2003 Nissan Murano

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starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

187.6” x 67.3”


Front-wheel drive



3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • Base

  • SL


  • SE


Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2003 Nissan Murano trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best SUVs for 2024

2003 Nissan Murano review: Our expert's take

By Cars.com Editors

Were George Jetson to buy a human transporter that touched the ground, the message from the dealership, upon delivery, would go something like this:

"Mr. Jetson, your SL AWD with Xtronic CVT, ABS, and Altima DNA with a dose of a 350 Z powerplant awaits your pickup. It is named Murano."

Yes, the Nissan Murano for 2003 is a car George Jetson would love. In it, he could carry in comfort not only his wife, Jane, daughter, Judy, his boy, Elroy, and their dog, Astro, but also Rosie, the household robot.

Nissan, a company on the ropes just a few years ago, has come back to center ring the way Ali rebounded in Zaire in 1974, reenergized with muscle and an edge. As always, the car maker continues to build remarkable V-6 engines two cylinders short of — but with nearly equal power to — many V-8s. And it retains a duality of design that I find intriguing.

Even as it gave us Altimas and Maximas, it produced the Xterra, an affordable SUV that reached back from the softness of that evolving phenomenon to the washable interior, gear-hauling, play-with-it funkiness of original SUVs.

And now, even as they give us stylish, subtle, updated versions of those Altimas and Maximas, Nissan’s designers give us an edgy new SUV that, at a remarkable price of about $30,000 gives much of the elegance, luxury, and performance of higher-priced competitors.

And this even before Nissan launches its next entries in the truck/SUV market, the not-so-subtly named Titan Crew Cab and the Armada.

The Murano comes in two models, SL and SE, and is offered with either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. Prices range from just under $30,000 to an optioned-out $37,000.

You could say it’s just another entry in the crossover sport-ute/station wagon/van/truck niche, but with its quality at its price, it is an eye-opener. At these prices, George Jetson would save enough to give Rosie a raise.

Its patterned grill, rounded up to the hood, looks like the toe of a sneaker, and its rise from hood to roofline to rising rear remind me of a Chuck Taylor All Star high top on wheels. Some will see it as a mistake (and the decision will, in fact, turn away some families) but Nissan opted to go for extra inside room rather than try to accommodate a third row of seating. The payoff is remarkable legroom front and rear. The rear seat will hold three adults in actual comfort and it folds flat, even with headrests still attached — a nice, annoyance-eliminating touch. And even with a low roof line uncommon on today’s SUVs, headroom in the Murano is ample.

Up front, well-bolstered seats grip driver and passenger even in hard cornering. The leather in the SL all-wheel-drive tested was smooth and tough at the same time. Aluminum trim on the arm rests, center control pod, center console, and gauge housing added an industrial touch to a refined interior.

K nobs and buttons on the control pod were big, easy to use, and — not always the case these days — intuitive in use.

I also liked the cubbies, nooks, crannies, and bins that seemed to be everywhere. Very utilitarian.

Built on an altered Altima platform — using the requisite car-based DNA, the Murano is powered by Nissan’s fabulous V-6 aluminum head, aluminum block engine. That’s the same powerplant that, in various tunings, drives the Altima, Pathfinder, Maxima, and hot 350 Z sports car. In the Murano it delivers 245 horsepower and a tugging 246 lb.-ft. of torque.

Getting one step ahead of Audi, which is headed in this direction, Nissan offers a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in its all-wheel-drive model. It uses a pair of convex pulleys and a belt to offer virtually unlimited gear ratios. Every time you touch the gas or let off on the gas, the pulleys open and close, the belt changes form and infinite "gears" are d livered. This means that going uphill, there is no constant, obvious clunking about for the right ratio as happens with regular automatic transmissions. Further, the engine and transmission work in amazing harmony during downhill compression braking and in sport mode when approaching corners at speed and letting up on the gas. I’d love to try this combo on a racetrack where the trick in cornering is to go in slow at the last possible moment and come out fast at the earliest controllable moment.

Any time you try to cross breed automotive traits (in this case car and SUV) there is a tradeoff. Here, stable, flat cornering at high speed — the result of a stiff suspension — means some jolting over bumps. Unless you live where the roads are pocked everywhere, it’s a good tradeoff for that stability.

Its suspension system, fully independent, includes struts, control arms, coil springs, and antiroll bar up front and, in the rear, control arms, diagonal and lateral links, coil springs, and another antiroll bar.

The all-wheel-drive model runs in front-wheel-drive under normal conditions, but ships as much as 50 percent of its power to the rear wheels if the rubber up front starts to slip. In addition, at speeds below 19 miles per hour, the driver can manually lock the electronic clutch that delivers power to the rear. That is not to mean, however, that this is a true off-road thumper. It sits only 7 inches off the ground and is meant to get you to the ski chalet or trout stream — not over the rocks, stumps, and mud of logged-off hunting grounds.

The Murano rides on standard 18-inch wheels and is stopped suddenly and surely by disc brakes more than a foot in diameter.

At this price, this quality, this performance, I’d shop this car against far pricier models.

Nice touch: The automotive version of a binnacle that houses three gauges and seems to float out from, and above, the dashboard, behind the wheel — a risky design that works.

Annoyance: All this, but a towing capacity of only 3,500 pounds. Much as I love this car, I couldn’t own it. I also own a boat that needs more "tuggage" (you won’t find that word in a dictionary) than that.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior 4.3
  • Performance 4.0
  • Value 3.6
  • Exterior 4.5
  • Reliability 3.5
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Most recent consumer reviews


I loved driving this car!

Was a great vehicle I loved to drive had issues with transmission! Worked in it numerous times as I also had of maintained at dealerships religiously! Just know I loved ! Driving this vehicle !


Great overall vehicle, love to drive

My Murano has 184,000 miles. Mostly expressway on long trips. It's been very reliable. The only thing is that a few months ago my transmission was slipping and my RPMs were getting high (3k+). I was told my transmission was going bad. After some research I decided to replace the CVT transmission oil (with synthetic) Since then it got a lot better. Drove to Texas from Chicago twice no problems.


Great car!

Need a good car? Look no further!!! I've owned 3 nissoans, never a bad one! Low cost to buy or fix, and working on them, well even I could do my own work!

See all 37 consumer reviews


Based on the 2003 Nissan Murano base trim.
Nhtsa rollover rating


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Nissan Certified Select
New car program benefits
36 months/36,000 miles
60 months/unlimited distance
60 months/60,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Nissan and non-Nissan vehicles less than 10 years old and less than 100,000 miles. (Nissan vehicles less than 6 years from original new car in-service date must have more than 60,000 to qualify for Certified Select.)
6 months/6,000 miles from date of sale
Dealer certification required
84-point inspection
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

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