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2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Eric Brandt March 2020
  • The Toyota Highlander is all-new for 2020, and the Nissan Pathfinder has been in the same generation since 2013.

  • These are practical, family-friendly 3-row midsize crossovers.

  • The Highlander has a hybrid option and the Pathfinder does not.

If you need three rows of seats but just don't like the idea of driving a minivan, then a 3-row crossover might be just the ticket. It has a lot of the same virtues of a minivan, such as 3-row seating, a carlike driving experience and better fuel economy than what you'd get in a full-size, trucklike SUV.

Two competitive players in this segment are the Toyota Highlander and the Nissan Pathfinder. Let's look at how these two crossovers compare in 2020.

2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder exterior

Exterior

The Highlander is all-new for 2020, which means an all-new look. The new Highlander speaks the new Toyota corporate design language that's been spreading throughout its lineup over the past few years, and it looks good on this family SUV. It has some soft curves and a more premium look than you might expect at this price point. See the 2020 Toyota Highlander models for sale near you

The Pathfinder has been in the same generation since the 2013 model year, but it's aging pretty well thanks to a 2017 facelift. The current Pathfinder doesn't quite have the same aesthetic as its more rugged predecessors. Instead of looking like a boxy off-roader, it has more soft curves, which indicate its purpose as a road-going family hauler. It's a nice-looking SUV, but don't expect the squareness of Pathfinders of old. See the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder models for sale near you

The Pathfinder is slightly bigger than the Highlander. The Nissan is 4 inches longer, 1 inch wider and 2 inches taller than the Toyota.

2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder interior

Interior

Interior space is pretty similar in these SUVs, but there's one important difference. Space is pretty much the same in the first two rows of seats, but the Pathfinder has three more inches of legroom in the third row than the Highlander. Three inches might not sound like much, but SUVs in this segment usually have pretty cramped third rows, so the Nissan's extra inches go a long way.

It's worth noting that the third row in the Highlander has three seats, where the third row in the Pathfinder has two. A full third row in the Pathfinder would not be comfortable for anyone. If you're planning on using the third row regularly, the passengers who go back there will appreciate the Nissan more than the Toyota.

2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder mechanicals

Mechanicals

The Highlander and the Pathfinder have very similar base V6 engines that are even the same size. The Highlander has a very efficient hybrid variant. The Pathfinder doesn't offer a hybrid. Par for the course in this segment, front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is optional and comes with a slight fuel economy penalty.

2020 Toyota Highlander Engines

  • 3.5-liter V6; 295 horsepower, 263 lb-ft of torque; up to 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

  • 2.5-liter hybrid inline four; 240 net hp; 36 mpg city/35 mpg hwy

2020 Nissan Pathfinder Engine

  • 3.5-liter V6; 284 hp, 259 lb-ft of torque; up to 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway

The base engines in these crossovers are very similar, but the Toyota's is slightly better in terms of performance and fuel economy. There isn't a night-and-day difference between them, but the slight differences are still worth considering.

If the fuel economy in your family hauler is a top priority, then the Highlander Hybrid is an obvious choice. There's simply nothing else in this segment that can match the outstanding fuel economy of the Highlander Hybrid.

2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder tech

Technology

The all-new Highlander comes generously equipped with standard safety tech. You get the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 bundle on every trim, which gives you adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert, automatic high beams, lane-tracing assist and road sign assist. The Highlander gets a standard 8-in screen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. You can also upgrade to a 12.3-in display with more features.

The Pathfinder comes standard with an 8-in NissanConnect infotainment system that surprisingly does not offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, two connectivity features that most of its competitors have as standard. Standard safety tech in the Pathfinder includes rear parking sensors and forward-collision warning with automatic braking. Optional safety tech includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera.

2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder pricing

Pricing

The all-new Highlander is great, but it's starting price is a little rich compared to most rivals. The Highlander starts at $34,600, while the Pathfinder starts at just $31,680. If you go all the way to the top of the Pathfinder model range, you'll be in mid-$40,000 territory, while a high-end Highlander can cross the $50,000 mark. Each SUV has enough variety in its model ranges to have something for a wide range of tastes and budgets.

2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder conclusion

Conclusion

The Pathfinder's advantages are more affordable pricing and a roomier third row of seats, but the Highlander beats it at pretty much everything else. The all-new Highlander has a sharp, modern look inside and out, a ton of standard and available technology and class-leading fuel economy with the hybrid option. That said, if you're looking for something on the more affordable side of this segment, the Pathfinder is a strong choice. Find a Toyota Highlander for sale or Find a Nissan Pathfinder for sale

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2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder: Which Is Better? - Autotrader
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