up this month’s copy of Consumer Reports and see how they are fairing. Not much better than GM or Ford. Their quality has been slipping. Not a hater, but I buy the things that are going to last me the longest. You and my partner both live their Kia/Hyundai automobiles, and that’s all that matters. I’m not making the payments. We should all drive what we want to. Stay well!

  • Fred2202350

    Although one poster does talk about how these vehicles handle rougher roads in parks and back in the hills (NOT off-road) in a way minivans can’t, for the huge majority of buyers, I’d hark back to one major car mag’s comparison test, which ended one paragraph in which it described some characteristic lacks that only a few SUV’s avoided, with something like “I think its time we admit this (3-row SUV’s) is a bogus category for 95% of buyers. They need a minivan but their vanity won’t let them buy one”. I’ve got a 10 year-old Mazda MPV and I really don’t know what will replace it some day. There’s nothing that size that will do everything it does as reasonably anymore.

  • bd

    Toyota has done more cost-cutting inside (compare the interior of the Optima to the Camry).
    And reliability differs (good that for Toyota that these reliability studies don’t take into account recalls) – for AutoBild, which not only looks at service records, but even disassembles vehicles, Hyundai has been no. 1 for the past 2 years).
    Furthermore, when was the last time Toyota has launched a new powertrain? Same goes for Lexus where the IS, GS and LS are soldiering on with outdated powertrains (easy to be reliable mechanically when you don’t make any major changes).
    Toyotas today are being sold on price (deep discounting).

  • bd

    Not the 1st time the Santa Fe has come 1st in a comparison test – the Santa Fe/ SF Sport have usually finished near if not at the top in a no. of comparison tests – so not out of the ordinary.

  • Mike

    Whatever makes you feel better. Consumer Reports goes back 12 yrs and a Hyundai or a Kia is nowhere near a Toyota in long term reliability. Keep your Hyundai/Kia in your trailer park. They’ll give a surprime loan to anybody dumb enough to buy their vehicles. ANYBODY. And good luck on that resale value which is beyond HORRID.

  • Shiratori1

    Yeah, it’s official: you are nothing but an astroturfer and a shill for Kia/Hyundai. What a loser……..

  • Shiratori1

    Keep on trolling, astroturfer…….

  • Shiratori1

    How many people who own suvs/crossovers have to deal with these conditions on a consistent basis? Hint: very few

  • Phil

    Point is, kia and hyundai are still nowhere near as reliable as the leading japonese brands. Fact!

  • bd

    Good thing for Toyota that recalls aren’t included in reliability studies and when was the last time Toyota updated their power/drive-trains?
    At one time, Buicks were at the top of reliability surveys since GM didn’t make any changes to them.
    And AutoBild, which looks at actual service records, as well as disassembling vehicles themselves, has had Hyundai ranked no.1 for reliability the past 2 years.

  • bd

    Yeah, like all the auto-publications haven’t noted the cost-cutting that Toyota has done.
    Compare Toyota to Honda (or Mazda these days) – it’s not even close.
    And ooh – the ad hominem attacks (talk about being a loser…)

  • Shiratori1

    Keep on trolling buddy. You are still a shill and an astroturfer nonetheless.

  • Santiago Vo

    Two of my neighbors replaced their new Hyundais within first two years of ownership and swore not to buy them again, ever.

  • ColumWood
  • Adam Chandley

    Perhaps, I dunno, you might consider a 3-row SUV? The MPV was on the micro side of the van segment, so changing over to the mid-size SUV isn’t much of a leap. Every one of these entrants are available with FWD to minimize cost, maximize MPG, and keep you a safe distance from any rough terrain habits. We bought the 14 highlander the day it landed. I believe this comparison is quite unfair as they’ve compared a the mid-option highlander to fully optioned everything else – yet it still came in 3rd. If it had the 4 missing points it was deducted for features, it’d have won this test hands down.

    Real world hwy MPG – 26, legendary toyota 2GR-FE is competent even when towing a 2-axle trailer, the seats (1st and 2nd) are the most comfortable and offer the most leg room, and the ride quality is simply unmatched. If i were you, I’d look into a 14 Highlander XLE 2WD in the future. Also note – it gets TSP from the IIHS where you stand a good chance of being safe in a small overlap collision. VERY FEW SUVs pass muster.

  • Adam Chandley

    If you compare a Camry LE to an Optima SXL, you’re going to have a bad time. Comparing a Camry XLE to an Optima SXL is a different story. The Camry V6 is a 2GR-FS rocket, still gets great MPG, and the interior will be top notch for the price. The Optima 2.0T has loads of torque, but a failure to deliver. Check out what happened for 2015 – they’ve detuned (or simply de-rated) ALL of the Korean brand engines. The 2.0T is now a 240hp limp noodle, the 3.3L V6 is 260. Whereas Toyota’s been using the 2GR since 2006 and hasn’t changed a thing – probably wont for the foreseeable future.

    Likewise, Compare a Camry LE to a base Optima. They both enjoy frequent rotation at the Enterprise rental counter – and both are pretty dreadfully plain.

  • Adam Chandley

    In the same way that Honda just had to fork out an unprecedented fine for not reporting faults. Just because Hyundai is on top doesn’t mean they got there honestly. The 2.4L I4 that comes in nearly everything they sell eats bearings for breakfast. Have a rod knock in your 11-14 2.4L Hyundai? Not a problem – they keep short blocks in stock just for this reason and can have a whole new bottom end installed by the end of the day. They do it that often…

  • Adam Chandley

    Resale value has so much to do with how cheap you can actually buy one with the right connections. That silly mouse car? Easily get 6K off MSRP. Thus why it’s got a horribly low trade in value after 1 year.

  • Adam Chandley

    orr….. the ratings are for sale. You seriously couldn’t get your hands on a Highlander Limited AWD w/ adv tech like every other reviewer on the planet got for their comparison test? Pfft. All of the things you dinged Toyota on – you could have gleaned from their website alone. That’s ok – if Dodge and Hyundai bought your review, just say it. We understand.

  • Adam Chandley

    It’s been at the bottom of every comparison since it came out.

  • Elancore

    No it doesn’t, I have the Grand limited Santa Fe and it’s perfect. If you don’t believe it go check reviews everywhere.

  • Jeff

    You are full of crap! You are not a car guy Mike!

  • Mike


  • House Martell

    Dodge Durango: He’s the top of the west, always cool, he’s the best. He keeps alive with its Hemi V8.

  • muddie1

    Why wasn’t the Mazda CX-9 in this review? It also has a 3rd row seat and is a midsize CUV.

  • Curious_G

    The reviews “everywhere” say it is undersprung and bottoms out easily. Most also cite ponderous /wallowy handling. A real shame as everything else seems pretty good.