2019 Nissan Murano Review: Still the Cross-Market Crossover Archetype

A style-oriented alternative to virtually anything else in its class.

2019 Nissan MuranoAaron Miller/Capital One

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The Italian town of Murano is a series of Venetian islands that are connected by bridges. In a way befitting its archipelago namesake, the Nissan Murano has occupied its own island in the crossover market since its inception in 2003. It bridges the gap between small and large, practicality and luxury. It’s a two-row crossover, but such an outlier that even the government doesn’t know how to classify it: according to the EPA, the Murano is technically a “Midsize Station Wagon” instead of an SUV.

Now midway through its third generation, the Murano continues to be very much an island unto itself, residing somewhere between Nissan’s smaller, sales-dominating Rogue and its three-row Pathfinder. Thanks to its dramatic styling and sharp lines, the Murano tends to stand out in a parking lot, but in terms of physical size it more or less splits the difference between its Nissan siblings. Five adults can comfortably sit in the Murano—just like Rogue—and the interior volume difference between the two is minimal. Meanwhile, the comparably priced Pathfinder seats seven and offers about 30% more space on the inside, despite sharing the same underlying architecture.

With its focus clearly aimed at style over utility, Murano lands in the white space between affordability and luxury. It truly occupies its own island, which begs a question: what buyer looks to land on this spot? To find out, our staff took turns in the Murano, with a long-distance commuter, a mother of two, a millennial and a gearhead each looking for what it is that makes it such an intriguing proposition.

2019 Nissan Murano Specs and FiguresAaron Miller

It’s a parking lot drama queen (in a good way)

Nissan revised the Murano’s front end for 2019, sharpening the “V” shaped grill, in addition to redesigning the headlights and taillights. The result adds to an already stylish appearance and furthers the juxtaposition of jagged angles and smooth, flowing lines. For the most part, Murano’s look pleased our staff, with the majority of comments focused on the dramatic lines, tapered roofline and chrome accents, all of which combine to give the Murano a unique emphasis on looks in a segment full of function.

2019 Nissan Murano InteriorAaron Miller

All about that dash

Climb inside, and the Murano feels more like a sedan—sorry, that’s Midsize Station Wagon in EPA parlance—than the majority of crossovers with which it competes. That car-like feel is partly due to a large, flowing dashboard that shares the exterior’s design-first philosophy. It does, however, deliver the ride height and visibility that we’ve come to expect from a smaller SUV.

Overall, the Murano’s interior is more stylized than most crossovers at this price point, and spatial dimensions like head, leg and shoulder room are competitive...at least on paper. In practice, the size of the dash presents knee-room challenges that several of our testers noted, despite most of us being relatively short in stature. The rear seats, however, occupy a cavernous area, ensuring passenger comfort that’s at least on par with anything else in this class.

2019 Nissan Murano Leather InteriorNissan

Quilted leather is available at higher trim levels and works wonders on the appearance, truly aligning Murano’s look and feel with a luxury crossover, rather than a semi-practical vehicle with an MSRP starting in the low $30,000 range. However, some of the tactile and visceral elements lay bare the Murano’s affordable roots. The sound of the turn signals, the click of the buttons on the steering wheel, and even their distance from thumbs while driving, all detracted from an otherwise pleasant interior.

The available 11-speaker Bose system produces a full and vibrant sound. The same can’t be said about the hands-free calling however, with sound quality taking a hit. We also noted a frustratingly high number of dropped calls, though we can’t rule out network interference.

2019 Nissan Murano Safety and TechnologyAaron Miller

Standard tech designed to keep your child safe

Standard and available tech includes a Rear Door Alert, which reminds you if the back door has been opened to check and see if you’ve left anything important in the back. The system began angrily honking over a backpack left behind during a lunch excursion, but it represents a quantum leap forward over having no warning at all. Think of it as having a very aggressive and valuable reminder to make sure you haven’t left a child behind in the vehicle.

Technophiles will appreciate that every single Murano comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as Android Alexa integration. The optional Intelligent Around View Monitor utilizes a series of cameras surrounding the vehicle to simulate an overhead view of the car. It does a fine job of helping ensure you’ve parked perfectly between the lines, especially for a vehicle at this price point. Murano’s higher trim levels offer Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced driving aids (Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, etc.).

Out on the road, it’s continuously smooth...

Murano’s V6 engine produces 260 hp and 240 lb.-ft. of torque, which is plenty for driving around town. Perhaps more importantly, that V6 is mated to one of the better continuously variable transmissions (CVT) on the market, making acceleration quite smooth and giving the Murano a sense of effortlessness when merging onto highways.

As good as the drivetrain is, the suspension is a back and forth affair. Literally, at times. Acceleration and braking requires an exceptionally smooth right foot to prevent a fore and aft rocking sensation. But the same engineering that causes that sensation also prevents harshness over dips and bumps, making it a tradeoff that can only truly be assessed in the context of your daily commute. Side to side motion was well controlled, however: in corners, the Maxima-based Murano feels more sedan-like than many of the other crossovers in its class.

2019 Nissan MuranoAaron Miller

Conclusion: Murano is the right island if you want to stand out

Murano offers a style-oriented alternative to virtually anything else in its class. That Murano, like its Italian namesake, occupies its own island is hugely important, because it’s less practical than many of the offerings in its price range, yet more expensive than smaller crossovers that offer just as much utility. Instead, the stylish middle ground on which it sits is perfect for those wanting to stand out without departing the crossover segment or breaking the bank in the process. Especially when optioned with Nissan’s higher trim packages, Murano crosses over from an affordable two-row crossover to a near-luxury offering that underscores just how flexible it really is.

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Aaron Miller
As a veteran automotive journalist, I have been fortunate enough to drive some of the most desirable cars on the planet and get to know some of the most important people in the industry. Before joining Capital One, I served as the Cars Editor for a major national website, and covered industry news and analysis for well-known automotive-specific sites. I also wrote feature articles and reviews for niche enthusiast websites. I’ve been obsessed with cars since—literally—before I can remember, with my collection of die-cast and slot cars taking center stage during my formative years. Simply put, for me, working isn’t really “work.”