This five-passenger crossover is fun to drive, and it's comfortable enough to be in all day long — even with the kids.
The first thing I noticed about the Murano is its bold grille hasn't changed. Nissan has found its happy place as far as the grille is concerned. That's not to say that everyone will love the grille or the overall design for that matter, but that's what happens when something is unique.
On the road, the Murano is nimble and sportier than most crossovers, and the braking is responsive. It also offers a Sport Mode. While I'm not usually a fan of continuously variable automatic transmissions, the Murano's is flawless. The engine doesn't whine, and it doesn't seem like you're driving a "Jetsons" car; it's just smooth and quiet.
The Murano starts at $29,290 for the base S trim with front-wheel drive. My test car, a SV with all-wheel drive, cost $34,495.
The Murano's unique styling isn't for everyone, but it helps it to stand out on the road. From the side, it looks all curvy and aggressive, and the rear is well-done with sharp, angled taillights.
As a parent, the Murano is easy to work with. If you have kids in infant-safety seats, the doors are tall enough that you won't bonk your head when getting your child situated. If your kids are in convertible seats, the smaller ones will need a hand opening the door and getting in, but not as much as with a large SUV. If your kids are yet older but still in boosters, no worries; they'll be able to open and close the doors on their own.
The tailgate was easy to use mostly because my test car came with a power liftgate, which I didn't have in my 2006 Murano. If you think this feature is frivolous, let me challenge you with a grocery store parking lot in a snowstorm. Or a hail storm. Or a 2-year-old tantrum-storm. Trust me, this feature is worth it. Once the liftgate is open, there's plenty of room for strollers (even double ones), bags, groceries and lots of other things.
My test car had a 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. This engine does just fine in the power department, and with an EPA-estimated 18/23 mpg city/highway, you'll be glad it's not a whole lot bigger. Thankfully, the Murano uses regular gasoline.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The Murano's interior caters to families, with everything within reach and well-placed.
In the front row, the seats were comfortable and heated in my test car. The fabric upholstery looked somewhat velvety and posh, but if you've got babies and sippy cups or bottles, you may want to opt up for leather seating surfaces.
The 2011 Murano's instrument panel has a sophisticated-looking set of gauges. The chrome accents give it a traditional feel. There was thought in the design of the stereo and climate controls; brushed-metal-looking buttons and knobs are incorporated in a long bar, and they were sleek yet easy to identify and use. The look complemented the rest of the interior.
At MotherProof.com, we often complain about technology that's too complicated to use. In the Murano, the Bluetooth hands-free phone system was a cinch to use. It was easy to pair up my phone and use the system in a heartbeat. Yay for simple, easy technology!
In the backseat, I have to mention the flat floor. I could put my purse back there if I needed without it falling into one of the footwells. The lack of hump (stop your giggling right now) enabled Nissan to put a nifty cubby in the center console's rear end, so the kids could put stuff in there. The kids were also happy with the legroom and the dual moonroof. Backseat passengers like a little light and it helped to lighten up the black velvety interior.
As for other happy things in the Murano, I must mention the 60/40-split flat-folding rear seats. They are so easy to use; from the cargo space, you just pull a handle on either side and the seats fold flat. Boom, that's it. It's not complicated, it's not tricky and it doesn't involve lots of hurdles and lurching and grunting. Thank you, Murano!
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
My kids' booster seats fit like a charm in the backseat. The seat belt buckles were a little floppy, but older kids won't struggle with them. Younger ones may need a little help buckling up on their own. The three tether anchors were easy to access, yet the two sets of lower Latch anchors were a little tight against the seat bottom. In MotherProof.com's Car Seat Check, the 2011 Murano fit three child-safety seats in its backseat.
The Murano has been crash-tested by both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In IIHS' tests, it scored the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact and rear crash tests. It scored Marginal in a roof-strength test. It also received four stars out of five overall in NHTSA's crash tests.
The Murano is equipped with safety features such as four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, front-wheel drive, active head restraints, an electronic stability system with traction control and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows.
Optional safety features include all-wheel drive and a backup camera.