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Budget Buy $20,000: Nissan Murano vs GMC Acadia

It’s the Nissan Murano vs GMC Acadia in a battle of mid-size SUV superiority. Forget the newer models! Which of these is the better buy on a budget?

Two Quality Mid-Size SUVs

usa.nissannews.com | media.gmc.com
usa.nissannews.com | media.gmc.com

Before talking about the used GMC Acadia and Nissan Murano models here, let’s take a look at brand-new Acadia and Murano pricing so you can get an idea what that price point requires. A 2023 GMC Acadia SLE has a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $36,500. The 2023 Nissan Murano isn’t out yet, but the 2022 Nissan Murano has a starting MSRP of $33,310. Both of those are a little steep for some people. That’s why we’re looking at the Acadia and Murano on a budget here. There are some good, updated, modern options available for both vehicles without paying that off-the-lot price tag.

Today, let’s look at the 2017 GMC Acadia. That was the start of the second generation of the crossover SUV. The 2017 Acadia was fully redesigned and came with plenty of standard features. It can be found these days for as low as $17,995 at around 100,000 miles. Some models priced at $20,000 have less than 80,000 miles. That choice was easy.

Deciding which Nissan Murano to look at was a little more difficult. The last significant update came with the 2019 Murano and a refreshed interior and exterior. The 2018 Murano can be found for about $2,000 less than the 2019 model, though. That puts a model with 119,000 miles as low as $17,500. Sure, some of that styling isn’t as updated, but it’s also a chance to save some money. Outside of the styling, there weren’t many differences between the 2018 and 2019 Murano, so I settled on the 2018 Murano against the 2017 GMC Acadia. Now, let’s find out how they compare!

Nissan Murano vs GMC Acadia Specs

2017 GMC Acadia - carsforsale.com
2017 GMC Acadia - carsforsale.com

This three-row family hauler has two engine options starting with a 193-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Alternatively, there’s a 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard with both engines, but all-wheel drive is optional on both as well. Fuel efficiency on the 2017 Acadia is fairly typical for a vehicle in this class. It gets up to 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 26 mpg on the highway with the four-cylinder. The V6 drops a little to 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Towing capacity maxes out at 4,000 lbs when this Acadia is properly equipped.

2018 Nissan Murano - usa.nissannews.com
2018 Nissan Murano - usa.nissannews.com

Every 2018 Nissan Murano comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. That’s not as much as the V6 in the Acadia, but it’s more power than the four-cylinder in the Acadia. Think of this as a middle-of-the-road option. The V6 in this Murano is paired with a continuously variable transmission and is available in FWD or AWD. It does slightly outshine the Acadia when looking at fuel economy. A 2018 Nissan Murano gets the same 21 mpg number as the Acadia in the city, but it does better in highway driving with 28 mpg. If you want to tow something, the Murano isn’t the go-to mid-size SUV. It can handle up to 1,500 pounds when properly equipped, which is significantly lower than the 2017 Acadia.

Driving and Performance

2017 GMC Acadia - netcarshow.com
2017 GMC Acadia - netcarshow.com

The four-cylinder version of the 2017 GMC Acadia provides enough power for everyday routines on typical city streets, but the V6 has better acceleration for those who spend more time driving on interstates and highways. The Acadia is 193.6 inches in length and handles well, remaining steady on the curves. Steering is responsive, too. The 2017 Acadia with the four-cylinder engine could use some refinement, but it’s still easy enough to drive and you’ll feel confident maneuvering it whether you’re towing, climbing an incline, or cruising into the horizon along a flat stretch of road.

2018 Nissan Murano - usa.nissannews.com
2018 Nissan Murano - usa.nissannews.com

The 2018 Nissan Murano sits at 192.4 inches long. Driving dynamics are fine. This isn’t an exciting vehicle to drive, but Murano owners aren’t buying it for that. It’s stable in all areas. The handling around curves and on turns isn’t an issue. Plus, the V6 has some pep to it, so acceleration isn’t an issue. It’ll get you up to highway speeds as needed. True, hills and steep inclines will make it work harder. Still, the Murano doesn’t struggle much to overcome those obstacles. Brakes bring the SUV to a quick stop. The Murano rides comfortably on almost any road surface, so, overall, it’s quite pleasant behind the wheel.

Interior and Comfort

Five, six, or seven people can fit inside the 2017 GMC Acadia. Even though the Acadia went from a full-size crossover to a mid-size crossover starting with the 2017 model, it still has different seating configurations. The All Terrain model only has room for five, but the base model has a third-row bench seat, increasing the passenger count to seven. Other models replace the second-row bench with captain’s chairs, eliminating one spot. No matter how many people are sitting inside the Acadia, they should feel comfortable with available leather upholstery and heated second-row seats. The seats are cushioned well, making the Acadia enjoyable on long drives or short errands as long as you’re not in the back row.

There is a total of 31.1 inches of legroom and 37.2 inches of headroom for models with the third row. Moving up to the second row increases legroom to 39.7 inches and headroom to 39.6 inches. Up front, passengers have 41 inches of leg room and 40.3 inches of headroom. If you have several smaller children in your group, the three-row configurations on the Acadia is the way to go. The tradeoff for three rows? Less cargo space. 12.8 cu-ft of space is available when the third row is being used. If the last row is folded, there’s 41.7 cu-ft of cargo room. The 2017 Acadia maxes out at 79 cu-ft of cargo space with all rows folded down.

