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2001 Nissan Xterra

There's nothing wrong with a good marketing concept brought to life. But, in a world awash in attitudes sold as tangible goods, the consumer sometimes gets caught short in the spin.

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

There's nothing wrong with a good marketing concept brought to life. But, in a world awash in attitudes sold as tangible goods, the consumer sometimes gets caught short in the spin.

There's no question that the Nissan Xterra cuts a striking pose, with its Tonka toy body sitting atop beefy tires. The price is right, too. You'd be hard-pressed to get so much metal and features for $30,000 anywhere else.

But a desirable vehicle is more than the sum of its specs. It needs to fulfill its mission.

Nissan calls this a back-to-basics truck (I want a bumper sticker that says, "My basics include air conditioning and power windows"). Translated onto the GTA's pockmarked, gridlocked roads, this means a pickup truck masquerading as an active person's carryall fashion statement.

The V6 engine emits a quiet hum, but offers little pep, burdened with over 1850 kg of heft.

The soft springs and cushy dampers help the truck glide on smooth pavement, but most roads produce an endless tussle of rubbery jiggles. Hit the brakes and the front end dives like a gull headed for landfill.

Throw in a curve and the body heels over and the tires howl unhappily.

The front seats sit low, depriving someone of my stature of decent thigh support. The dashboard is drab.

On the other hand, the rear seat holds two real, full-size adults, and there's a wealth of clever storage, tie-down and carry-on doodads to stimulate the heart rate.

But styling and neat add-ons do not make up for the flabby road manners, just as a Nike track suit does not of you an athlete make.

Nissan's own Pathfinder is a much more satisfying drive, as is Ford's perennially popular Explorer. But both are more expensive.

If you want to keep to a $30,000 sticker, look at Jeep's veteran Cherokee or the carlike Subaru Forester. Or, for something even cheaper, check out the Suzuki Vitara/Chevrolet Tracker twins.

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