2002 Nissan Murano: Americo-Japanese Rationalism

Few Murano’s roam about Jutland. I’ve always liked this car even if I am not a fan of softroaders. 

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The Murano shows what we might call Japanese design rationalism although the designers did their work in California. The bit we ought to notice is the very intelligent shutline management of the tailgate, rear lamps and rear quarter panel. The tailgate is oversized so as to eliminate the need for the roof panel to join to the C-pillar.

Thus the rear quarter panel welds can be hidden under the adjoining parts. The graphics of the shutlines coordinate entirely consistently with the sculpture. All in all, the whole comes across as very unified and yet the car is distinctively characterful so it doesn’t merely ape the simple forms of, say, an Audi TT which pursues a similar agenda.

The door shutline above the shoulder parallels that of the tailgate. The front and rear lamps work on their own but also as part of the forms they are adjacent to. In particular, the grille and front lamps make a unified whole, with neither dominant but individually they also have a completeness to them. If the Citroen C5 had lamps like this it would have been a different car (I mean better).

2002 Nissan Murano IP
2002 Nissan Murano IP

Alas, this appalling binnacle mars the fine Star Trek interior. Conceived as a clamshell  unit, a nasty part split runs around the outermost edge (the vertical split where the front and back part meet) and the join wobbles plainly. The metallic front plate doesn’t meet tidily with the dark rear part. It stands entirely out of keeping with the rest of the interior which I call first-rate.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

17 thoughts on “2002 Nissan Murano: Americo-Japanese Rationalism”

  1. Excellent article Richard. I have always liked the first generation Murano, but could never work out why??? Perhaps your reasoned arguement has laid that concern to rest.
    There are very few of these, as you say ‘softroaders’ that catch my eye in a good way, but the Murano was the exception. Perhaps it was the good ol’ U.S of A influence on the design front, something that exists on my own personal vehicle of choice. Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t the entry level cubic capacity circa three litres???

    1. Thanks! I am a glad you liked the item. The Murano looked super when it came out and still does. Some might say it´s not butch enough but haven´t CUVs long been a really more like tall cars than anything truly off-roady? In that sense, the Murano gets it right. I didn´t notice the C-pillar treatment until the day before yesterday. The bit I liked was the bonnet which has a kind arc running around the top while under that is more complex. That was a well done bit of shaping. The lights and grille are also really good, being distinctive yet not over-wrought. All in all, it´s a pleasing bit of work. I am not sure good design always gets credit when it appears on some of these apparently quite ordinary vehicles from non-prestige brands. And by the same token, our prestige friends can drop the ball and get away with it, often flagrantly.
      The engine? A 3.5 litre V6. I had to look that up. I knew it as a V6; the displacement eluded me. For the Euro market that´s way too much. I am sure a turbo 4 would work here with no bother. Wikipedia says it was a 183 kW while most of the ads at Autoscout claim 172 kW. I think only one engine could be had and that was the petrol V6, at least for the first series. Nissan ought to have considered a smaller engine for this vehicle.

    2. It’s the same engine that was fitted on the 350Z and top-of-the range Vel-Satis. Indeed thre’s no doubt it was a key factor in the limited sales in Europe.

  2. A fine looking vehicle indeed, but the engine killed it in the UK market. Drop in a 2 litre diesel and it may well have proven quite popular.

  3. Rational or not, to my eyes the Murano is cartoonish. The Infiniti versions sold here are even more so.

    1. It did look that way to my eyes at first but it’s actually aged very well, and is actually quite subtle compared to some of the things we see on our roads nowadays.

  4. Thanks Richard. Great article about the only CUV I’d ever consider. I especially liked the rear lights. With the second series, they were replaced by very ordinary units copied from the Qashqai, and the whole styling gained a layer of fussiness. In Switzerland it was not unpopular. We like(d) big engines here. You even see some of the very rare convertibles from time to time.

  5. I’ve always liked the Murano but, oddly, I’ve never thought about owning one. Had you written this a year ago, I realise that I might well have a different white Nissan parked outside instead of my Cube. But having burned a stupid amount of fuel around London in my Audi, it’s probably good that I didn’t.

    That said, I managed about 34 mpg leaving London, motorway driving and cross country in the Cube yesterday. Last weekend I read a Maserati Quattroporte diesel (still looks wrong written down to my eyes) test which averaged around 43 mpg. But maybe it wasn’t as fast as the Cube?

  6. It looks a bit like an extended compact car to my eyes.
    But i remember seeing the Murano fot the first time. I was really delighted – maybe because i compared it to the Cayenne, Touareg and the X5….

    1. There might be some packaging jiggery-pokery going on with the Murano. I never looked into the dimensions or the details of its platform. My understanding of it is entirely superficial. I also didn´t get to see it from the side so I haven´t re-aessesed its proportions. You may be right. That said, from what I saw of it in the car park, it still looked as good as I can recall seeing it in whenever the hell I saw it, maybe 2003.
      Fred: interesting that we are both looking at the same car and you´ve definitely seen as many as I have. What is it about it that looks cartoonish? It´s not that I don´t believe you find it so. It´s that I would like to get another view on this. Most people here like it so it´s a potential corrective to see what might not be good about it. To get a point of reference, is there another car you´d also call cartoonish? It might very well be that the simplicity I like is too simple for you.

  7. The first version was quite nice, for an SUV. The higher profile tyres date it a little now, but it still looks significantly better than the facelifted version that looked like it had run into a fireplace.

    1. Aren´t high sidewalls appropriate for this class of vehicle though? I am not a big fan of low-profiles except on proper sports cars. They are like running shoes and this car is more a mall-rat.

  8. To get the 2002 Murano’s mechanical details, why not just read the Car and Driver Road Test? It’s comprehensive but from the rather crassly commercial era at C/D, i.e. fawning.


    There have been several reworks of this beast since 2002 with the same FM chassis and drivetrain. The latest is a chromey flirt with what I can only describe as a Portuguese Bordello interior featuring rolled pleather and that weird Renault/Nissan C pillar. But it apparently still handles very well, something of an anomaly for Nissan and most, but not all Infinitis. A not very good CVT is the only transmissiuon option and there’s your letdown. I’ll let you find a photo of the 2016 lipstick warrior for yourselves. Other versions of this chassis like the Infiniti QX60 are tuned differently and much worse as a recent TTAC article went out of its way to criticize:


  9. The rearlights are reminding me on the pretty ugly Peugeot 308 SW (first series).

    1. … but integrated in a much better way, rather like in a Lancia Ypsilon (past generation) or Delta.

  10. The Opel Mokka has very similar tail-lights, lost in the rest of its visual “noise”. It’s one of these irritating cars which has too much going on, except in the heads of the sort of people who drive them.

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