Classic CARmentary: 1999 Nissan Quest SE

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

By now, you probably know I like a good minivan.  Even as a young Gen Xer, I was very impressed with the first generation Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager.  It seemed that someone finally got the hint and took the successful Chrysler formula of using a transverse-engine, front-wheel drive car-based platform and draping it in a much more attractive – not weird – shell than the Chrysler trio.  Although not as dramatic as the second-generation Chrysler minivans, I still liked the look of this Quest.  I also liked its “tweener” length, which was not too short, not too long, but just right.  

It’s too bad that Nissan completely lost the plot with the following two generations, then dropped the Quest altogether because, “People don’t buy minivans anymore.” 

The following review was originally posted on January 4, 1999.

When the Quest debuted for the 1993 model year, its smooth styling and good handling proved that minivans didn’t have to be boxy and boring. However, as its contemporaries were improved, its small cabin and lack of a fourth door soon relegated it to “also ran” status. The new Quest is longer, wider, and taller than its predecessor, and most importantly, comes with a fourth door.

Nissan, who has had a lead touch regarding styling lately, smartly left the look alone. The most obvious change is the front end, which now has a strange asymmetrical grill and head lamp treatment that hopefully will be restyled down the line. With the two-tone paint scheme and alloy wheels, however, the Quest is still one of the best looking minivans on the road.

At 194.7 inches in length, the Quest falls right in the middle in minivan lengths, and all of that space is put to good use. Our mid-level SE model had second-row captain’s chairs and the “Quest Trac Flexible Seating System.” The highlight of the system is a rear bench that can slide to any position from just behind the front seats to the back of the van. By folding up the cushion and pushing the bench forward to just behind the second row, I was able to haul some bulky cargo without the hassle of removing seats (although it’s not difficult if you must). In all, there are 66 possible combinations, and all seats fold forward to become trays with built-in cupholders. A rear tray with mesh netting can be set in three different positions to help separate or hide cargo. Passengers understandably have less legroom than in the longest minivans, but it’s not a bad way to travel.

The Quest still has above-average handling and a good ride. A more powerful 3.3 liter V6 that’s shared with the Frontier pickup is under the hood, but it feels and sounds unrefined. Nissan should have used the silky smooth Maxima V6 instead. The standard four-speed automatic is flawless.

The Quest is an excellent minivan. Even my wife, a confirmed minivan hater, would consider one. That’s high praise indeed.

For more information contact 1-800-NISSAN-3


Type:Four-door Minivan
Engine:170-horsepower, 3.3 liter V6
Transmission:Four-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage:17 city/24 highway
Tested Price:$25,517