Unlike the Acadia, the 2018 Nissan Murano is strictly a two-row SUV. It’s a mid-size crossover SUV that seats five people with two up front and three on the second-row bench. Second-row legroom measures 38.7 inches. Headroom measures 39.8 inches. That’s less legroom than the second row of the Acadia, but pretty much equal headroom. Passengers have 40.5 inches of legroom and 39.9 inches of headroom in the front of the 2018 Nissan Murano. Again, that’s less legroom than the 2017 Acadia, but close to equal headroom. The Murano has less space than the Acadia overall, so it has 32.1 cu-ft of cargo area behind the rear seats. That’s a pretty big drop from the 41.7 cu-ft in the Acadia when the third row of seats are folded. The 2018 Murano expands to 67 cu-ft when all seats are folded down.

Cloth seats come standard in the Murano, but leather upholstery is available along with heated front seats and a heated rear bench. The seats fit pretty much any body style sitting in them. There are a lot of soft-touch plastics and padded surfaces, which enhance the experience as a passenger. Quality materials all the way around make the Murano feel luxurious, especially in the higher trim levels.

Trims and Features

2017 GMC Acadia All Terrain - media.gmc.com
2017 GMC Acadia All Terrain - media.gmc.com

GMC definitely has options when it comes to the 2017 Acadia. It’s available in SL, SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT-1, SLT-2, All Terrain, and Denali trim levels. That, of course, means that the used Acadia you find at the price you like may or may not have all the features you want it to have. There are a lot of features that come standard on every trim though, so while it may not be absolutely perfect, there’s plenty to keep you happy.

For example, every 2017 Acadia has tri-zone automatic climate control, navigation, an eight-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, and heated mirrors. Other standard infotainment includes Bluetooth, a six-speaker audio system, integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD radio, and a WiFi hotspot. The SLE adds LED running lights and satellite radio along with heated front seats.

Moving up to a SLT gets an eight-speaker Bose audio system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a driver package with rear-cross traffic alerts, rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring. The off-roading All Terrain package adds 20-inch wheels and hill descent control but removes the third row of seats. Then, there’s the Denali, with a hands-free power liftgate, heated steering wheel, a surround-view camera system, and adaptive cruise control.

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum - usa.nissannews.com
2018 Nissan Murano Platinum - usa.nissannews.com

The 2018 Nissan Murano has four trims to choose from: the Murano S, SV, SL, and Platinum. The entry-level S trim has an eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, and a rearview camera. It also has Bluetooth, six speakers, two USB ports, and integration for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio. Keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, and a push-button start are included. Forward collision warning and automatic headlights are two safety features that come standard even at the most basic trim level. The 2018 Nissan Murano SV adds blind-spot monitoring, power-adjustable front seats, remote start, and fog lights.

Things are kicked up a notch in the 2018 Murano SL with adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree overhead camera. Heated side mirrors, a heated steering wheel, and heated front and rear leather seats will come in handy during colder weather. Finally, the SL has a Bose 11-speaker stereo and hands-free power liftgate. At the highest level, on the Murano Platinum, passengers in the front get ventilated seats. A panoramic moonroof is there for those who want to get a little breeze. 20-inch alloy wheels are included, too.

Conclusions

2017 GMC Acadia - media.gmc.com
2017 GMC Acadia - media.gmc.com

Both the 2018 Murano and 2017 Acadia sit around the same price with the same mileage, so it comes down to the question: which offers more? If I’m looking for a SUV for just myself, single and in need of more than a sedan, but not really intending to make full use of a pickup truck, then the 2018 Nissan Murano would be my choice. However, the more versatile, better family vehicle is the 2017 GMC Acadia. Even without a family, the Acadia offers more seating for pets and passengers on any kind of road trip, especially with an off-roading option and some models with a much higher towing capacity.

The Acadia has more leg room, has an extra row in some cases, and is pretty comparable in terms of features. These two crossover SUVs are evenly matched in terms of infotainment features, but the Acadia edges out the Murano in cabin quality by just a bit. There’s not as much cargo room with a three-row Acadia, but, even then, there’s some cargo space. The Murano has more flair than the Acadia, but the Acadia is more flexible for a family of two, three, four, or five people than the Murano is.

We’ve got more Acadia coverage for those convinced this SUV is their choice. Compare models in our New vs. Used: GMC Acadia analysis, or look at our 2022 GMC Acadia review. We also have lists of the Best SUVs for Passengers, the 10 Best SUVs for Towing, and the Best SUVs for Families!

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Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University. No stranger to newsgathering and reporting, Jesse spent 13 years in TV news. 10 of those years were spent working in Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR. A highlight of his time there was being able to take a lap around the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His interest in vehicles, starting with Matchbox cars, a Big Wheel, and the Transformers, evolved into taking photos of motocross events. Now, he puts his research skills to use on car culture, reviews, and comparisons.

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