Let me take a moment to introduce myself. I am not an automotive expert or car buff. I am a mother of two young children, and I spend my glamorous days in sweats, driving car pool and running errands. Sadly, I spend more time in my car than any other place. It's this admission that fuels my quest to find the ultimate "mom-mobile."
At first glance, the 2004 Nissan Quest appears very different from other minivans on the market. I'll even venture to say it looks sexy. Yes, you read right: I called this minivan sexy. Nissan has done a great job marketing this vehicle as "what women want," but did it actually have a woman test it before putting it on the market?
I love the advertisements for the 2004 Nissan Quest. After watching them, I find myself fantasizing about spending the day surfing, painting or playing the cello (all without my kids), then hitting the town for a hot night out with my husband (and no kids). In the real world, however, I drive the mommy express. I decided (rather masochistically) that the best way to test this minivan would be to load up the troops (two children, my husband and in-laws) for a 10-hour road trip.
Right off the bat I discover that the rear doors open very wide for easy access to all three rows of seats. The seats are wide and flat and make a stable base for car seats. The interior of the cabin is very spacious, with plenty of room to move about (helpful for reaching the perpetually vomiting baby in back). The cargo area of the Quest dips below floor level, lending an amazing amount of cargo space. With six people in this car we still have plenty of room for all our luggage, plus three coolers. The grocery bag hooks behind the third row are perfect for holding duffel bags.
After loading my clan, I hop in the driver's seat. I'm struck by the unusual dashboard design. In my husband's words, it looks like the Starship Enterprise. (Does it come with a transporter so I can skip this road trip altogether?) I explore the storage compartments (of which there are many) and cupholders (which are inconveniently located). I try to hang my purse on the "purse and hat hook," but to no avail. This seemingly great innovation is poorly placed and my purse ends up on the floor.
The entry-level Quest 3.5S has manually adjusting seats. I crank two separate wheels to raise the seat to a suitable level. The steering wheel is too far away, though, and I end up driving with my arms stretched at an odd angle.
Pulling into the first pit stop, I notice the hood slopes so steeply that I can't see the front end of the vehicle. This makes parking difficult. I inch the car forward until it bumps the curb. I have trouble finding a suitable place in the car for changing the baby's diaper and end up using the cooler as a changing table.
I decide to let my husband take a turn driving while I rest. Did I say rest? I don't think so. The suspension on this minivan makes even small bumps in the road feel like Mt. Everest. Not to mention a very loud cabin from wind noise.
When we finally arrive at our destination I discover how useful a navigation system would have been (unfortunately it's not even an option on the S model). We spend most of the weekend lost wandering some not-so-safe areas of the city. This leads me to discover another oversight with the 2004 Nissan Quest. The door locks aren't color coded to let you know when they're engaged. I have to actually open the door before discovering that it's not locked.
In summary, the 2004 Nissan Quest 3.5S needs some tweaking before I'll recommend it to any of my girlfriends. In this case, beauty only runs skin deep. If you're dead set on the aesthetic qualities of this particular minivan, I recommend researching the SL or SE models. If you can afford it, spring for leather seats and automatic opening doors.
*For more information on the Nissan Quest and its safety features, visit www.cars.com.