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Car shopping can often feel like drowning in numbers soup in which the figures don’t always make sense. An SUV can offer 18 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, but does that mean you can still go crazy on the Costco run? Even if you know how pragmatic a car is on paper, those figures don’t always translate to real-world practicality. And that’s why I felt a road trip was in order in the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum, where I found out it is far more pragmatic than its on-paper figures suggest, though the 2023 Pathfinder still trails some segment leaders.

The 2023 Pathfinder’s tale of the tape

The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder resides in the ultra-competitive midsize three-row SUV segment, where buyers typically prioritize pragmaticism. The Pathfinder isn’t necessarily a standout on paper for its cargo-holding ability. It can accommodate 16.6 cubic feet behind the third row of seats, which trails the segment-leading Chevy Traverse’s far more spacious 23 cubic feet. The Kia Telluride can accommodate 21 cubes, and the Honda Pilot holds 18.6.

Fold the Pathfinder’s third-row seats flat — it’s not done electronically even in the top trim but is accomplished easily enough with two lever pulls — and that figure swells to 45 cubic feet. That figure still trails many of its rivals.

However, if you only need the Nissan Pathfinder’s third row in a pinch, its real-world practicality is still ample for most needs. I know because my road trip in the Pathfinder Platinum included my three-year-old daughter and wife.

The over-packer versus the minimalist

I once completed a two-night trip to another state out of nothing more than a plastic grocery bag. My wife laughed when I left, but that bag accommodated all I felt I needed — a few changes of clothes, some toiletries like my toothbrush and deodorant, and my cell phone charger. In my minimalistic approach, that’s all I needed.

This starkly contrasts my wife, who could easily be described as an “over-packer.” Two years ago, we moved across town, and I felt we transported only slightly fewer items than when we took a week-long trip.

Yet, the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder didn’t struggle to accommodate all the necessities, plus what my wife considers necessities and the approximate four million items needed to take a small child to the beach.

The Pathfinder’s cargo piece de resistance is its underfloor storage behind the rear row. The cubby runs nearly the length of the cargo deck and provides enough height to accommodate my necessities for a beach trip — three 12-packs, several books, and some other items.

The Nissan Pathfinder still can’t quite match the storage ability of some rivals, but there are convenient storage spaces throughout the cabin. The center console is wide and deep, there’s additional storage space under the center stack, large door cubbies, and in the Platinum version, a second-row center console. The mid-row console is removable, but when kept in place, it offers a storage cubby and additional cupholders.

The 2023 Pathfinder had no issues hauling everything my family needed for our road trip despite hauling someone who packs, shall we say, liberally, and the seemingly endless things “needed” to keep a small child happy away from home for a week. Of course, those with larger families should consider some more pragmatic choices, but the Nissan Pathfinder’s real-world cargo-hauling abilities are far better than its figures suggest.

The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum is a solid road-tripper

Over the course of 700-plus miles, the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum showcased its abilities to haul more than its specs would suggest and that it’s a solid contender in its class overall.

Its 3.5-liter V6 pumps out 284 hp and pairs with a nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s not the liveliest of powertrains under acceleration, but it provides a respectable grunt. I also managed 25 mpg with 14 hours behind the wheel, which exceeds the all-wheel-drive-only SUVs EPA estimates (22 combined). The top trim also includes ample creature comforts and driver’s aids like premium leather upholstery, a hands-free liftgate, navigation, a head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, a Bose audio system, a panoramic sunroof, and more.

Ride quality is comfortable, and light steering makes it easy to navigate tight parking lots. Cargo space may be limited behind its back seats, but the third row of the Pathfinder is surprisingly accommodating for adults — a characteristic that’s not too common in the midsize segment.

Overall, the 2023 Pathfinder isn’t as compelling as segment leaders like the Telluride and its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Palisade, and it trails the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Mazda CX-9 in a few key categories. Still, it’s a solid all-around entry for those who put a premium on comfort and, dependent on trim, value.