The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder comes from a long line of tough off-road SUVs, but it's whistling a more family-friendly tune these days. Thanks to underpinnings derived from the Altima sedan, the Pathfinder is smoother, more comfortable and more fuel efficient than ever. It may not be a mountain goat anymore, but it definitely has the goods to be your next family hauler. Here are five reasons to find your own path with this Nissan.

Three Real Rows of Seats

Although the previous Pathfinder technically had a third row, it was really only for small kids and pets. Fortunately, the current model has useful passenger space in all three rows, even if you need to put adults in the way back. Moreover, the EZ Flex seating layout boasts a sliding second row and reclining third-row seatbacks. We're talking about a legitimate minivan substitute here.

Surprising Fuel Economy

Even though the Pathfinder has a capable V6 engine with 260 horsepower, it doesn't guzzle gas the way you'd expect. Thanks in part to a gearless continuously variable automatic transmission that promotes efficiency, the Pathfinder gets 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive. For reference, the best that the old Pathfinder V6 could manage was 15 mpg city/22 mpg hwy. And there's also a Pathfinder Hybrid that gets up to an amazing 25 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Carlike Ride and Handling

The old Pathfinder was built like a truck for off-road use, but few owners ever left the pavement. That's why Nissan built the current model on the front-wheel-drive Altima platform, and the benefits are undeniable. This is a crossover that's optimized for real-world driving with a super-smooth ride and manageable handling. It's a very family-friendly driving experience.

Flexible All-Wheel Drive

Don't get us wrong: The Pathfinder is still very much a 4-season vehicle when you need it to be. In fact, if you specify the optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, you get a nifty rotary mode selector that can lock in full-time AWD for guaranteed 4-wheel traction. If you're like most family-minded shoppers, you want dependable grip in any kind of weather and maybe a little extra ride height just in case. That's exactly what the Pathfinder delivers, so although it's carlike from behind the wheel, it's more than just a car when the going gets tough.

Attractively Priced

The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder starts under $30,000, and even the base model gets premium features such as 3-zone automatic climate control. That's a real bargain, especially given that the related Infiniti QX60 starts at well over $40,000. Think of it this way: The Pathfinder is very similar to a premium-brand product, yet it's offered at a huge discount. Smart shoppers can choose the Nissan and laugh all the way to the bank.

AutoTrader Says

The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder has broader appeal than any Pathfinder before it, but is it the best 3-row crossover for the money? We recommend taking the shortest path to your Nissan dealer and forming your own opinion.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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