New Pathfinder

Even though the size and weight of automobiles is central to fuel efficiency, there has been a recent counter-intuitive trend of bulked-up mid- sized SUVs that make up fuel economy with engine and transmission technology, lightweight materials and overall design advances like unibody construction.

The entirely re-designed 2013 Nissan Pathfinder bucks the trend with a sleeker profile and lighter by 500 pounds than it’s previous version. This popular mid-sized SUV goes from traditional body-on-frame construction to unibody, with a workhorse 3.5 liter V6 and an evolved Continuously Variable Transmission — which after 20 years is still unpopular with gearheads.

This combination makes the Pathfinder the most fuel efficient model among strong competitors like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse — delivering 20 City and 26 Highway mpg. The Nissan also scores big with more interior comfort features, a tri-zone entertainment and navigation system, and a creatively accessible third row seat.

Though plenty classy enough for a night on the town with a starting price around $28,000, the Pathfinder retains its SUV roots with an available towing package, and a solid easy to use selectable mode 2 wheel, Auto or 4×4 dial.