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car review

2013 Nissan Quest

To many, a minivan is as sexy as a shoebox.

With the exception of Chrysler, they are not hot sellers for their respective manufacturers, and minivan sales across the board aren't exactly setting the world on fire. Overall sales in Canada are down almost 20 per cent for 2013.

And one of the least popular models is the Nissan Quest. It's near the bottom of the heap and its only rival in terms of poor sales is the Volkswagen Routan. It's not that there's anything fundamentally wrong with the Quest; in fact, it does many things well. But this is an expensive proposition, with a base price approaching $30,000. My top-of-the-range LE starts at almost $47,000. Comparatively, Chrysler's Grand Caravan starts at less than $20,000 and, while it may not be as refined or well-equipped as a Quest, that's a big price difference in a market that tends to put practicality over everything else.

Aside from its uncomfortable price tag, I like this version of the Quest. Nissan has made the styling more palatable, and it's roomy, loaded with convenience goodies, powerful, and as comfortable as a luxury sedan.

It also makes a good wedding party people-carrier. During my time with this one, my eldest daughter got hitched, and I used the Quest for my role as the designated chauffeur/gopher/dogsbody. Throughout the festivities, we schlepped people around, hauled matrimonial items from here to there, and carried the blushing bride and her bridal party to the banquet facilities.

It was quite a sight. My daughter in her full train, four bridesmaids, mother of the bride, and all the attendant paraphernalia fit into the Quest with room to spare.

Not the most glamorous choice of rides, but with its power sliding side doors, it was the perfect fit; when it came time to join the festivities, getting the bride into the chapel without the groom catching sight of her was a snap. Pull up to the vestibule, remotely open the right side door and bob's yer uncle – much more straightforward than trying to extricate her from the back seat of a limo (been there, done that).

A few particulars. Power for the Quest is supplied by Nissan's venerable 3.5-litre V-6 engine, which, in this configuration, delivers 260 horsepower. Transmission is a CVT and this drivetrain delivers 11.0 litres/100 km in town and 8.0 on the highway. By way of comparison, a Toyota Sienna delivers 11.4 city/7.9 highway, while the best-selling Grand Caravan is good for 12.2 city/7.9 highway.

Standard equipment level for the base S model is decent, with air conditioning, back seat heat/ventilation controls, second-row windows that open/close, tilt/telescoping steering, cruise control all standard. The LE version ups the ante, and features leather interior, heated front seats, power rear liftgate, back-up camera and seven-passenger seating. It also comes with Nissan's moonroof package, which is basically a huge sunroof, with a power sun-shade. It adds $2,000 to the price.

2013 Nissan Quest Nissan Nissan

While I can do without the moonroof package, the power rear liftgate and power side doors were invaluable. I made full use of these features to stow all the gifts and accoutrements that accompany a full-on wedding – flowers, vases, centrepieces – and there was even a hidden storage compartment under the rear deck for personal items. Total interior elbow room for the Quest is 5,035 litres (4,839 litres with the moonroof), which is huge. The Honda Odyssey, for example, has 4205 litres.

I also like that it has front-seat armrests, a nice low step-in height and easy-access third-row seats. After the "keg on the floor" design fiasco of the previous generation, Nissan went mainstream with the interior layout of the Quest and it's now as good as these things get in terms of ergonomics, switchgear and the comfort factor.

But I can't get around the price. After the dust settles, my tester is more than $51,000 – before taxes and extras. Much as I liked this vehicle, that is a lot to pay for a minivan. You could get yourself a pair of Grand Caravans and still go on a holiday to Florida for that amount.

Which is where the happy bride went for her honeymoon.

Tech specs

2013 Nissan Quest LE

Base Price: $46,998; as tested: $51,048

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6

Horsepower/torque: 260 hp/240 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.0 city/8.0 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Volkswagen Routan, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Chrysler Town & Country