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Monthly Archive:: June 2013

Smooth Sailing: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder – Kids, Carseats & Safety Review

pathfinderI got off to a rocky start with the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder I recently test-drove for a week, but in all fairness, it wasn’t really the car’s fault.

See, it has one of those push-button ignitions, and when I went to take it for a spin, I guess I didn’t notice that the car wasn’t completely on. I had just gotten done selecting my radio station and connecting my phone via Bluetooth. Then I threw the car into reverse and started backing down my driveway. I soon realized that the car seemed sluggish, and it was hard to turn.

Finally, just as the car finished inching out of my driveway, it stopped and wouldn’t move anymore, no matter what I tried. In a panic, I called my husband (using my freshly paired phone and the car’s speakers). Even though the Pathfinder was now blocking my entire street and I had visions of someone plowing into this borrowed car, I did see the humor in the situation, and I half-laughed, half-cried to my husband, “The car is stuck! I need your help!”

It turns out my husband had been watching me from the window the whole time and couldn’t figure out why I had parked the car in the middle of the street. He came out, got in the car, started it up, and had it back in the driveway three seconds later.

“How did you do that?!” I demanded.

“You have to step on the brake while you press the button. Didn’t you notice the engine wasn’t on?”

“I thought it was just really quiet,” I answered sheepishly. In my defense, the last car I drove with a push-button ignition was a Prius, which is silent. “How did I get down the driveway, though?”

“Gravity?”

And so began my week. My husband was worried about letting me drive alone after that, but I assured him I’d be fine.

Despite the rough start, so to speak, I soon fell in love with the Pathfinder, as did the rest of the family.

I had the Platinum edition, which comes fully loaded with leather, navigation, DVD, heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, etc. Obviously all that luxury helped a lot. But even without all the extras, we were very impressed with the Pathfinder, both in terms of driving and easily seating the kids.

The 2013 Pathfinder is redesigned, with a sleeker exterior and roomier interior. It’s less truck-like but still big enough for most people’s needs, and it gets better fuel mileage than the previous incarnation. It boasts a 5-star rating for side impacts, with 4-star ratings for frontal and rollover.  The overall average from Safercar.gov is a 4-star crash rating.  The IIHS has not yet completed its testing.  So far, the 2013 Pathfinder has received the top “Good” ratings in both the moderate overlap frontal crash test and the IIHS side impact test.

 

DRIVING

You know how some people know a lot about wine, and they say things like, “This one is fruity, with oaky undertones”? I don’t know anything about wine, so I say things like, “Yeah, I like that,” or “Oh my god! It burns!!! It burns!!!”

You’ll have to forgive that I’m like that with cars, too. I’m not a car-person in the sense that I can discuss “suspension damping” or “throttle response” (I had to go read some Edmunds reviews just to come up with those terms). So how was the Pathfinder to drive? I liked it. (And it didn’t burn.)

To try to give a bit more description: I was nervous at first because it felt big, even though it’s comparable in size to the Honda Odyssey I drive now, and the Honda Pilot I drove previously. It handled very nicely, though, and I soon found I loved driving it. It had smooth, quick acceleration from a stop, and handled turns great. I discovered, upon having to make a u-turn on a narrow Chicago street, that it has a nice, tight turn radius.

The drive was very quiet, especially compared to the not-so-quiet Odyssey. I also found the brakes to be nice and responsive. (The Edmunds review described the brakes as “spongy.” Not being a wine/car person, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I didn’t experience anything I’d describe as sponginess. The day after I got the car, though, Nissan issued a recall for a brake issue on some Pathfinders, so maybe they got a dud?)

According to the car’s control panel, my gas mileage for the week was around 22 mpg, which is the combined city/highway fuel mileage estimated for the vehicle. I drove 207 miles and used about half a tank of gas. Not bad.

 

PARKING

I wouldn’t normally include a section on parking, because…why? But this truly deserves its own section.

Confession: I’m a good driver, but a terrible parker. I’m not just talking parallel parking: I mean ANY parking. I always wind up too far over to one side or another, and I’m NEVER straight. It’s pretty embarrassing.

