Midsize SUV; Built in Japan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $7,300 – $14,500*


2003 Nissan Murano


2004 Nissan Murano


2005 Nissan Murano


Nissan Murano

Pros:
  • CVT performance
  • Cargo room
  • Passenger room
Cons:
  • Instruments/controls

Not everyone falls for its lush exterior look, or for its interior layout, but the Murano brings some seriously fashionable style to the ordinarily-conservative family-SUV world. Secure handling, fine utility, and CVT advantages are assets that add value beneath the skin. While it’s no threat to unseat the Highlander or Honda Pilot for broad appeal, the Murano cuts quite a fine figure on the road and is among our Recommended midsize SUVs.

Overview

Nissan launched a third SUV for 2003, a midsize Murano “crossover” built on the Altima sedan platform. Murano aimed at such car-based models as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, which it matched in general size, except for standing as much as four inches lower–despite standard 18-inch wheels. In their initial form, Muranos also seated only four passengers, versus rivals’ five to seven.

A 3.5-liter V6, as used in various Nissan car lines, was the sole engine. The only transmission was a new continuously variable automatic (CVT) which, like other CVTs, provided a near-infinite range of gear ratios. Muranos came with front-drive or all-wheel drive.

Antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist were standard. So were front torso side airbags, front/rear curtain side airbags, and seatbelt pretensioners for all passengers. Muranos had front bucket seats and a two-person split folding rear bench with backrest recliners. The center console offered bilevel storage, with space for a purse or laptop computer.

Muranos came in two trim levels: base SL and sporty SE. Standard features included a tilt steering wheel/gauge cluster, and dual-zone climate control. A video-type information display controlled climate, audio and trip computer functions, along with the available navigation system. An antiskid/traction system, xenon headlamps, power-adjustable pedals, and leather interior trim were optional. Available for the SE was a manual-mode CVT with seven preprogrammed “gear ratios.”

Towing capacity was 3500 pounds. In addition to the Pilot and Highlander, competitors included the Ford Explorer–though none were as curvaceously stylish in profile as the Murano.

Yearly Updates

2004 Murano
Satellite radio became available this year, and a manual shift mode was incorporated into the SE’s automatic transmission, allowing the driver to select pre-set “gears.” The Murano’s liftgate lacked separate-opening glass. Low-range gearing was absent, too, making the Murano inappropriate for serious off-road tasks. But a console button could lock its AWD into a 50/50 power split for extra traction up to 30 mph. SE models had a firmer suspension. Both rode on 18-inch wheels. Xenon headlamps were standard on the SE and optional for the SL model. Options included heated front seats and rear DVD entertainment. No third-row seating was offered, but official passenger capacity rose to five.
2005 Murano
An entry-level S model joined the Murano lineup for 2005. On the safety front, a rollover sensor was designed to trigger the curtain airbags if a tipover appeared imminent. A keyless entry/ignition system was now available for SL and SE models.
2006 Murano
Minor styling and equipment changes mark this car-type SUV for 2006. Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls are illuminated for ’06, and all models get revised grille and exterior trim.
2007 Murano
Murano carries over unchanged.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Only a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that operates without gears has been available in Muranos, driven by a 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V6 engine. Muranos may have front- or all-wheel drive.

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/214
Engine HP 240-245
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 246
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
CVT automatic

20/24

19.6

EPA rating with 2WD is 20/25 mpg.

Road Test

Muranos are fast-movers. In fact, an AWD Murano SL accelerated to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, ranking among the quickest six-cylinder midsize SUVs. The Murano is also without peer in smooth throttle response, around town and in hilly terrain. Credit the CVT, which seamlessly transfers engine power without the gear-selection indecision or downshift delays that plague some conventional automatic transmissions. In highway-speed passing situations, CVT allows the engine to speed up quicker than the vehicle is actually accelerating, but to no ill effect. It behaves so well that a manual shift gate seems unnecessary.

Muranos with 2WD have averaged 19.6 to 20.1 mpg in a mix of city/highway driving. That’s quite good for a V6 midsize SUV. An AWD model averaged 16.3 mpg in mostly city driving. Nissan recommends 91-octane premium fuel.

Despite 18-inch tires, the ride gets abrupt only on sharp potholes and protruding tar strips, and just rarely unsettled by larger pavement waves. A Murano is reassuringly stable in highway-speed cruising. There’s little discernible difference with the SE’s sport-tuned suspension.

The SE’s sport suspension gives slightly sharper initial response in quick changes of direction, but no significant difference in overall handling. Both models offer accurate, natural steering feel, though some drivers might consider the steering too heavy at low speeds. No undue body lean or noseplow is noticed in turns, but there is a slight tendency to skip sideways in bumpy corners on rough surfaces.

