The 2010 Nissan Murano is a rugged yet refined crossover. Last year, I reviewed the 2009 Murano LE and was impressed by the top-of-the-line crossover's interior finish. What struck me about the midlevel 2010 Murano SL was its powerful engine and its masculine looks.

There's no sluggishness in the V-6 engine. The 2010 Murano was explosive as I accelerated on highway on-ramps. It also had solid braking to accentuate its sporty personality.

I often describe my two boys as, "all boy, not an ounce of sugar or spice, just a bunch of frogs 'n' snails and puppy-dog-tails," and I'd have to say the same about the Murano.  It's masculine looking with no soft details. I can't say it thrilled me.

The Murano starts at $28,340 and tops out at $38,710. My test car, an SL with all-wheel drive, cost $33,000.

While the Murano's performance was great, I wasn't a fan of its tough-guy looks. I can appreciate its sporty touches such as fog lights and a grille that looks like an eagle in flight, but it wouldn't turn my head out on the road.

2010 Nissan Murano

The Murano's step-in height was comfortable for me, and my kids were able to get in pretty easily; however, we would've benefited from a wider door opening in the second row.

In the back, I was disappointed that the Murano SL didn't have a power liftgate with auto-close button. I hate touching the cargo door.  A power liftgate is available as part of the Technology Package ($1,500), which includes bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, heated side mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

I found the under-floor storage in the cargo area disappointing, too.  There's a large, square outline on the floor, which is obviously hiding a storage compartment with great potential, based on the side of the outline.  When you lift the floor piece, the storage area is tiny and not very deep. I couldn't fathom what I might store in there.  It certainly wasn't deep enough to hold an emergency kit of any kind, but an ice scraper would fit back there.

Driving the Murano, with its 265-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, made me temporarily forget about my cargo-area complaints. However, I had a few complaints when it was time to hit the gas station. The Murano gets an EPA-estimated 18/23 mpg city/highway and takes premium gas, which made trips to the gas station frequent and costly.

2010 Nissan Murano

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

The Murano's interior left me unimpressed. It was as if Nissan had packed all of the Murano's intrigue and personality into that amazing engine and just left it at that.

2010 Nissan Murano

The interior is dark with faux-metal trim that has an overly masculine feel to it. My midlevel trim test car didn't have some of the nicer features such as automatic headlamps and heated seats, which are available in the Leather Package ($1,600) and you'd expect to find at this price. The Murano has dual-zone air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and illuminated vanity mirrors, but I wanted more. An optional Bose sound system upped the luxury ante slightly in my test car, but for the most part I was wishing I had the 2009 Murano back.

The Murano's dark interior showed every speck of dirt that my kids dragged in. I felt the need to vacuum it on the very first day of my test drive. However, I was able to control these crazy urges; I'm no novice.
This five-seater had plenty of cupholders and cubbies for storing all of my kids' gear. My boys found the backseat to be roomy, and I appreciated the second row's reclining seatbacks.

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

The 2010 Murano received the top score of Good in front, side and rear crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In past years, these scores, along with standard stability control, would earn it Top Safety Pick status. For 2010, IIHS added a new roof-strength crash test. The Murano received a rating of Marginal in this crash test, which took it out of Top Safety Pick contention.

I ran into some problems when trying to install my sons' booster seats using the Latch anchors. The lower anchors are buried under the seat cushions, but I was able to find them with my fingertips. The inner anchors sat above the seat belt buckles, which is an obstacle a parent doesn't need when installing a child-safety seat. I had a hard time installing the Latch connectors because of this, and my youngest couldn't buckle up by himself. Frankly, I had a hard time, too, when I tried to buckle him in.

There's enough room in the backseat to accommodate a rear-facing infant-safety seat or a
rear-facing convertible seat. A forward-facing convertible should fit without any problems because the second row's seatbacks recline, which gives the car seats a better fit.

The Murano has standard antilock brakes, stability control, traction control and six airbags, including side-impact and side curtains for both rows. All-wheel drive is optional.

Get more safety information on the 2010 Murano here.

2010 Nissan Murano