Similar pricing makes it tough to decide which SUV is a better value.
The Nissan Pathfinder has a history as an off-roader, but it has become rather domesticated, serving as Nissan’s 3-row midsize crossover with little emphasis on off-road capability. One of its top competitors is the Toyota Highlander, which is another minivan alternative with three rows of seats. Let’s take a look at what’s similar, what’s different and which is better.
Although these two crossovers are in the same class, the Pathfinder is a little bigger than the Highlander. The Nissan is six inches longer, one inch wider and two inches taller than the Toyota. The bigger size is part of what makes the Pathfinder a bit more rugged looking, but we think it would be cooler if it borrowed some design cues from the Pathfinders of old. New for 2019 is the Rock Creek package, which makes this Nissan look a little more off-roady, but doesn’t add any mechanical benefits. See the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder models for sale near you
The Highlander has a bit more of a premium look to it that’s accentuated by a mild face-lift for the 2019 model year with new exterior options available like the Nightshade package, which adds black accents. The Highlander has a big, bold grille almost making it look like a Lexus. They’re both nice-looking, but not particularly exciting SUVs aesthetically and which is better looking is pretty subjective. See the 2019 Toyota Highlander models for sale near you
The maximum seating capacity for the Highlander is eight and for the Pathfinder it’s seven. That’s because the third row of the Highlander has three seats across and the way-back of the Pathfinder has two seats. Although the Toyota has more seats, the Nissan has more interior space, and when fully loaded with passengers, everyone will be more comfortable in the Pathfinder than they would be in the rather cramped third row of the Highlander. The Nissan also has more cargo space thanks to its bigger size.
As for interior design, we think the inside of the Highlander looks nicer than the interior of the Pathfinder. The Toyota has a more modern, premium design and the Nissan’s interior is just a little bland and dated. The interior of the Nissan is plenty functional and has seats that are supportive, but the Highlander is just nicer to be in and we think the Toyota’s interior will age better moving forward.
The Highlander has three engines available and the Pathfinder only has one. Although the Nissan lacks variety under the hood, its sole engine is quite strong.
2019 Nissan Pathfinder Engine
3.5-liter V6; 284 horsepower, 259 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy; Max towing: 6,000 pounds
2019 Toyota Highlander Engines
2.7-liter inline four; 185 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/24 mpg hwy; Max towing: 1,500 pounds
3.5-liter V6; 295 hp, 263 lb-ft of torque; 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy; Max towing: 5,000 pounds
3.5-liter hybrid V6; 306 system net hp; 30 mpg city/28 mpg hwyg; Max towing: 3,500 pounds
The base engine in the Highlander is affordable, but we strongly recommend upgrading to the V6 if you can afford it due to the weak performance and fuel economy numbers of the 4-cylinder and its low towing capacity. The V6 engines in the Highlander and the Pathfinder are pretty similar with the Toyota’s being slightly better in performance and fuel economy, but the Nissan has the upper-hand in towing. The Highlander Hybrid is a great choice for someone looking to save fuel in a family SUV.
The Pathfinder and the Highlander both come standard with front-wheel drive and are available with all-wheel drive. AWD is great for added traction when road conditions get bad and for some light to moderate off-roading, which both SUVs are pretty capable of thanks to their tall ride height. One nice perk of the Highlander Hybrid is that every hybrid model comes standard with AWD.
Toyota puts a big priority on safety and that’s clear with the Highlander. Every 2019 Highlander comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite of driver-assistance technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and automatic high beams.
The Pathfinder comes standard with automatic emergency braking and rear parking sensors, but adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring require upgrading to the SV trim or higher.
The 2019 Pathfinder has an attractive starting price of $31,430 and the Highlander starts at $31,530. But remember, the Highlander has a weak 4-cylinder base engine and the Pathfinder has a standard V6. The most affordable V6 Highlander you can get is $33,580. AWD is a $1,460 upcharge for the Toyota and an extra $1,690 for the Nissan. The Highlander Hybrid with standard AWD starts at $37,170.
Both of these SUVs have their own respective strengths, but we think the Highlander is the better crossover for its generous standard safety tech, nicer interior and hybrid availability. The Pathfinder is a good choice if interior space and towing are priorities for you, but we think most drivers in the market for a family SUV will get more value from the Highlander. Find a Toyota Highlander for sale or Find a Nissan Pathfinder for sale