Engine sounds are subdued, unless the CVT has it revving ahead of acceleration in full-throttle work. Road noise is unobtrusive. Some Muranos have shown wind noise and squeaks/rattles, but others have been trouble-free in those areas. All have suffered loud buffeting above 50 mph with the sunroof open.

Audio and trip-computer readouts display on a dashtop screen, removed by several inches from the systems’ actual controls. Not everyone likes this layout, or considers the amber instrument lighting a helpful choice for legibility. Controls are easy to reach and use, though the trip-computer and navigation-system buttons are oddly mounted on a horizontal dashboard shelf. The navigation option suffers the usual steep learning curve, but has the advantage of not incorporating audio or climate functions. Genuine aluminum trim decorates the console and dashboard, but some interior plastics feel cut-rate.

Front seats offer large-adult room and comfort, but wide seatbacks have subpar side bolstering, so grippy fabric upholstery holds occupants better than leather in turns. The power-pedal control is conveniently positioned on the seat-cushion side, but power-seat controls are mounted inboard at thigh level–an awkward location for some. Occupants get a nicely elevated field of vision to the front and sides, and large mirrors aid lane changes. Upswept rear roof pillars and a smallish rear window cut into the view astern.

Great leg and toe room is available in the backseat, along with good head clearance. Nicely padded, chair-height seating includes reclining seatbacks. A nearly-flat floor helps center-position comfort, though three adults across is a squeeze. Hard-to-reach floor-level cupholders slide from the bottom of the front console. Wallet-sized door map pockets are installed. Modest ground clearance means no-hassle step-in through wide doors, front and rear.

The tailgate opens and closes easily, to a flat passage from the bumper into the cargo bay. The fastback roof cuts into cargo volume with rear seatbacks up, but there’s no need to remove rear headrests to drop the seatbacks. They fold quickly via levers at the rear of the cargo bay, but cannot be raised from there. Folding the seatbacks produces a nearly flat load floor. Added storage is available under-floor. The center console contains a cell-phone slot and bilevel storage. Poorly-sized front cupholders make it hard to extract all but tall beverage containers.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 Murano AWD SL

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 6
60%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
70%
Cargo Room - 8
80%

Other

Value - 8
80%

Total: 62

Specifications

4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
111.2 187.6 74.0 66.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
81.6 21.7 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.7 39.7 43.4 36.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 20043 Murano 4-door wagon

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 4
80%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: CVT/Xtronic transmission fluid must be used in the constantly variable transmission and using anything else can cause damage that will not be covered under warranty. (2003-05)
Brake noise
Description: Front brakes may make squealing noises when braking while backing up and countermeasure pads are available while vibrations from the front brakes require machining the rotors and replacing the pads and if there is noise from the rear brakes when going over bumps, the parking brakes require adjustment. (2003-04)
Cold-starting problems
Description: In very cold weather (10 degrees F or below) following a cold soak, the starter may not work after a short trip requiring replacement of the intelligent power distribution module. (2003-06)
Engine knock
Description: Knocking or ticking noises coming from the engine compartment at idle may be due to pulses in the fuel line for which a revised damper and hose are available. (2003-06)
Oil leak
Description: Oil leak at the oil cooler adapter (oil filter adapter) due to bad gasket. (2003)
Sunroof/moonroof
Description: Sunroof may quit working due to loss of memory requiring memory reset procedure. (2003-04)
Suspension noise
Description: During cold weather, there may be a clunking or thumping noise from the front suspension when going over speed bumps or curb cuts requiring some rubber be trimmed from the front strut mounting brackets. (2003)
None
Description: Tire dressing, if not allowed to dry thoroughly, can stain the vehicle’s paint and Nissan advises against its use. (2000-05)

Recall History

2003-05 Murano
Description: Wire inside alternator might break, causing battery to stop charging.
2003-05 Murano
Description: The webbing of a rear seatbelt may be cut by the sharp edge of a metal portion of a hinge. If the webbing is completely separated, it can increase the risk of injury to an occupant in a crash. Dealers will install protectors over the webbing of the rear seat belts.
2003-07
Description: The intake air ducts may separate from the resonator with engine movement. This separation occurs due to the premature aging of the material used in the ducts; it causes excessive shrinking resulting in a possible engine stall. Dealers will inspect and replace/repair the appropriate components.
2005 Murano
Description: A fitting for vapor recirculation may come off the fuel tank because incorrect material was used. This could result in the malfunction indicator light in the instrument panel and may result in some fuel leakage, which could result in a fire. Dealers will replace the fuel tank with a new one free of charge.
2005-06
Description: During an inspection of some vehicles at the assembly plant, it was found that the steering wheel was locked with the ignition knob in the “off” position but the vehicle’s transmission wasn’t in the “park” position. Dealers will inspect and replace the steering wheel lock assembly free of charge.
2007-08
Description: Sensor in passenger seat cushion may fail, preventing the air bag from deploying in a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.