Anyway, when I was sitting there at a stop light on my virgin trip, I noticed a “camera” button and decided to push it. In Heather’s review of the Tesla S, she mentioned you could see out of the backup camera while driving, so I thought that might be the case here, too. Turns out that’s not quite what it did, but it might be even cooler. When I pressed the camera button, the screen changed to show the view from a forward camera and also a “birds-eye view” of the car that showed what was behind, in front of, and on both sides. Perfect for parking? Yes, especially for someone with such meager parking skills.

Once I started going above a couple miles per hour, the camera view turned off, but I turned it back on when I got to the parking lot at the grocery store. As I turned into my spot, the “overhead” camera showed me the lines in the pavement and also showed computerized lines marking the direction of my front wheels.

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Using these tools, I effortlessly parked PERFECTLY, possibly for the first time in my life.

My car also came equipped with sensors that beep when you have obstacles (including people) behind you while you’re in reverse. Very handy, and a great safety feature for keeping kids safe around cars. Nissan calls this the “Around View Monitor System with Camera Aided Sonar.” I guess that describes it pretty well.

 

CAR SEATS

Overall, the Pathfinder was great for transporting kids. Typically, I much prefer minivans over SUVs for transporting more than two kids, mainly because of third-row access issues, but if I had to own an SUV, the Pathfinder would be high on my list specifically because of the great third-row access.

The Pathfinder has a feature that allows the second-row seats to fold slightly forward and move up, even with a child seat installed! Best of all, it’s easy enough for my child to do. (I’ve found a lot of second-row seats rather difficult to move, even for an adult).

There are limitations to this.

Happy Father’s Day!

Best Dad RibbonOn behalf of CarseatBlog, Heather, Jennie & I would like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to Darren and to all the awesome dads out there! Extra bonus points are awarded to all stay-at-home dads, dads who know how to use a cloth diaper correctly, dads who allow pink/purple/flowery or “mooing” carseats in their vehicle, dads who actually hear the baby in the middle of the night AND get up to help, dads of teenagers, dads of teenagers who are driving and want to borrow YOUR car every 5 minutes, and dads with spouses who spend countless hours on the car-seat.org forums. We salute you all!

We especially want to pay tribute to our fearless leader, Darren Qunell. Without his passion and visionary leadership, there would be no Car-Seat.org community or CarseatBlog.com. We’re thankful that he was confident enough to ignore the naysayers back in 2001 who told him that creating a forum dedicated specifically to Child Passenger Safety was a waste of time. 12 years later Car-Seat.org is thriving and our dedicated community of advocates are helping to educate parents and caregivers across the globe in a friendly and welcoming environment! :)

 

Britax 2013 Parkway SGL and Pioneer 70 Unboxing

Please stay tuned for our reviews of the 2013 Britax Parkway SGL and Pioneer 70 in the next month or so!  For now, here’s a quick video.  You can also check out our weekend giveaway of the current (pre-2013) Parkway SG at Car-Seat.Org .  No entries here or on Facebook for this one, sorry!

 

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

The holiday travel season is upon us again, so we’ve decided to rerun this post about FAA regulations regarding car seats on a plane. (Incidentally, this was my very first post for CarseatBlog, so it will always hold a special place in my heart…and in my carry-on when I fly.)

When my son was 8 months old we flew from California to Chicago to visit relatives. Although I was not yet a Child Passenger Safety Technician, I understood the importance of using car seats, even on airplanes. So, as a diligent mother, I purchased him a ticket and installed his Britax Wizard rear-facing.

On three of our four flights, we had no problems. On the last one, though, the flight attendant insisted that I turn my son’s seat forward-facing because the passenger in front of him wouldn’t be able to recline. I knew the car seat should stay rear-facing, but with no proof and a plane full of anxious passengers, I acquiesced rather than put up a fight.

If only I had known about the Federal Aviation Administration’s Advisory Circular regarding Use of Child Restraint Systems on Aircraft, things might have been different.

The Advisory Circular, which was updated in late 2010, details the FAA’s policies regarding child restraints on planes, and anyone traveling by aircraft with a child in a car seat would be wise to print out a copy and take it onboard. (Please note that the FAA regulations apply to U.S.-based carriers operating inside or outside of the United States. If you’re flying a foreign airline these guidelines won’t necessarily apply.)

To make things easy for you, the traveling parent, I am going to tell you exactly where to find the pertinent information so you can print out the Circular (like above) and highlight what you might need.